General Research Profile of the Willem de Kooning Academy
Art and design practices have a long history of research through close visual studies, prototyping, employing iterative design processes, experimenting with materials, and conversing with other historical, social and disciplinary frameworks. The Willem de Kooning Academy operates from the perspective that art and design research produces new forms of knowledge and practices, and is a catalyst for innovation and social transformation. Research is central to the Academy’s activities and is constituted from a mix of critical and speculative thinking, theoretical inquiry, and experimentation through making. Outcomes and forms of dissemination arising from art and design research vary widely from publishing to exhibitions, artefacts, designs, symposia and presentations. Research at the Willem de Kooning Academy is organized around curricula, expertise, media and material possibilities within The Stations, work done within the affiliated Research Centre Creating 010 and collaborations with national and international partners. Research domains arise from the curricular structure, clusters represent cross-domain activities, and labs involve multiple partnerships and knowledge-sharing networks .
Research Domains: Three main research domains are clustered and embedded within the Willem de Kooning Academy’s core practices. It is important to note that the practices work across all disciplines. These are:
Autonomous Practices are oriented towards the artist, designer or teacher whose work is directed towards self-organized projects and spaces. Autonomy has social, political, economic and poetic dimensions. It is a position to be continually negotiated and requires rigorous approaches to critical inquiry and production.
Social Practices are oriented towards art, design and pedagogical approaches that practically engage in social issues by (re) imagining the processes and interactions that define society. Work involves dialogical engagement with people and their environment.
Commercial Practices are oriented towards our “new” economy. Our world is changing rapidly fused for example by technological disruptive innovations. This changing world creates new opportunities and roles for prospective designers and artists. Creative input has never been so important within businesses as today. In order to develop new ways to create economic value, spot potentially untapped markets and come up with designs, products and services that are sustainable and make a difference, the designer/ artist is becoming an increasingly key player in achieving these goals.
Research Clusters work across the above three domains, or are bound to specific disciplines, expertise, and/or research centres:
Creating 010 is a research centre consisting of the research professorships (‘lectoraten’) associated to WdKA and to Hogeschool Rotterdam’s Institute of Communication, Media and Information Technology (CMI). All research is conducted in collaboration with teachers and students from these two institutes. It also involves external partners from the academic and professional field. Creating 010 includes four areas of practice-oriented research. One of them, 21st Century Visual Culture, is exclusively serving WdKA in all its domains and educational programs while two others, Creative Economy and Educating Professional Creatives, are serving both WdKA and CMI. Creative Economy is linked to WdKA’s commercial domain, Educating Professional Creatives to its social domain. Guided by currently two research professors, 21st Century Visual Culture investigates present-day globalization processes, aesthetic, cultural, technological and social shifts in their impact on art and design. The central research question concerns existing art and design disciplines and the degree to which these changes put them into question. How should these disciplines be redefined in the age of new globalized visual cultures, with such diverse phenomena as imageboard memes, drone surveillance, ‘Shanzhai’ copycat design and Post-Black art? Creating 010 actively collaborates with WdKA teachers and students, supporting their individual and project-based research into new visual cultures and new creative practices. This includes research publications, seminars, workshops, symposia and practice-oriented research projects co-produced by WdKA and Creating 010.
Hybrid Publishing develops novel approaches to design, writing, reading, and embrace the pluriformity of publishing made possible through the legacies of Gutenberg’s press to present-day electronic publishing technologies. Researching and experimenting across media, Hybrid Publishing disseminates WdKA’s research while conducting research through making. Hybrid Publishing capitalizes on knowledge, skills and media found in the WdKA Publication Station, Creating 010 Research Centre, and Experimental Publishing specialisation within the Master Media Design and Communication programme at Piet Zwart Institute.
Retail Innovation: In an age of online shopping and economic transformation, classical retail needs to reinvent itself in order to remain attractive. This cannot be solved with business economics alone, but requires design thinking and new creative concepts. With ten years of research experience on new media and with communication, interior, product and service designers as teachers and students, WdKA sees itself uniquely equipped to contribute to the creative innovation of the retail sector. For this purpose, WdKA closely cooperates with Creating 010 Research Centre. A funding application for a major project has been submitted in 2016.
Research Labs & Networks: Research labs involve external partners and broaden the WdKA research agenda and establish networks of peer review.
RASL (Rotterdam Arts & Sciences Lab) is a collaboration between the Willem de Kooning Academy, Codarts and the Erasmus University. RASL is a platform in which the arts and sciences, students and teachers, education and research meet each other. Promoting knowledge exchange, RASL is a network for experimentation that stimulates new forms of collaboration. The Lab is characterised by three core elements: double degree, collaborative research and creative learning.
Foto: The Publication Station: The Stations at the WdKA are an integral part of the research culture. It is as much about the ‘why’ as the ‘how’ that informs art and design processes of inquiry.