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Part of Het Nieuwe Instituut’s remit and a focus point of the government’s cultural policy is talent development. In a series of interviews Het Nieuwe Instituut reflects on the notion of talent. The first is an interview with researcher Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, director of Research Marina Otero Vezier, head of Agency Francien van Westrenen and art director Maureen Mooren.  


‘We want to investigate the notion of talent, to discover which values are concealed within such a concept, how it functions, to which ends it can be applied,’ says Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, researcher at Het Nieuwe Instituut. Talent development is part of the government’s cultural policy and therefore part of the assignment Het Nieuwe Instituut is tasked with. According to Kuitenbrouwer, it is characteristic of the institute’s interpretation of its tasks to scrutinize a subject such as talent development.

‘This analytical and critical role is inherent to the position that Het Nieuwe Instituut has taken in the cultural system and is essential as a counterpoint to the notion of “creative industry” that prevailed when the institute was founded. As a large institution that encompasses the disciplines of architecture, design and digital culture, Het Nieuwe Instituut aims to be a laboratory for forms of cohabitation and action.’

‘As a cultural institution, Het Nieuwe Instituut operates both nationally and internationally,’ says Marina Otero Vezier, Director of Research at Het Nieuwe Instituut. ‘Operating on both levels, the institute is commited to acknowledging and supporting ideas and practices that serve as a departure from establish modes of thinking and that enable non-exploitative forms of coexistence. We regularly involve established voices as well as tentative ideas and practices. We collaborate with professionals, but also with students and with those who might not yet have had the opportunity to develop their projects. Uniting these worlds, and connecting and learning from each other is fundamental to Het Nieuwe Instituut. Yet, we also ask: can an institution acknowledge independent practices without actually making them part of that small world that paradoxically we call mainstream? We take a critical look at our own methods and try to overcome the temptation to rely solely on well trodden paths, shared languages and validating trajectories.'

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In search of unexpected talents

Since 2016, Het Nieuwe Instituut has been issuing an annual open call for a fellows. An international jury selects three to four fellows from the submissions, who are given the opportunity to do research in the field of architecture, design and digital culture for a period of six months. ‘We decided not to ask applicants for a CV and recommendations because we were not especially interested in the participants’ past achievements. If you focus on that, you may be missing out on someone who hasn’t achieved significant results yet, but has a fascinating plan for a research project that will permanently change our view of the world, or at least that of architecture, design and digital culture. We ask applicants to describe themselves and their project in their own terms. Our quest is to open up the institute to unanticipated participants and voices that will challenge and permanently transform the institute.’

Each year the fellowship programme focuses on a specific theme that addresses a particular issue. ‘These should be simultaneously relevant and formulated in such a way that many different voices can relate and respond to it,’ explains Otero.

‘The fellowship has no age limit and is not restricted to any particular nationality. Among the fellows we have students, recent graduates, and experienced designers or researchers who are inspired to take time to develop a particular project or take a different path in their career. The fellowship mainly provides space and time for experimentation and reflection. At the end of these six months of research, we work together with the fellows to find ways to continue working on the project and opening it up to other spaces and publics.’

Het Nieuwe Instituut uses its extensive network, both nationally and internationally, to this end. The presentation WORK, BODY, LEISURE in the Dutch pavilion during the Venice Architecture Biennale, for example, included the work of two former fellows: Simone Niquille and Noam Toran. The 2018 fellows, Nathalie DixonMalique Mohamud and Elisa Giuliano, organised the programme for the vernissage of Het Nieuwe Instituut’s programme in Venice. And the Dutch contribution to the Triennale di Milano 2019 included work by former fellow Ramon Amaro. ‘In the exchange between the interests of the fellows and the possibilities that the institute has to offer, a conversation develops that ultimately transforms both the institution and the researches,’ is how Otero summarises the collaboration.

Interview: Lotte Haagsma