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 presented their work during a 9-day exhibition at cultural space Microstad.
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 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.

About "LAND OF GOOD" project

In her research in 2022, Natalia Sudova chose to focus on the impact of urbanization on languages and dialects. She quickly discovered that culture and language are inherently intertwined with global and micro-level changes in society and living conditions. Through interviews with various individuals, she repeatedly encountered situations where people prioritized the use of a particular language based on experiences of past or present traumatic events.

Later, in 2023, while working on the concept of revitalization within the "Designing Cities For All" program in the New West district of Amsterdam, Natalia immersed herself in a multicultural environment rich in unique past and present stories. She focused on those individuals whose experiences could be defined as traumatic, seeking practical ways to address these traumas through the incorporation of specific artistic practices in both public and private spaces.

It's important to note that the term "trauma" has gained a social resonance in society, explored in scholarly literature, and has become part of the political discourse. Societal trauma influences various social processes, including the emergence of new dimensions of social inequality, increased conflict, loss of effective social interaction, and detachment of both communities from the state and individuals from their communities. Undoubtedly, the state addresses this issue on various levels, with the establishment of diverse psychological support centers, recreational facilities, and the formation of volunteer organizations, among other initiatives. As a curator, Natalia set the task of finding her path to enhancing societal functioning through transformative art.

Transformative art is a relatively new direction aimed at delving into the subconscious. This field employs scientific research into the influence of sounds, images, vibrations, and the overall ambiance of a space on the subconscious. Among many so-called "bio-hackers," Natalia found an artist whose very existence serves as evidence that transformative art has self-healing potential.

In 2021, artist Victoria Kova was diagnosed with the immune disease MS. However, her recovery is now officially documented. With her personal self-healing experience, Kova firmly believes that infusing art with positive vibrations can have a positive impact on society. Therefore, it's crucial to place such art in accessible spaces and, for example, organize special sessions.

So, how can society be regenerated through art? Victoria Kova's project "LAND OF GOOD" is, in fact, one of the ways to emerge from a traumatized state.

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