Master Media Design: Experimental Publishing

Unlearning the Rules of Collectivity

Giulia de Giovanelli
Project Research / Hybrid Publishing
Major Master Media Design: Experimental Publishing
Year Graduation Year

Nomination: Master Research & Hybrid Publishing Award 2018

Unlearning the Rules of Collectivity is a research project that studies practices of collaboration for art and education models and existent communities. In the thesis, there is an interest in looking at the meaning of community and cooperation, and in rethinking these concepts in different terms. My proposal is to introduce different values that would aim to create a balance between individuals and their natural competitive forces, and the collective, with a need for community and cooperation. The research explores a variety of possibilities and values which calls for a need for balance.

What can we learn to contribute in building a balanced idea of what cooperation is?

About Unlearning the Rules of Collectivity research

The first chapter, SHARE!, narrates the story of the village where I was born, Cembra.

The second chapter, APPROPRIATE!, explore the history of the spatial arrangements of the residential community The Poortgebouw, a former squat based in Rotterdam.

The third chapter, UN-LEARN!, identifies different models for re-thinking power distribution and communication in collaborative environments.

The last chapter named by the action PLAY!, describes my methodology and examples of works that aim to fantasize about alternative structures of power.

Beginning with the obligation of giving oneself to “the other” and the importance of contact and proximity for social formation in community. I then read into how rituals are shaped by collaborating with each other. Despite the differences of being united, it is important to live in contact with people by giving importance to cultural diversity. I then look into the possible propositions of living alternatives by negotiating with existing policies.
I propose the initiative of unlearning predefined concepts in interaction, and finally, the importance that conflict brings in order to shape our idea of community. All of these concepts lead the research through exploring multiple possibilities for creating collectively this balance. Some of the possibilities are explored with the project The Temporary Autonomous Bureau, which forms the main research ground for my graduation project.

The project look at the meaning of autonomy and self-organisation for selected cultural projects in the city of Rotterdam. The Bureau is a temporary office hosted by TENT Rotterdam. The project is made in collaboration with a group of five artists, both students of Experimental Publishing Master at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, and inhabitants of the Vereniging Poortgebouw, a 37-year-old organization that hosts cultural activities, as well as a community of 30 people.


During this presentation’s three-month time- frame, we used the space to organise a series of public talks, workshops, and performances that map and tell stories about the independent strategies of self-organisation in Rotterdam. At the same time, the public had access to the fragmented Poortgebouw archive. The Temporary Autonomous Bureau serves as a meeting point where experiences with how to navigate between autonomy and institutionalisation can be shared.
 By starting conversations and speculating on how to create an alternative social space within the city of Rotterdam, I used this opportunity to experiment with practices of creating balanced forms of collaboration.

Here the word balance gains a new importance: the relationship between the act of being self-organised or autonomous and taking part in the institutional framework of our city is an interrelated bound. The radicality of certain living collectives or cultural projects resides also in their playing within the legal and political constraint of the city.

As Saul Alinsky reminds us in his famous book “Rules for Radicals”*: “Radicals must be resilient, adapting to shifting political circumstances and sensitive to the process of action and reaction.”


Automation of Autonomy

Without offering strict solutions on how to navigate between conditions of autonomy and institutionalisation, this project aims to open up a conversation. A form of dialogue which doesn’t aim to solve the question into finding common solutions, but instead combines an act of listening to collective narratives and conditions, and building a bridge between small and local projects with big institutions.

Notes: Alinsky S.D. (1989), Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals, United States, Vintage Books Edition