What defines a space? The buildings in it, or the stories we build around it? During the ArtEZ x Designing Cities for All Community Research Programme, five artists explored the relationship to their surroundings, whether familiar or unknown. Making New Metropolis Nieuw-West their (physical or digital) home base for the summer, they reflected on the lens they look through when placed in a new context. At Dutch Design Week 2023, they present their work during a 9-day exhibition at cultural space Microstad. Join us for the opening on Saturday October 21st at 3 PM!

DossierDesigning Cities For All: RE-generation
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About Asterisk*

This exhibition showcases an artistic research project that was undertaken over two consecutive years under the auspices of ArtEZ University of the Arts, in collaboration with two strategic partners in the Netherlands: Het HEM – Home for Contemporary Culture, Zaandam (2022) and Pakhuis De Zwijger in Amsterdam (2023).

In this research programme, a group of 5 researchers (Natalia Sudova, Aditi s, Malou van der Veld, Blise Orr, and Yonah de Beer (a.k.a. INSI art) weighed their artistic research practices against two separate themes and locations provided by the respective partner organizations. The 5 researchers were asked to react and contribute to the given conditions and statements whilst simultaneously being provided with a theoretical and philosophical framework. Yet, neither the individual process nor the expected output was predetermined. The boundaries of education and research were stretched by giving the researchers ample room for critical thought, reflection, rephrasing, and contributive critique. They formed an artist-research collective called Asterisk* .

In the first leg of the journey, the group reflected on the statements made by Samir Bantal & Rem Koolhaas in their research-exhibition “Chapter 5ive” at the HEM museum, which questioned “the notion that we can exert complete control over our environment.” This fueled the interesting discussion as to what extent the future of the apparent division between the urban and the rural was already determined by the time it was dichotomized, and if the boundaries of the rural could be rethought as an alternative form of organisation to the urban. As the research was developed and unpacked in the museum, it became both a place of production, reflection and personal interaction with visitors and co-learners.

A year later (2023), the group rejoined to continue their research within the framework of the “Designing Cities For All” agenda of the hosting institution, Pakhuis De Zwijger. In a community center located in the Nieuw-West area in Amsterdam, the group focused on the notion of regeneration. Nieuw-West is a 1950/60s vibrant and multicultural area that has repeatedly shown that the initial optimism about the ‘makeability’ of social-architectural constructs has often been overtaken by changing public demands and an outdated initial premise. Therefore, the term ‘regeneration’ could be explored in different directions: towards ‘past-futures’ and ‘new-histories,’ both of which are often laden with stories of collective trauma and personal displacement.

Both trajectories are significantly shaped by the immediate communal reaction of the researchers, who questioned their premises in a constructive and enabling manner. More importantly, instead of focusing on resolving the questions, their aim was to construct new and better ones. Building upon the various social fabrics that were discovered, new – non-binary – iterations were introduced, leading to fresh insights and approaches. Rather than starting from given assumptions, it seemed more fruitful to redefine regeneration as a process of collective healing, in which any form of dichotomy could be seen as part of the problem. Thus, by traversing the ‘parastrata’ of social non-constructivism, each participant chose a different yet intrinsically connected path to unfold the core values of their research as part of the much-needed healing process in both projects.

The results we see here are original, perhaps even provocative, but always open to reconciliation and reframing. These research paths are showing the significance of placing the methodologies of the art school in situ to break with the paradigms of both academy and institution. This program was co-funded by Regieorgaan SIA under the name “Creatief Talent Werkt’, in national collaboration with HKU and AHK.

About the artists

Yonah de Beer’s work is philosophy materialised. His art is an investigation of abstract symbolism, the symbolism within his mind that resulted from an interaction with the outside world. In his work de Beer tries to interpret the structures of the outside world and see how they influence his thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. For this Asterisk* exhibition his work investigates the circular nature of trans-generational trauma in his own family. Through the medium of paint and video de Beer uncovers the patterns that have been present in his family. Through symbolism, video, and speech he tries to ground the traumatic experiences within his genes. De Beer wants to open a discussion about trauma, which starts within the individual. Thereby asking the audience how psychological regeneration affects them and the world around them.

Blise Orr has a background in spatial design. Blise interrogates power structures bound in architectural forms. She looks into how scientific advancement and rapid technological change are modifying notions of reality, opening up a possibility to alter how our surroundings are perceived. She does this through a disobedient use of architectural drawing software and video work harnessing humor and exaggeration.

Natalia Sudova’s project is rooted in personal observations of the interplay between the environment and individuals’ psychological and physical well-being. These observations span different scales, from countries and cities to specific residential neighborhoods. Analyzing selective statistics and individual narratives underscored the need for locally integrating elements that enhance the surroundings. This initiated a quest for artists specialising in healing art which can be strategically placed in various urban settings, including hospitals and clinics. For this purpose, artist Viktoria Kova’s project ‘The LAND of GOOD’ was chosen. Kova’s works in ‘The LAND of GOOD’ project are meticulously created with the purpose of transforming space. Inspired by studies conducted by leading institutions, including hospitals and clinics, demonstrating the beneficial effects of specific colors, images, sounds, and frequencies on health and overall well-being, Kova incorporates this data into her video canvasses and vibrational landscapes.

Aditi s is interested in navigating and understanding life through different channels of art. Healing is at the core of her work which she explores through rituals, colours, dreaming and playing. Her artistic practice is undergoing deep changes as she traverses shifting cities, perspectives and relationship with 2D mediums. As part of the Asterisk* exhibition, Aditi draws from her unique position (online) situated in Mumbai and considers what regeneration means in different contexts. She takes the route of the personal and relational trying to understand the Nieuw-West area in Amsterdam from a distance and while also understanding her own context. Regeneration in many ways requires healing first, knowing which parts to heal comes first. For this, Aditi offers a game to understand what we might want from our space first and exchange those dreams with whom we share our communities.

Malou van der Veld is a multidisciplinary designer, unpacking the concealed narratives of our tech-driven era from a non-anthropocentric perspective. Through sound, film, and sculpture, her thought-provoking experiments challenge perceptions, shedding light on the captivating stories intertwined with technology. This work challenges the conventional divide between nature and industry, questioning who truly claims these spaces. Nature is often thought of as pristine and recreational, while industry is seen as synthetic and non-recreational. However, this perception blurs as we examine man-made “natural” spaces like public parks filled with trees, moss, and wildlife. And the automated industry, devoid of human activity, paradoxically becomes a refuge for non-human species.

About Designing Cities for All x ArtEZ

In close collaboration with ArtEZ, we have developed a Community Research Programme, derived from the Designing Cities for All: RE-generation series. The programme is embedded research in an innovative, creative and critical community in the outskirts of the city of Amsterdam Nieuw-West, at our location New Metropolis Nieuw-West.

Read more about the collaboration here.

Het Hem x ArtEZ (2022)

In collaboration with
Programme seriesDesigning Cities for All

How can designers contribute to the creation of inclusive cities for, and by everyone?