‘Imagination is the key to a strong inclusive society. Artistic work and situated design can contribute to a better understanding of the other.’
Jenny van den Broeke is a researcher within the Situated Art and Design research group, and a tutor on the Photography, Film & the Digital study programme at St. Joost school of Art & Design in Breda. In her own practice she works as a trainer, director, and producer of artistic projects that address social topics.
Jenny graduated with a degree in Animation from St. Joost School of Art & Design, Breda, in 2006. A year earlier, she co-founded Studio APVIS. The directors of this Breda- and Amsterdam-based film collective aim to push the boundaries of film and to seek out crossover collaborations. Jenny has thirteen years’ experience working as director and producer on various projects, both commissioned and independent.
In 2013 Jenny directed the short documentary film Blind Love. The film posed a question: ‘How do you find love when you cannot see?’ The audience experiences the world through the eyes of someone who does not see – and feels, as it were, with their eyes. The film, Jenny’s debut as a documentary filmmaker, won the Special Jury prize at Austin Film festival, among other prizes. But more importantly, the film was distributed by Dokkino, a Finnish film event for children at sixteen schools. The event aims to produce meaningful film experiences through showings and an educational programme. Blind Love’s programming addressed the social inclusion of disabled young people.
Following Dokkino, Jenny sought to apply artistic work in the social domain. In 2017 she made a VR experience, Far Inside, in cooperation with writer Karin Anema. Far Inside concerns the life story of Ton, the protagonist of Anema’s book, Today I Will Buy All the Colours. In the book, Ton recounts his lifelong struggle with schizophrenia and psychosis. In the VR installation, the visitor can experience a loss of control over the world around them, sharing the tremendous loneliness that Ton has felt, living in isolation and with fear of stigma. This VR installation is used as part of a workshop that was developed by Karin Anema for use in social contexts. It works here as a conversation-opener, raising questions about real contact and the reasoning behind misunderstood behaviour.
At Border Sessions, an art-tech festival in The Hague, Jenny worked beside sociologist Xiomara Vado Soto and Tim van Deursen one of the organizers of Hack the Planet, on ‘Building a VR Empathy machine lab’, which engaged with the perspectives of high-impact crime offenders. Participants from different backgrounds worked on VR prototypes. The project delivered valuable insights which may, in turn, lead to policy development and improved interactions with convicted youths.
Since 2009, Jenny has been working as a tutor at St. Joost School of Art & Design. She lectures on topics including digital storytelling, immersive storytelling, illustrated and animated visual storytelling, within the Arts & Interaction minor programme. She is propedeuse in the Photography, Film & the Digital department.
As a Caradt researcher, Jenny focuses on situated design, situated learning, immersive storytelling and misunderstood behaviour.
Alongside her work at the academy and her own practice, Jenny is an external trainer on the Visual Communication module at the Ministry of General Affairs. She lives in ‘s Hertogenbosch.
How can situated design contribute to dealing with misunderstood behaviour?
The number of incidents involving persons with disturbed behaviour is rising year on year. Reports registered by the police with the code E33 have increased from 74.936 in the year 2016 to 90.636 in 2018, and 102.353 in 2020. Behind these figures lie human suffering and social nuisance. Psychoses, dementia, suicidal behaviours, and other worrying situations can be misunderstood by neighbours or family. In the aftermath of police reports and social worker intervention, stories of these situations often end up in the hands of administrators and in the media, where the sufferers are discussed as ‘persons with disturbed behaviour’. Those who are given this label are deprived of their social selfhood, separated from regulated society .
A participation society calls for understanding and inclusiveness: at home, on the street, at school, and at work. Everyone must participate, everyone contributes. Friends, neighbours, relatives and colleagues comprise the social bedrock in which ‘people with confused behaviour’ live. How can artists and designers, as part of this bedrock, contribute to mutual understanding between those who need to relate to each other?
Research Group: Situated Art and Design
Living in cities developed around data and acting within the inscrutable structure of our techno-society demands art and design that can help understand how we relate to these rapidly changing surroundings and to reflect on that relationship. The research group Situated Art and Design responds to this exigency by fostering a situated turn in art and design through a diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary research projects in partnership with academic and cultural partners, as well as with government and industry.Read more
‘People are the product of their relationships with their environment. It’s important to understand how technological developments influence these relationships.’
‘My practice is situated in between different actors, in this shape-shifting middle many things can happen.’
‘‘Understanding how creativity and imagination emerge from interactions with our environment will lead to improved innovation processes, tools and technologies.’’
‘Through an interplay of design and research, the apt questions and necessary tools can be discovered and applied to each research project.’
‘The essence of the situated, cinematic experience of dance lies in the mental interaction where the public becomes co-author.’
‘Could experimental sensory translation of art works improve their accessibility for sensory diverse exhibition audiences?’
‘I’m interested in how we can implement situated learning within design education.’
‘How can the notion of the ‘script’ be used in a situated design practice? ’
‘The ultimate goal is to enable people to improve their lives, making them more enjoyable and comfortable.’
‘Attention during interaction is personal, not a given fact.’
‘Investigating the potential of sensory augmentation to bridge the sensory gap between deaf and hearing.’
‘Getting comfortable with ambiguity enables designers to absorb feedback and use it to make better design choices.’
‘I look at the ways in which citizens can play an active role in shaping their cities, and how new media and technology can contribute to this.’
‘For me, the iterative design-research process is an exciting journey towards designs that can transform human consciousness.’