research clusters

In June 2016, five higher education institutions in Amsterdam decided to start a new platform for cooperation on research in, with and through the arts. ARIAS, the Amsterdam Research Institute of the Arts and Sciences, aims to foster collaborative research between the Amsterdam University of the Arts (AHK), Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA), Gerrit Rietveld Academy, University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam). All five institutions are represented in the ARIAS board as well as in the ARIAS advisory committee. Goal of ARIAS is to facilitate new joint research programs, funding applications and to give visibility to research in and through the arts. Drawing from important research themes at NWO and the Nationale Wetenschaps Agenda, the three main research clusters of ARIAS are: ‘the city as a site of research’, ‘art, culture & health’, ‘art, research and education.’

upcoming Research cluster meetings for researchers within the ARIAS network

18 October: meeting research cluster ‘city as a site of research’/public space
19 October: meeting research cluster ‘art, culture, health’
29 November: meeting research cluster ‘art, research, education’

Researchers within the ARIAS network can sign up for these research cluster meetings (email


The City as a Site of Research

The city is an ideal platform for developing new methods of cooperation in scientific and artistic research. Taking Amsterdam as case study, the density of ‘cosmopolitical’ problems in this area demands analyses, experiments and collaborative practices that surpass the efforts that separate disciplines have engaged in so far. The vast amount of cultural heritage and the exploitation thereof to attract growing masses of tourists puts pressure on infrastructure, environment, housing, and public space that is already in need of new solutions. Creative impulses do not only change areas of the city for the better, but also cause processes of gentrification that exclude certain groups of inhabitants. When start-ups such as Airbnb and Uber increase this pressure on the city, bottom-up initiatives in the vein of platform cooperativism (in the words of Trebor Scholz) and sustainism (a term by Michiel Schwarz and Joost Elffers) channel a creative, inclusive and collaborative energy with the aim to counter this trend. Furthermore, artistic interventions create new concepts and images that invoke reflection on these issues.

On the other hand, the city contains a vast reservoir of creativity, in the form of art schools, fablabs, studios and ateliers, art institutions, artists, designers and small creative companies that is now mostly evaluated in economic terms (‘creative industries’) but that could be explored as testing ground for new economic and cooperation models. Experiments such as Het Blauwe Huis by Jeanne van Heeswijk in IJburg deserve attention for their role as centres of artistic production and community forming but also for how they generate research. In The City as Site of Research, academics and artists will work together to turn Amsterdam into a proper creative city that is more than just a slogan used to cloak an actual decrease in the support of cultural institutions. A true creative city supports its vast artistic potential and invites artists and designers to develop new concepts, images, environments and possibilities, and to work together with scientists towards a better understanding of the complex body that we call Amsterdam.

Members of the ARIAS steering committee for this cluster: Adeola Enigbokan (UvA), Olga Sezneva (UvA), Michiel van Iersel (AhK), Tim Verlaan (VU Amsterdam)


Art, Culture and Health

The twenty-first century brings new challenges and creates possibilities to explore the meaning of health, care, and wellbeing, both physical and mental. Rapidly evolving technologies such as robots, self-driving cars, VR technology, deep brain stimulation and non-invasive neurotechnologies, self-tracking devices and visualization technology in medical procedures as well as in culture are but a few examples of emerging and evolving innovations that can only be addressed in multi-disciplinary fashion and ask for creative and critical perspectives combined. In this subfield of ARIASnl, artist and humanities scholars collaborate with medical staff, medical scientists, psychiatrists and patients to investigate what it means to be human in a techno-mediated world from the perspective of healthcare. These can range from very practical tools and application to philosophical questions about normative bodies, and questions of identity and ethics. For instance, introducing robots in healthcare upsets our understanding of the notion of empathy as it blurs the distinction between the human and non-human; gaming and VR technology can be used in treatment of PTSD or phobias, but also problematizes seemingly clear borders between mediated images and reality, and raises ethical and philosophical questions; music and cinematic stories and artistic simulations have therapeutic effects on (understanding) certain mental problems such as autism, psychosis or depression that demand further investigation; graphic design can help informing (young) patients about operations.

Rather than focus exclusively on the utilitarian function of interacting with art or partaking in artistic practices for improving people’s health, we thus seek to bring together artists, scientists and humanities scholars of various fields who investigate what a healthy life and disease might mean in today’s world. Art and medicine may be divergent practices, but they can intersect in unexpected and meaningful ways with the potential to shed light on how we demarcate and define these fields, and what it means to be a cognitive and embodied human being in the twenty-first century. As the only city in the Netherlands with two academic hospitals and broadest base of art schools in the country, Amsterdam is the ideal location to explore the mutual interconnectedness of health and culture.

Members of the ARIAS steering committee for this cluster: Jules Sturm (UvA), Manon Parry (UvA), Stefanie van Zal (HvA), Marjolein Gysels (UvA).


Art, Research and Education

While arts and design research is increasingly gaining recognition within European research settings, an equal measure of acknowledgement is yet to happen in the Netherlands. European research funding has been pro-active in galvanizing creative arts and design research initiatives while the key enabler at the national level has only recently integrated the ‘arts as a driving force for research and innovation of the 21st century’ in the Dutch National Research Agenda / NWA. Therefore, this profile area of ARIAS advocates for the relevance of different kinds of knowledge production through the arts, such as knowing through artifacts, design, composition and performance. This development is part and parcel of a shift in scientific research, which is witnessing a ‘practice turn in contemporary theory’: increasing attention to different articulations of knowing and to the methodological significance of material practices and embodied and situated knowledge. Necessarily, this research approach of knowing through the arts is invested in collaborations that bridge academies, (applied) universities, creative enterprises and public institutions. The cluster on ‘art, research and education’ brings together researchers from the five ARIAS institutions that are interested in the way arts and design research can operate at the intersection of cultural production, education and innovation, and explore new connections with scientific research disciplines: in the humanities, economy and technology.

ARIAS wants to consolidate these tendencies by offering a platform for research that will enable PhD opportunities in artistic research and alternative models of research to stimulate the debate on art as a form of knowledge production and its role in society. Presently there are various research groups in Amsterdam facilitating artistic and experimental 3rd cycle and doctorates: practice- and design oriented oriented PhDs at the HvA, doctoral candidates at LAPS at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and the Third! Program at the Amsterdam University of the Arts (part of DAS Graduate School). Furthermore, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam participates in the international inter-university doctoral programme in musical arts docARTES and Gerrit Rietveld Academy has initiated a new international model to valorise a three-year research trajectory with the title of Creator Doctus (CrD). The first artist Yael Davids started her CrD research in January 2017 in cooperation with the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven

Another important direction of research in this cluster is the innovations in approaches to education, generated by an interest in different articulations of knowledge production (material, embodied, design and performance related practices). Moreover, with two art academies, several programmes for art education and the national Cultural Participation Fund in Amsterdam, ARIAS has the ambition to extend art research into a variety of pedagogical contexts. For example, by emphasising the capacity of the arts to enhance active citizenship and to develop 21st century skills in the entire chain of lifelong learning: from the renewal of education to the radical transition of artistic professions.

Members of the ARIAS steering committee for this cluster: Marijke Hoogenboom (AHK), Jaap Vinken (Rietveld), Michiel Koelink (AHK), Mieke Bernink (AHK), Emile Heijnen (AHK), Melissa Bremmer (AHK).