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Fine Art

An Inbetweener

Boo van der Vlist
Thu 4 Oct
Function Artist/Researcher
Year 2013
Major Fine Art
Practice Social Practices

What is your occupation now?

I am running my own artistic research practice. Next to that, I am happy to be back at the Willem de Kooning Academy, working part-time as a tutor at the Social Practices and at the Rotterdam Arts & Sciences Lab (RASL). RASL is a collaboration between the Willem de Kooning Academy, Codarts and Erasmus University Rotterdam, that brings arts and sciences closer together within research and education.

An Inbetweener

I call myself an “inbetweener”. Even back as a student at WdKA, I had combined my artistic ambitions with a hunger to research the societal issues. I did so by combining my Fine Arts studies with Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. I continued combining both paths in my Master studies. I had followed Policy and Governance studies, in combination with the temporary Master programme “System D Academy” at the Sandberg Institute, where we had explored informal and self-organising systems and communities by doing action research.

Recently, I have been closely working on urban (re-)development issues focusing on community empowerment and inclusiveness. Cities are changing rapidly due to gentrification processes and badly informed policies, becoming a place for the rich and well-educated. In my opinion, the city should be and stay a place where one meets the other. I look for “soft data” in the urban environment that often stays invisible in policy processes. I am looking for ways to use this soft data in order to empower communities and rethink urban planning. I always work in collaboration with residents, policymakers, local organisations and entrepreneurs, using both my academic and artistic skill sets.

De Gentrifiers are Boo van der Vlist and Dennis Muñoz Espadiña, an artist duo who see themselves as a 'meta marketing' organisation that create solutions based on the gentrification research.

What expertise did you gain at WdKA?

The academy has taught me to see the world as a big playground, where you don’t take the rules for granted, but question and break them. There is room to experiment and test ideas, doing action research and creating interventions. As an artist, you re-imagine society and use wonder as a tool for change.

Favourite WdKA memory?

The many conversations I had with my tutors and fellow students. I think I hadn't realised then how valuable it was to be around so many creative minds. I still meet, talk and collaborate with the friends I had made back then.

An inbetweener method

What is the future of your profession in your opinion?

My profession as an inbetweener, is not an officially existing one. I would have loved it if more people worked in a similar way, combining artistic and academic skills. I think this combination of skills helps to approach social issues in a more critical as well as a well-informed way, without losing the strength of wonder and experiment.

You never leave your house without…?

Having a coffee first.

De Loods project

Any words of advice to future students?

Be curious, open minded and don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t see grades as the ultimate appreciation measure of your work. The academy offers room to experiment and try new things out. Step out of your safety bubble, work in context, invite people to participate in your artistic process, work together, and learn by doing.

Name your favourite recent project.

One of the projects I am continuously working on is my “inbetweener approach”. It is an ongoing project fed by different kinds of neighbourhood projects connected to redevelopment and gentrification issues. For example projects De Gentrifiers in the Javastraat, De Loods in the Havenstraat and Amsteldorp Ontdekt in Amsteldorp.

Amsteldorp Ontdekt (Amsteldorp Discovered), in collaboration with Joanna van der Zanden. Amsteldorp has over 50 activities and services for its residents. The research has made it apparent that the inhabitants of Amsteldorp are not always aware of that.

Each of these neighbourhood projects had another challenge to be addressed, a different context to work in and the different people involved. However, collecting all the insights of these projects, I try to develop a general approach that will inspire the rethinking of the current urban planning structures and parameters, with the aid of the soft data. For example, the skills that are present in a certain neighbourhood. Can we use these skills as building blocks for redevelopment?

De Loods in the Havenstraat

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