‘How do we live together, how do we work together? How do we give shape and form to ‘being together’ in the broadest sense?’
Bas van den Hurk is an artist, tutor and researcher. He studied Fine Art at Academy St. Joost in Breda and Philosophy of Aesthetics at the University of Amsterdam. Van den Hurk teaches contemporary theory, research and practice at St. Joost, and is a regular lecturer at different academies and institutions in the Netherlands and abroad.
He has collaborated with Jochem van Laarhoven since 2018.
‘Our research driven practice is situated at the border between fine art and theatre, and reconsiders central modernist questions: how do we live together, how do we work together? How do we give shape and form to ‘being together’ in the broadest sense? To deal with the complexity of these questions – and the quest for alternative modes of cooperation that the response could entail – dialogue and collaborations that lead to experiments in collectivity are crucial for us.
In August 2021 we undertook a one-month residency in House van Wassenhove at the Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle, Belgium. Its architect Juliaan Lampens introduced the idea of open-plan-living to Belgium in the 1960s: houses without separated spaces whose forms provoke questions about how to live together. During the residency we shot a film in which we used a wide range of textiles that we had printed at the Frans Masereel Center, a centre for graphic arts in Kasterlee. For film’s production we collaborated with several members of a larger collective that we initiated in 2019. We call this Networked Collective/It is Part of an Ensemble and it consists of a revolving group of around 30 artists, theatre-makers, actors, performers, theorists, fashion designers, and students. Together we take up residencies and make exhibitions, plays, and publications. We literally live together on occasion, we cook and eat together, we paint, print, we read and discuss texts, make music, go on hikes in the woods and along the seashore, visit exhibitions, we teach collectively, and more.
‘Networked collective’ is a term coined by the influential Nigerian curator Okwui Enwezor in his text ‘The Artist as Producer in Times of Crisis’. Enwezor defines two types of collectives. The first is more conventional, ‘a structured modus vivendi based on permanent, fixed groupings of practitioners working over a sustained period’. ‘In such collectives’, Enwezor writes, ‘authorship represents the expression of the group rather than that of the individual artist’. Enwezor defines the second type of collectivity as ‘a flexible, non-permanent course of affiliation, privileging collaboration on project basis than on a permanent alliance’. We feel attracted to this second, more open form of collectivity, and therefore our collective refers in name and practice to Enwezor’s notion of collaboration as a pliable configuration. For us, collectivity is about ‘becoming’ – in the sense that it keeps on bringing up questions that range from the philosophical to the political and the very personal. Within this transformational realm, we focus on the tension between the social and the formal and we are continuously making new proposals in various media.
Enwezor emphasizes that the current moment is characterised by crises – economic, ecological, social, and political. He writes that such crises should lead to more cooperation, collaboration, participation, interaction and (new forms of) collectivity. This development can be recognized in the international art world. Collectivity has come to play a central role in events such as the Turner Prize and documenta fifteen. In 2021 the German art magazine Texte zur Kunst dedicated an entire issue to collectivity, and De Witte Raaf recently published a questionnaire about working alone versus working together, to which a clear majority of artist respondents stressed the collective nature of their practice or the inescapable necessity of working together.
Of course this is not a new phenomenon or debate; but the extent to which collectivity is embraced in the past few years compels us to ask a new series of questions: What is the importance of collectivity right now? Is it just a trend? The latest fashion? Why would or could it be a response to the crises of our historical moment? What roles do institutions play in all of this? Is there a danger that collectivity will become instrumentalized? Who and what are, or could be, part of the collective? Is the collective limited to the human? Or can non-human animals also be part of it? Plants? Funghi? What is the role of authorship? Of the individual versus the collective? When does a collaboration become collectivity?
As an artist duo and together with Networked Collective, our work has been shown extensively over the last four years at, inter alia, Museum D’Hondt-Dhaenens, Deurle (B), Hard Space, Basel (CH), Skaftfell, Centre of Visual Arts, Seydisfjordur (IS), Museum De Pont, Tilburg, Fondazione 107, Turin (IT), De Garage, Mechelen (BE) gallery Durst Britt Mayhew, The Hague and Luceberthuis, Bergen. We have also created scenography and sets for theatre plays by Lars Doberman (Orkater).’
Research Group: Cultural and Creative Industries
The research group Cultural and Creative Industries investigates the role of artists and designers as creative innovators and drivers of social and economic change. Affiliated researchers analyse the cultural and creative industries from a critical point of view and examine the conditions under which timely forms of aesthetic expression and social connectedness can actually take place within the precarious reality of this field. What economic models are required by artists and designers to create a meaningful practice within the aesthetic, social, and economic intentions of the cultural and creative industries? What skills sets are required for those artists and designers who don’t just want to follow movements, but actually shape novel social and economic models of the future?Read more
‘Our research group investigates the role artists, designers and cultural producers in general can play in developing the aesthetics and poetics of a desirable future.’
‘As a result of my current research, I ask the students the questions “what is your work” and “what works for you.’
‘Performance is about engaging with versions of the self, stretching the gaze to see what others see when they look at you.’
‘Consumers are creatures of habit. If we want them to break routine and live sustainably, we have to do more than just offer sustainable alternatives. ’
‘How can we disrupt the notion of being human while staying true to being humane?’
‘To be able to research something thoroughly, you have to deeply engage, not just look at it from the outside.’
‘Interested in human behaviour as the basics underlying the way we design and innovate our society and economy.’
‘Doing research connects my practice with teaching; it strengthens and brings them closer together.’
‘Nowadays a brand is no longer an instrument of marketing, but it is a symbol for inspiring, meaningfull organisations.’
‘Disrupting our contemporary society can be a serious design goal.’