Since 2017, BAK conducts a post-academic Fellowship Program with, at its center, research on reframing and rethinking conditions of the contemporary through theoretically informed and politically driven art and inquiry. The program offers positions to practitioners working at the intersections of art, theory, and social action, providing them with opportunity and resources to develop their talent and research, both on an individual level and in particular collectively among its cohort.
From 2021 onward, and under the name Fellowship for Situated Practice, the program extends into a new constellation of dispersed yet interconnected “research cells” that collaborate across distance from the Netherlands and elsewhere. In the forthcoming 2021/2022 year, three research cells are hosted by partner institutions BAK in Utrecht, GUDSKUL in Jakarta, and IKSV (The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts) in Istanbul. An additional, digital research cell is established, involving practitioners working predominantly in the virtual sphere. Situated within their respective localities, the Fellows work in (relative) physical proximity within their research cell.
The practice, intensity, and rhythm of each situated research cell is determined locally and in dialogue with the hosting/partner institutions. 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.
Fellowship for Situated Practice has been initiated by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and realized in collaboration with HKU University of the Arts, Utrecht, GUDSKUL, Jakarta, and The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), Istanbul. It has been made possible through support by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science and the City of Utrecht.
Research Trajectory: “Spectral Infrastructure”
In the year 2021/2022, the specific focus of the Fellowship program issues from a BAK long-term collaboration with the freethought collective.
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. Preliminary 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. freethought consists of Stefano Harney, Royal Holloway, University of London, London; Adrian Heathfield, University of Roehampton, London; Massimiliano Mao 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 following video conversation between freethought members Massimiliano Mao Mollona and Irit Rogoff on YouTube, recorded on 26 April 2021.