Since its foundation in 2003, BAK has served as a space for art, knowledge, and activism. Its main mission is to advocate for the dynamic and critical role of art in society, and to catalyze discourse—with and through art as a form of active knowledge—on the urgent social and political issues of our times. BAK is a site of interlocution between and among various publics, convening on the basis of shared concerns to negotiate the concept of a common future through artistic imagination, intellectual rigor, and civic engagement. Underlining these efforts is BAK’s commitment to learning and education; artistic, theoretical, and political experimentation; and probing new methods and practices of collaboration and exchange.
Artists, thinkers, scholars, activists, public intellectuals, students, other cultural and political practitioners, as well as other publics assemble at BAK around a chosen subject, a focus theme of particular urgency shared across society. Driven by research around this topical issue—manifested typically as a long-term itinerary of thinking that is intermittently intercepted with public manifestations—a variety of programs in the areas of education, discourse, exhibitions, and publishing are realized, examining the topic in order to mobilize new ideas and negotiate their various meanings from multiple perspectives. This approach requires a move from the “mere” critique of how things are to articulating propositions as to how things could be otherwise, while—through the philosophy of sharing and mutualizing of competencies—encouraging and supporting surrounding communities to carry such propositions into their own respective initiatives.
Such processes of research are typically led by a BAK Research Fellow—an artist, scholar, or activist invested in undertaking an in-depth, collective inquiry over a long period of time, which then manifests itself in a variety of programs such as: panel discussions; lectures; workshops; teaching modules in collaboration with art academies, universities, schools, and other communities; conferences; exhibitions; and publications (both analogue and digital). The format in which the program takes shape is determined by the needs of both the project’s content and its public, and neither exhibitions nor other forms are designated as sole, leading carrier of BAK’s mission. On the contrary, all programs are regarded as sites of critical pedagogy and empowerment, offering means of mobilizing ideas, encouraging discussion, motivating cross-disciplinary collaborations, and inspiring action.
True to its name, BAK functions as a basis that offers a modest yet committed foundation with the (minimal necessary) intellectual, spatial, temporal, network, and financial resources to make possible the development of critical ideas for our times and towards the future. BAK’s home base is both physically and conceptually rooted in the city of Utrecht, a town similarly dedicated to progressive thinking and invested in education, knowledge, and experimentation—values that BAK fully identifies with and commits to developing further in all its activities. Alongside this on site venue, BAK maintains the active online dimension of its programs in the form of a digital knowledge platform that renders all its activities and knowledge accessible for the worldwide public. Further, an intrinsic nomadic on the move extension of BAK’s work consists of global collaborations with artistic, educational, and activist institutions abroad, a trajectory of joining intellectual, organizational, financial, and other resources in recognition of the changing geopolitical constellations of our era, and seeking ways of multiplying the impact of active knowledge stemming from the field of art.