A New Direction: Towards Artistic Connective Practices

From September 2021 on I will take a new position and start an entirely new journey: As professor (Dutch: lector) of Artistic Connective Practices at Fontys University of the Arts in Tilburg, The Netherlands (FHK). The new lectorate aims to investigate how artists and their artistic (research) practices can contribute to the transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society.

This new position gives me the chance to further develop my ideas on the arts, and specifically artistic research, in social and societal contexts, and combine a number of interests of the past years in one place. This includes exploring how we as artistic researchers can contribute to society, being right in the midst of it – how we can give artistic research a place in the social sphere and its communities. Our strength is to ask questions from an artistic perspective, towards what an environment, a situation or context offers to explore, any maybe to change. We do so with a commitment to participate in the ‘larger conversation’ that goes beyond our own work or discipline: with citizens and the various communities, or other sectors such as healthcare or the creative industries.

The new lectorate will operate in different areas, which includes the actual development of (the concept of) artistic connective practices, next to building and further developing the research environment at the institution and connecting to the national and international artistic research field. The lectorate will work in various places and contexts: at FHK, the broader context of Fontys as a cross-sectoral and transdisciplinary institution, and the social field in the region, the city, its neighborhoods and communities.

So what are “Artistic Connective Practices”, actually? Without the artistic, the term “connective practices” is used by sociologist Martin Haigh in educational theory; Haigh describes connective practices as “affective educational strategies that invite learners to build an emotional and conative connection beyond their individual selves and their immediate social circle.” (Haigh 2017) He sees such practices in “the context of education for a sustainable future”, where it “links with the pedagogies of Deep Ecology, Social Sculpture and Invitational Education.” (Haigh 2017)

However, next to this bit of theoretical framing the term is not yet widely used and still quite open, especially when it comes to artistic practice and research. Prior to the new lectorate, designer Cynthia Hathaway has carried out a two-year research together with the FHK community, and “developed an FHK position towards inclusive and multidisciplary collaborations between the arts and society.” (Hathaway) This work lead to the publication DISCO, and inspiring magazine that is “part report, manifesto, institutional recommendation and a ‘do-it-together’ starting manual for a new lectorate.” Definitely worth a read, and even accompanied with a song list as musical background while reading!

The Bulding of Fontys University of the Arts in Tilburg.

The above are just a few first ideas and materials on which the initial work of the lectorate will build. I hope I will be able to inspire the community of students, teachers and researchers, to strengthen the connections that already exist between the disciplines and in the field of research, and to develop new connections in a sustainable way. Besides the focus on Artistic Connective Practices, this will also be a lectorate for everyone at FHK. After all, connectivity is not only the theme of the lectorate, it must also become its approach and fundamental attitude. This means to explore through collaboration, co-creation and collectivity; and along the lines of one of my favourite phenomena, emergence, and working in and through “emergent strategies” – a term by the wonderful Adrienne Maree Brown.

Where will this new inquiry take us? As common at the beginning of every new research project, I don’t know. I will use this site as a space of writing as inquiry, to share this journey and let readers follow it, engage with it as we go.

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