News Fellowship

20 April 2021

Call for Proposals: BAK Fellowship for Situated Practice 2021/2022

The BAK post-academic research Fellowship for Situated Practice is now open for applications from Netherlands-based practitioners working at the intersections of art, theory, and social action. The deadline for applications is 9 May 2021, 24.00 hrs CEST.

Since 2017, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht conducts a post-academic Fellowship program that centers research on rethinking and reframing conditions of the contemporary through theoretically-informed and politically-driven art making and inquiry (find more information about past Fellowship cohorts here).

For 2021/2022, the Fellowship program offers five positions to Netherlands-based practitioners for the 10-month period of September 2021-June 2022. The selected Fellows form a research cell in the “Spectral Infrastructure” trajectory convened by freethought collective, working interconnectedly with other cells of the program located in Jakarta, Istanbul, and online.

Research Trajectory: “Spectral Infrastructure”
Fellowship proposals should speak to and with a new, long-term research trajectory “Spectral Infrastructure,” developed by freethought collective at BAK from 2021 onward.

Conventionally understood as the hidden operative substrate of contemporary global life, “infrastructure” invokes systems such as physical networks for transportation and communications, the organization of waste and utilities, resource flows, digital management, and capital movements. Moving away from these material associations, the notion of “spectral infrastructure” grows from previous research by freethought on infrastructures toward the ghostly, affective, and fugitive intensities that undergird the infrastructural as well as quotidian life. The term alludes to what freethought calls the “hidden and invisible textures that sustain an undefinable and disruptive quality in an otherwise efficient seeming organism,” or in other cases, “the ephemeral glue that holds things together in affective modality.” Spectral infrastructure by nature eludes a stable definition, but acts as a fleeting recomposition and haunting of dominant historical narratives and forms of infrastructure. The research conjures the invisible, inaudible, and illegible through textures, scents, atmospheres, invocations, gestures, vernaculars, and affects—the elements that escape traditional forms of tracking or measurement, calling instead for experimental forms of mapping, sensing, and tracing. Pre-liminary fields of inquiry for this research include spectral labor, fugitivity and endurance in performance and bodily memory, sediments and residues in the urban and environmental spheres, and the realm of the unarchivable.

From within their own research practice, that unfolds through public study and public research around the notion of spectral infrastructure, freethought acts as the Fellowship Convener, holding regular seminars, screenings, and conversations with the Fellowship cohort. The collective came together in 2012 amid growing crises in the education sector. The “free” in freethought’s chosen name signals a need to detach knowledges from disciplines, institutional settings, and predictable outcomes, and to define new modes for circulation. The freethought collective consists of Stefano Harney, Royal Holloway, University of London, London; Adrian Heathfield, University of Roehampton, London; Massimiliano Mollona, Goldsmiths, University of London, London; Louis Moreno, Goldsmiths, University of London, London; Irit Rogoff, Goldsmiths, University of London, London; and Nora Sternfeld, HFBK Hamburg, Hamburg and ECM–educating/curating/managing, University of Applied Arts Vienna, Vienna.

To learn more on “spectral infrastructure” and freethought collective, watch the below conversation between freethought members Massimiliano Mao Mollona and Irit Rogoff, recorded on 26 April 2021:

In 2021/2022 the BAK Fellowship for Situated Practice extends beyond its current form into a new composition of dispersed-yet-interconnected research cells that collaborate across distance. Alongside the research cell composed of Netherlands-based Fellows, two research cells have been established in partnership with Gudskul, Jakarta and Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), Istanbul. A fourth cell is digital, involving Fellows operating predominantly within the virtual sphere. Situated within their respective localities, the Fellows work in (relative) physical proximity within their research cell. The collective study and research across the cells is facilitated largely by technological means.

The program (as well as the application procedure) is conducted in English.

The Fellows are expected to propose and develop experimental research within their own field of practice that connects with the overarching “Spectral Infrastructure” research trajectory. This takes place simultaneously on three levels: individually, collaboratively within one’s respective research cell, and collectively among entire cohort through exchange with and across the four research cells.

The practice, intensity, and rhythm of each situated research cell is determined locally and in dialogue with the hosting/partner institutions BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht (for Netherlands-based Fellows and digital Fellows); Gudskul, Jakarta; and IKSV, Istanbul.

The entire Fellows cohort (all four research cells) gathers weekly in Fellowship Intensives. These take place largely through digital platforms and other technological means. The Fellowship Intensives are led in turn by each of the cells and freethought, in the spirit of the peer-to-peer, mutual study. Intensives may feature external guests (artists, scholars, and other practitioners from beyond specifically academic and cultural fields) for conversations, screenings, performances, trainings, etc. It is also possible for parts of the Fellowship Intensives to be made accessible to other communities in semi-public or public constellations.

The Fellows are invited to engage regularly with BAK’s digital forum Prospections by means of presenting their research, collaborations, and potential projects, as well as livestreaming of lectures, performances, and other events. No tangible outcomes are expected as a result of the fellowship program.

The BAK Fellowship program involves collaborative partnerships with HKU, University of the Arts, Utrecht and Utrecht University, Utrecht, allowing Fellows to (potentially) connect their research practices to the artistic and academic institutional field through tutorials, leading workshops, and exchanges with students.

BAK Fellowship for Situated Practice is dedicated to facilitating collective, intergenerational, transdisciplinary, and diverse practice, and is committed to engaging a critical cohort of artists and other thinkers and practitioners. People with uncanonized practices, of marginalized identities and experiences, and of a variety of ages are strongly encouraged to apply. The applicants must reside in the Netherlands at the time of sending in the application.

Practitioners who are currently enrolled in PhD programs are not eligible.

Financial Conditions
Each Fellow receives a stipend of €1.500 a month for the period of 10 months. Further resources (workshops, space, etc.) can be made available on an individual basis through BAK’s collaboration with HKU, University of the Arts, Utrecht. Fellows are responsible for their own health insurance.
The enrolment fee is €3.000.

How to Apply
Applications can be sent in via this application form on the BAK website.

Deadline for proposals: 9 May 2021
Public announcement of selected Fellows: June 2021
Fellowship term: 15 September 2021-30 June 2022

FAQ Fellowship for Situated Practice and Spectral Infrastructure
Q. The Spectral Infrastructure research trajectory sounds interesting, but haven’t done specific research on this topic yet. Can I still apply?
A: Yes! This is a research in its initial stages, so it is open to proposals that work with and speculate around possible understandings of what the spectral infrastructures are and where they can be found – you do not have to have any pre-existing research at the ready. The following questions may guide your application: What types of research would you imagine in these lines? Do you recognize spectral forces that sustain collectivities? How are they articulated? How can they be traced or sensed?

Q: Where can I learn more on Spectral Infrastructure and what kind of directions to take the research in?
A: freethought members Irit Rogoff and Massimiliano Mao Mollona recorded an interview explaining the origin of the freethought collective, their previous research on infrastructure, and the current question about the spectral infrastructures. You can view it below. Moreover, the following glossary (link) maps out the conceptual starting for the research trajectory, and might guide you in thinking about your research proposal.

Q. Why is there a €3000 application fee? Can I pay this in installments?
A. This fee is to cover initial administrative costs. It only applies to candidates who are actually selected for the Fellowship. It is possible to pay in installments, please contact the below e-mail address for more info.

Questions about the Application Procedure
For any outstanding questions on the application procedure, contact:
Irene Calabuch Mirón, BAK Fellowship Program, at