Living Station

Week 26
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About Living Stations

What are the Living Stations?
The Living Stations is the research platform connected to the stations within the Willem de Kooning Academy. Within the Living Stations we are questioning material practice within arts and design and investigate how to make and collaborate with ‘living’ and biological systems.

The idea of the living stations builds on the concept of the stations.
Stations are learning environments in which facilities and technologies are collected so that students are able to carry out there work and materialize their ideas. In addition, it is also a learning environment where research through making takes place.

Where the stations depart from certain technology, the living stations depart from a certain context and issue. The living stations want to be dynamic learning environments were students get introduced in certain matter, materials and technologies and are at the same challenged to respond to major societal issues.
The goal is to translate global complex issues – like ecological crisises – into tangible local (educational) challenges.

The living stations do not remain in the building of the WdKA but wants to step outside.
Collaboration is sought with other disciplines; colleagues from the Rotterdam School of Applied Sciences, scientist, local experts and entrepeneurs. We’ll seek for sustainable relations and collaborations through working together on local projects which matter.

The Living Stations are developing the following projects and programs;
Rooftop garden
The rooftop garden is initiated by the SPIN collective (students WdKA). The rooftop garden aims to be a student run space and become a place for; gardening, a place for well being, a place which supports eco-literacy and education which addresses climate change .

In collaboration with municipal companies and communities like BlueCity and colleagues from the Rotterdam School of Applied Sciences we would like to build upon the student initiative the trash bunker. The trash bunker is a place were students can exchange resources and where materials can be re-used. The trashbunker is run by student assistents.

The LivingLab
We are setting up an elementary, basic biolab where students get introduced into collaborating with living systems and get aquinted with topics regarding biophilic and regenerative design.
The plan is to collaborate closely with science partners, colleagues from the Rotterdam School of Applied Sciences and Bluecitylab. The Living Lab will open in September 2022

Fieldlabs – are temporary labs at different locations in the city of Rotterdam where we focus on very specific topics that matter; for example; water, air, energy, food, wind and waste streams

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Why Living Stations?
The underlying ideas of the living stations were further developed by a new series of theoretical concepts; think of the so-called ‘Material Turn’ and the ideas surrounding post-humanism.

Within the The material turn the traditional divide between idea and matter is questioned and rejected as this has been established by Plato and Descartes. It also means to question and reject the divide between culture and nature.
And go towards new ecologies and forming new practices in thinking through matter and through material conditions.

So far, everything we make has been for the benefit of us humans. What does it mean to make when you don’t put people at the center of this process. In our (natural) human centered thinking, as artist and designers, we are depending on the technical appropriation of the material world. This appropriation is becoming more and more problematic and complex when things, algorithms, nature, animals; everything beside humans claim agency.

Current debates about climate change and decolonization have made us more aware of how everything is interconnected. This also means that we know that the technologies and/or materials we use in our practice do not stand alone. Technology is not neutral. This makes it necessary for us to take responsibility in education to think critically about which materials and technologies we use.

Technology is not neutral. We’re inside of what we make, and it’s inside of us.
We’re living in a world of connections – and it matters which ones get made and unmade.
Donna J. Haraway

How do we educate ourselves and how can you help students make better ecological decisions?
The urgency lies for us, in the fact that we not only want want to think or talk about this issues – but want to build on a perspective for action.
Through research and practice we build on several (educational) projects and programs which aim to help our students to come up with new perspectives – instead of becoming paralyzed.
An important question for us is to learn how to investigate, materialize and visualize our ideas without exploiting others and the world. Within the living stations we want to explore what it means to make when you don’t put people at the center of this process.


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Who are involved in the Living Stations?

The Research Group is a dynamic platform and collective within WdKA that research and questions 21st century making practices led by Aldje van Meerin collaboration with Emma van der Leest, Ivan Henriques, Nadine Möllenkamp and Brigit Lichtenegger. Together they develop the living station in close collaboration with tutors, instructors and students from the Willem de Kooning Academy and with their professional network. 

Aldje van Meer currently works as senior lecturer at the Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. In this position she is teaching, researching and exploring technical innovations relevant for artistic professions. She advises, inspires and implements the use of technology in the curricula of the Willem de Kooning Academy. Within the stations she is coordinating professional development and supervising research (through making).

Emma van der Leest is graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree (honoursfrom the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. Form Follows Organism: The Biological Computer is the title of her research and book on biodesign and the shifting role of a designer working collaboratively with scientistsThroughout the years Emma has developed a number of different working materialsShe is also the founder of BlueCity Lab, an experimental and prototyping laboratory in the former Tropicana water park in Rotterdam. Her goal is to lower the threshold for anyone interested in working with micro-organisms and waste streams in the development of new materials.

Ivan Henriques is an artist, researcher and tutor at WDKA. Henriques works in multimedia installations examining living systems. He explores in his works hybrids of nature and (technological) culture creating new forms of communication between humans and other living organisms. He considers nature as inspiration and a necessary factor in the development of the technological world. Ivan developed the interdisciplinary group Hybrid Forms Lab and directs the mobile residency program EME (Estúdio Móvel Experimentalsince 2008). His works are exhibited internationallyparticipating in festivals, residencies and talks.


background image: Tomás Saraceno, ALGO-R(H)I(Y)THMS, 2009.