Master Research Award 2022

Jan 26 2023

From January 25 through 27 January 2023, Willem de Kooning Academy (Research Station) will host the Research Festival Making (in) the Unforeseen in Rotterdam. In addition to the conference, the presentation of the Master Research Award will take place on Thursday January 26, 2023.

About Research Awards

The Willem de Kooning Academy Research Award was established by the Willem de Kooning Foundation in 2015 to emphasize the central role of art and design research within the newly introduced curriculum. The Research Awards are not prizes for just theses or research documents but for projects merging theory and practice where art or design work is a vital part of the research. The Award is granted to Master graduation projects that combine theoretical and field research with artistic research and which provide new insights to broader audiences of experts and the public at large. Valuing art and design research, the Willem de Kooning Academy will grant one monetary award for a Master graduate of the year 2022.

Programmme January 26, 2023

Presentations by nominees from Piet Zwart Institute, the international Master programmes of the Willem de Kooning Academy will take place from 10.15– 14.45 hrs at WH 04.115, Wijnhaven 61.

10.15 Samboleap Tol | A broken heart for a soulful lament (in the key of reckoning and rejoicing)
10.45 Lorenzo Gerbi | Indisciplined by Learning

11.15 Break

11.30 Dachen Bao | Synecdoche, Chongqing
12.00 Floor van Meeuwen | Sobremesa

12.30-13.30 Lunch

13.30 Bas Kortmann - Deelen |PULSE
14.00 Agnes Tatzber | Past Petrol Present

The Research Award Ceremony will take place from 17.15 – 17.30 at de Willem, Wijnhaven 61.


The nominees for the 2022 Master Research Awards are: 

  • Fine Art: Samboleap Tol | A broken heart for a soulful lament (in the key of reckoning and rejoicing)  

My artistic (re)search is largely informed by my experiences as a second generation Cambodian. Our parents and their peers suffer from undiagnosed PTSD as war children, which had a detrimental effect in our homes growing up. Experiencing loss and displacement in my child- and adulthood broke my heart completely, but also set it wide open: I learned to express compassion for others early on, and understood the power of creating space for voices unheard. Today I am especially moved by airing (hi)stories that are painful, complex and decolonial, because I believe reckoning with them will set everyone free.

“Tol excels at unfolding the link between political and spiritual forms of reckoning. In her paintings, writing, and public projects she draws on her own experience — both of Cambodian tradition, and urban life, in Rotterdam, and London — to provide a profound understanding of what it means for cultures to exist „in the wake“ (as political theorist Christina Sharpe puts it) of tremendous violence caused by imperial expansion, and post-colonial displacement.

Tol vividly demonstrates in her art and writing how „keeping the wake“ can be a practice where communal mourning goes hand in hand with vivacious community building, and how young urban cultures may tap into old spiritual knowledge to acknowledge pain and loss, while seeking a future, and dignity in life.” - Jan Verwoert (critic, writer and teacher at the Piet Zwart Institute).During my decade abroad in London, Sydney, Antwerp and Phnom Penh, I’ve been cared for by different diasporic communities who each saw me as their own. These experiences largely inform my imagination and realization of dignified life.


  • Lens-Based: Dachen Bao | Synecdoche, Chongqing

The Synecdoche, Chongqing project centers on a reconfiguration of history and the network of reminiscences (mutually interwoven empirical memories of the individual, the collective, the material, and the place) in Chongqing, a mountain city in Southwest China, seeks to use Chongqing, and the mountainous regions of southwest China as a case and a method, aiming to investigate several sets of ever-shifting entanglements: the indigeneity encounters both nation-state construction and the ghosts of the Anthropocene; the tensions and mediations between the frontier hinterlands and imperial governance and late capitalist modernity; the dynamic embodiment of ancestral ecology at geological scales and temporalities.Through the mobilisation of a series of perceptions and substances that call up different timescales latent in place, this project attempt to combine methodologies of ethnography and speculative fiction to research and practice by the zones of: place (architecture, rural area, wilderness), landscape (plants, crowd, geology), narrative (voice, storytelling, fabulation, myth). These zones are through chapters mapped across film, sound, and texts. In this way, this practice-based research explores the ever-shifting structural relationships between history and ecology, self & other, re-touch the history and memory of Southwest China on an archival, incarnational, and perceptual level, thus a potential space opened to produce alternative narratives outside the grand framework of the empire and the nation-state


  • XPUB: Floor van Meeuwen | Sobremesa

Last summer, for my graduation project of the Master Experimental Publishing, PZI, Rotterdam, I've researched the abstractness of materials in publishing and alternatives. For this I started researching through the thesis Fluorspar; Understanding the materiality and the invisible environmental impact of self- publishing about existing models that measure energy use, computer servers and colors/ pigments, things that are invisible to me as a publisher. The thesis is questioning tools, practices and impact I encounter in designing published material. Colors play a special role in this by showcasing our abstract knowledge of pigments and colorants, things that are used in almost every manufactured object, with every color as a unique property.

The fnal project for my graduation resulted in a dinner table. A place that is used to eat, meet and/ or make. The time spend after dinner is the English translation of the Spanish word “sobremesa”. As a meeting space and simultaneously as a publication the table serves as a open used interactive tool. Engraved in this dinner table are sentences taken from my thesis, mostly questions. Visitors could grab a take away styled menu which listed all ingredients of my project, a short piece of the thesis and a blank space of 20x20cm to use as a tabula rasa. Together with provided pencils this empty spot invited visitors to copy the engravings by rubbings creating their own sentences. The list inside the menu consisted of materials and tools; all the software used to create the menu, all machines used to make the table, the engravings and a technical list of the pigments from the pencils to showcase the intentie list of tools and materials used in publishing.


  • MIARD: Agnes Tatzber | Past Petrol Present  

In 1930 oil was found in the Vienna Basin. The tapping of what was stored in the very depths of the strata under the back then agrarian village Neusiedl massively influenced spatial processes on the surface. In addition to the obvious oil spaces, this study identifies the leisure facilities in Neusiedl as a crucial part of the urbanization processes initiated by resource extraction. Petroleum became an indispensable basic building block for many facets of modern life. By reading Neusiedls recreation spaces and material archives I aim to reveal how these places, as places of new and different experiences, have been instrumental in shaping subjectivity and how these imprints further remain as patterns of decision-making, thinking and action even if sooner or later, extraction inevitably ends. The architecture of the competition pool for example calls for a different relation between the soil and society than the prior bathing in the muddy river. The stability that the built environment communicated in the early years turned out to only exist in the dependency. The phasing out of the extraction in Neusiedl rendered the place from a boom to a bust town. It became harder to buy the myths that oil provided. And yet the petro-culture is still permeating everything today. Given its sheer ubiquity, it seems ironic that petroleum acts that much from the shadow.  

The performance "Past Petrol Present" takes place in a white and clean, ripped out part of a swimming pool. Through a ritual of smearing oil over the almost sterile surfaces, a disclosure of a map happens that contains information about incidents, oil structures and data revealing what actually stands behind the fact that the surface can be so smooth.  


  • MEIA: Lorenzo Gerbi | Indisciplined by Learning

In his graduation project, Lorenzo Gerbi proposes a rupture in the broad discourse around inter-, trans-, and multi-disciplinarity by disengaging from the methodological trap of the self-referential academic discussion around disciplinarity. The latter is too detached, in his opinion, from concrete experiences and existing non-disciplinary practices. Therefore, starting from his personal practice and struggles inside an interdisciplinary cultural institution, he decided to sketch an alternative approach that relies on temporarily removing disciplines to help develop a better collaboration attitude between them, not in an interdisciplinary project but by having people from different disciplines learning together.

In this way, learners become aware of how people with different backgrounds think and grasp reality, challenging the assumptions and hierarchies that normally originate from stereotyped images of specific characters (the nerd scientist, the greedy economist, the eccentric artist…). He called this approach indisciplinarity, a concept already briefly introduced by French philosopher Jacques Rancière, which he expanded to distinguish between the specific discipline that students learn within a traditional teaching environment and disciplines, the way they divide knowledge and separate those who can contribute to it from those who cannot.

For his graduation project, Gerbi co-designed an indisciplinary online learning community, called Make Economy Yours Again (MEYA), whose aim was to co-create a new knowledge base for developing alternative economic narratives. Participants were diverse in age, nationality, background and level of education, united only by their interest in economic activism. Through two editions of MEYA, he tested different pedagogical devices and de-disciplinarising strategies to translate the approach of indisciplinarity into a concrete case study. The learning community became a space to practice economic change, a weekly 3-hour training session to exercise other ways of being in the current economic system, while questioning some of the assumptions and ideologies that dominate our understanding and action in our complex world.


  • MD: Bas Kortman | PULSE


Working as a design, theatre practitioner and educator for over 20 years, i gained extensive tacit knowledge about interaction and participation. in my design research, i aimed to make this knowledge explicit through participatory practice. i wanted to know how i could structure interactive processes and how to exchange this knowledge with others.I therefore developed perspectives on interaction, methods for assessing and analysing interactive projects and design tools to train interaction design.


Over the years, I noticed that participation and interaction also became increasingly important for civil servants and governments. At the Willem de Kooning Academy (WDKA), and other art schools in the Netherlands, I experience that students and tutors are increasingly prone to focus on participatory design and interaction with citizens and target groups. 

However, in my practice, I see it often fail in cities, neighborhoods, schools and research. There is seldom enough time to build a trusting relationship when students engage with citizens in 8-week projects or civil servants, and professional social workers hop from one neighborhood to the next, dropping valuable contacts and connections. So, there is evident pressure to find effective ways to engage people. This is the primary design challenge I took on. 


With my research, I focused on ‘how to design and direct participation and interaction’ through game design and workshops with students and professionals. The result of this research is a methodology derived, which I call PULSE. PULSE is an acronym for five abilities that initiators or inter-actors should possess. They must be able to provoke, understand, lead, support ‘spect-actors’, and expand their interactions with participants. The PULSE methodology is a framework for participatory and interactive projects in a broad sense. 

PULSE can be used twofold:

As a research framework for joint reflection on interactive projects and processes and assessment through the lens of PULSE.

As a practical application in the form of a programme with exercises and workshops to train inter-actors, designers and directors to design, direct active participation and interaction, and assist in participatory research.