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Autonomy Lab

Autonomy Lab was conducted by the Autonomous Practices research program of Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam, in a research group consisting of teachers and students of the school: Ailie Gieseler, Alice Strete, Anna-Maria Psyllou, Arvand Pourabbasi, Anika van der Meulen, Carla Arcos, carlota garcia, Eugi Manenti, Fenna van Breda, Florian Cramer, Francis Belte, Julia Wilhelm, Lara de Poorter, Leslie Hildering, Linn Doornaar, Luna Bongers, Natalia Sorzano, Noami van Kleef, Nikki Giesen, Pragya Jain, Sam Niehorster, Santiago Pinyol, Simon Kentgens, Sten Heijster, WdKA Haven, Weronika Zielinska, Yunjoo Kwak.

Autonomy Lab investigated new ways of understanding and creating autonomy, particularly in multidisciplinary artist collectives and self-organizations in diverse world regions.

Autonomy Lab included workshops with more than a dozen of artist collectives:

(Summaries of the individual workshops have been published in a separate research zine.)

Autonomy Lab also participated in documenta fifteen (Kassel, Germany, 2022) where it helped running the ‘Apamart’ of the Indonesian artist collective Jatiwangi art Factory.

Research questions

…for Autonomy Lab were:

Which concepts of autonomy do collective, self-organized art practices embody and represent?

How do they differ from established concepts of artistic autonomy?

What can other societal actors learn from them?

Types of autonomy identified in the course of the project:

political autonomy

bodily / biopolitical autonomy

autonomy of choosing one’s own way of life and work

technological autonomy

mapping concepts, terms and practices from Autonomy Lab

economic autonomy: alternative systems of value and exchange

mapping concepts, terms and practices from Autonomy Lab

communal/collective autonomy; autonomy as interdependency

institutional & non-/anti-institutional autonomy

“post-autonomy” (outside this research project)

This term was coined by art critics around the same time as the ACKnowledge/Autonomy Lab research project (most prominently in Ullrich, Wolfgang. Die Kunst nach dem Ende ihrer Autonomie. Wagenbach, 2021). From our research perspective, this terminology still takes a traditional Western aesthetic autonomy concept as its fixed point of reference, and therefore does not do justice to the new and diverse ways in which autonomy is being understood and practiced in today’s multidisciplinary artist collectives and self-organizations.

broadening/localizing/decentering terminology/notions:

Mandiri (‘independent’, ‘self-sufficient’, not depending on institutions)

Merdeka (independence)

self-organization, collective organization

self-/collectively organized infrastructure

self-sufficiency, self-reliance

mutual aid

Gotong Rojong (mutual aid, working together collectively)

volunteer collectives

自治 (zìzhì)

post-autonomy [with question marks]


chosen dependency

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