Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making

How can the concept of Critical Making be expanded into a general approach that ties the critical methodology of artistic research, and the established concepts of artistic autonomy, together with contemporary creative-technological development?


In the project ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’, main applicant Prof. Dr. Janneke Wesseling (Leiden University) and co-applicant Dr. Florian Cramer (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) have joined forces with Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (Het Nieuwe Instituut), Lucas Evers(Waag Society) and Marie-José Sondeijker (West Den Haag). In November 2017, designer, researcher and Hackers & Designers co-founder Anja Grotenand media artist, researcher and educator Shailoh Phillips joined the team as PhD candidate and junior researcher respectively. Candidates for the final two available positions have been recruited in early 2018. Selected researchers will start in September 2018 and January 2019 respectively.

— Leiden University (with PhDArts) brings in its expertise on the area of artistic research and art and design theory. For Leiden University, Critical Making– with its implied convergence of art, design and technology – is a new field for which no humanities theory exists yet.
— Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (with Creating 010 and Willem de Kooning Academy) brings in its expertise on practice-oriented research on new media, art and design. It provides the link between Critical Making and art/design education, with the ultimate objective of introducing and structurally integrating Critical Making into the art and design curriculum.
— Het Nieuwe Instituut brings in its expertise on critical design practice that transgresses the traditional disciplines of design, architecture, new media and digital technology, and its network of Critical Making practitioners. It wishes to gain a stronger theoretical framework for Critical Making.
— Waag Society brings in its expertise as the institute that first brought Critical Making to The Netherlands. Waag Society operates from a cross-disciplinary vision on design and technology, with a focus on bio art and bio design. It wants to gain new insights from university research and art and design education.
— West Den Haag brings in collaborations with international experts in a range of different cultural backgrounds and disciplines, and an expertise in the discourse on the presentation of art and on the role of art in society. West wants to expand its collaborations in the field of artistic research.

Project description

The project ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’ aims to investigate (a) how the concept of Critical Making can be developed further within the context of critical theory and the discourse of artistic research and (b) how such a renewed notion of Critical Making can problematize and correct the narrow focus on systems and solutions in the contemporary techno-creative industries. Therefore, our main research question is:

How can the concept of Critical Making be expanded into a general approach that ties the critical methodology of artistic research, and the established concepts of artistic autonomy, together with contemporary creative-technological development?

(a) The concept of Critical Making, currently limited to Maker culture and product design, will be fundamentally and academically researched, deepened and applied to a wider set of creative disciplines;
(b) The experience of criticality of contemporary art will be made available to design and technological making by introducing insights and methodological approaches from the academic discipline of artistic research;
(c) Artistic Research will be brought into action in re-thinking the concept of Critical Making, which will enable the advancement of the discourse in both the field of art and in academia on design-issues relating to technological innovation and the impact of this discourse on society and on cultural values;
(d) The project will propose a new theoretical and practical positioning of disciplinary codes in the field of art and design as well as in the field of academic research, to open up the discourses in visual art and design that are largely separated up until now;
(e) In the context of Digital Humanities, this project will provide methodological insights for Digital Humanities scholars who feel stuck in traditional methodologies of computer-aided statistical analysis and visualization of data sets. The artistic research projects, symposia and workshops will use the competency of artists and designers to think up new ways of digital visual research;
(f) In the context of practice-oriented polytechnical education (HBO), the project will introduce Critical Making as a reflective working method into Dutch art and design education and into the professional field of artists, designers and technological makers.

A larger ambition of this project is to give humanities researchers insight into contemporary creative practices that transcend the classical disciplinary categorizations of fine art, design and technology, and often take place outside the established art system (i.e. outside contemporary art galleries, museums, biennials and art fairs). The publications to be created in this research project will therefore give hands-on insight into these new practices to art historians and cultural studies scholars. These traditional categorizations of the arts are also reflected in the current disciplinary divides within the humanities. Our research products will give researchers and policy makers concrete examples and discussion material for the disciplinary transformation of creative practices in the 21st century, and hence (by implication) for possible changes of humanities disciplines.

The project will include four subprojects by a PhD researcher (Anja Groten), two junior researchers (Shailoh Phillips, TBA) and an embedded researcher (TBA). The researchers will contribute to different events and programmes of the consortium members from a combined practical and theoretical perspective. The consortium will organise a series of Critical Making workshops with art and design students and teachers in several Dutch art schools, including Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam and the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. Furthermore, various public presentations, a national and an international symposium will be organized. At the end of the project, the project outcomes will be disseminated through a peer-reviewed, open access, hybrid paper and electronic book.

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