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Research and development

Each year, the Royal Institute of Art allocates a sum from the grant for research and education at the research level to eligible two-year project funding. The funds can be applied for by teaching staff and most students at the advanced level.

The projects are exploratory, experimental, and should strengthen the collaboration between education and research at the Royal Institute of Art.

Revolution in built form: Analysing Architecture and Urbanism in Syrian Rojava

Benas Gerdziunas

Out of the sands of a burning country rose an unknown entity – Kurdish Rojava. Yet as world attention fixated on their successful fight against ISIS, the new revolution began to restructure its society along democratic syndicalist ideals.Built environment, therefore, had to follow suit.

The Royal Institute of Art research will examine the politics of space in society-building and revolution, and explore how the built environment is responding to Rojava’s revolutionary push for gender equality, grassroots representation and self-organisation.

As the looming defeat of ISIS begins to fracture the already volatile regional alliances, it is likely that Rojava’s proclaimed revolutionary approach to society dies with it. Already, the uneasy relationship with ethnic minorities, the cult-like personality of their ideological leader Abdullah Öcalan, and ongoing sacrifices of personal liberties in the name of a common enemy are putting doubts to Rojava’s future and its proclamations.

In the end, will it remain a novel dream, become a democratic smokescreen for a one-party state, or form a viable nation-state alternative? And how does it all reflect in the politics of space? (2018)

The Politics of Perezhivanie

Emanuel Almborg

The project has two parts, one research and one practical, testing and experimenting with the findings of the former. The research is connected to my previous film project Talking Hands and takes a starting point in the same Soviet educational theory of the cultural-historical tradition starting with psychologist Lev Vygotsky. In my new project The Politics of Perezhivanie (working title) I want to focus on another line of practice staring from Vygotsky. That of theatre in education, and how a psychological theory of emotion and experience takes on political dimensions from a Vygotskian perspective of “life experience” or Perezhivanie.

I will do this by working with a youth theatre group in Hackney, London today, and draw on Vygotsky’s concept to re-think and re-politicise Stanislavski’s theatre method as a pedagogical and imaginal device in drama workshops that will explore the socio-political and affective side of Hackney’s history. (2018)

My Friend is Here: On Feminist Pedagogies, Curating and Other Forms of Living in The Feminine Plural

Carlota Mir, Alba Folgado

My Friend is Here is a mid 20th-century English euphemism that American women from the West Coast used to employ in order to refer to their menstruation. To be sick, to be unwell, to have the curse: our language is full of negative euphemisms and taboos around the female anatomy. That which is not named cannot exist, and likewise, as humans, what is said of our experiences has a great impact on how we live them. We find that this ambiguous, veiled, yet somehow warm expression takes us back to the gesture of somebody like us, 70 years ago, creating a space-time away from the exhausting rhythms of capitalist production where different emotions and bodily needs could be taken care of, a space of softness, recovering, reciprocity and enunciation.

Reaching beyond generational and territorial borders, this project aims to build on a relational feminist archive and network in Sweden whose threads, both discursive and affective, stem from a series of previous encounters between texts, places, bodies, and voices who wish to continue exploring feminist curating and pedagogies in the context of art production and education, prioritising mutual encounter, action, emotion and experience over disembodied theory – and practicing a politics of affirmation through recognising our differences. (2019)

The Glossary of the Event

Frida Sandström, Aleksei Borisionok, Cara Tolmie

The project aims to investigate the historic and contemporary status of the notion “event” as it occurs in politics, journalism, economics, software engineering, performance practice, and fiction. With the format of a reading circle, we approach the notion through collective investigations, where we invite specific participants to the topic, or visit certain contexts of interest.

With the help of seven terms – repetition, rupture, score, rehearsal, ritual, monument and mourning – the project will discuss contemporary performative theories and the political history and philosophy of the event, as well as its mediation within contemporary capitalist economies. (2017)

Synonyms for Shelter

Hannah Clarkson, Esther de Groot

In a time of migration, individualism, and a mass seeking for- home, thinking about shelter becomes more important than ever. Narratives of shelter are intertwined with human needs, not only for self-expression, but also for empathy, protection, and love. This research project intends to investigate how individual needs for shelter (beyond its basic function) might be expressed or conceptualised, through workshops, case studies, storytelling, sculptural objects and text.

Taking these as synonyms for shelter, the project explores how different forms of poetic language, whether material, spatial, or linguistic, might tell stories of shelter. (2019)

What does it mean to inhabit your enemy’s house?

Husam Abusalem

What does it mean to inhabit your enemy’s house? is a series of talks discussing the afterlife of Fascist Architecture in the cities of Asmara and Addis Ababa. Though both cities share a fot of commonality in their heritage, culture and history, the fascist architecture within the two cities has been perceived radically differently – in Asmara, it is considered World Heritage while in Addis Ababa it is totally normalized and perhaps unrecognized.

Such colonial built-heritage represents a value system that is rooted in oppositions; it is a continuous reminder of colonialism and a dark painful history, but also a home for communities currently living there. Its existence is a testimony to segregation, but the continuation of its existence is a testimony of liberation. In that sense, what can we learn from such a contested reality?

This series of talks comes from the urgency of researching colonial architecture and the process of homing in Asmara and Addis Ababa, as it is very under-researched and dominated by a Euro-Atlantic perspective that marginalizes the complicated multi-layered value of architecture of these colonial cities. (2020)

The World as Data: Material and Affective Consequences of the Digital Twin

Jacob Broms Engblom, Amy Boulton, Lisa Trogen Devgun, Benjamin Gerdes

The processes behind contemporary operations such as data set generation, machine
learning, and computer vision play an increasingly prominent role in research, economic
speculation, and the organization of possible futures for communication, mobility, city planning, and social relations. While these processes remain largely obscured and invisible, there is a prominent cultural relationship, some might say an anxiety, about the mechanisms through which data is aggregated and then monetized, mapped, or instrumentalized by machinic systems.

Grouping questions under the idea of algorithmic governance and different instantiations of invisibility or background automation, this project draws on diverse methods of aesthetic engagement to publicly address the uneven and wobbly contours of what is often presented to the public as a smooth and streamlined system. Our principle concerns will include data set inclusion/exclusion on basis of gender, race, class, and manifestations of solutionism/computer vision/algorithmic governance in the real world. (2020)

The Orientalism of the Casbah of Algiers

Mouna Abdelkadous

The Casbah is by definition a citadel, a fortress. Historically it was a place of retreat for the Mujahideen during the resistance in the fifties, it was a space where people could be invisible. It is also the historical center of the city where you can feel the revolutionary heart beating. During the colonization, the Casbah was amputated by 2000 houses to allow the extension of the colonial city in the harbor. However, in spite of the partial destruction of the Arabic Medina, this place stayed impenetrable; only the natives could live there because of its urban and architecturally complex composition. Obviously, the urbanism of this district was transmitted orally, for many years. There were no street names, it was not determined by a succession of sign indications.

During the Ottoman era, in every sector, alleyways were boarded up in the name of Algerian notables’ families. Indeed the urban design as an academic discipline is a Western invention, it gives visibility and control to the colonial city. The Casbah is at the opposite, it gives no transparency, it protects itself and protects the inhabitants who are living there. It shows its secrets only if someone from there hosts you; the respect of the inner codes are a necessity to survive in it. To be guided by an inhabitant of the Casbah is a privilege and at the same time a protection during the walk within it. In addition, what the Casbah teaches us is the right proportion of individuals to the architecture of their context’, it takes into account the climate, the topography and the habits of its inhabitants. All these elements are its strength and that is what allows it to emancipate itself today from the colonial and modern architecture that is around it. It is in itself the ‘manifesto’ of the vernacular architecture of resistance. (2019)

Hundreds of Little Machines

Kajsa Dahlberg

The project is an experimental film project that involves a collaboration with students over time. It consists of an archive, or collection of logs, of which the students involved are co-creators. The logs are web-browsing sessions filmed on 16mm film, and about 10 minutes long. The web-browsing session will not be planned or thought through in advance.

During the course of a single continuous shot, someone takes us through a stream of e.g. images, texts, news, social media, internet forums, emails, chats, videos, etc. (2018)

Shared Strategies: Art and Crisis

Mourad Kouri, Alba Baeza

The project attempts to critically dissect contemporary artistic practices and discourses in an intersectional format, while aiming to build bridges and include communities within the different segregated enclaves of Stockholm as part of the Swedish art scene. We propose to develop a programme of four open seminar sessions where both guest speakers and audiences will be welcome to participate. The seminars will be structured around a topic and will take place once every semester. A fifth and final seminar will consist of an overall presentation of the project during the 2020 Research Week at RIA. As an anchoring tool, a reader will be developed in accordance with the participants to facilitate the seminar discussions. (2018)

Destroy, She Said. Expanded Legacies, Mentors and Confidantes

Nadia Hebson

Emerging across Literature, Fine Art and Translation is a field of enquiry which seeks to question, reconstitute and think anew the frequently expanded legacies of less considered women writers, artists and thinkers. Dissatisfied by impoverished canons and the conditions they perpetuate, female artists, writers, academics and curators who identify with intersectional feminist practices are enacting new, self-reflexive forms of enquiry to think through and reposition the work of others.

In considering how contemporary practitioners are navigating and constituting these new forms of enquiry, this project will explore how the subjective female voice, autobiography, auto fiction, biography, resonance, collaboration and creative female friendship are being deployed to critique existing exclusionary structures and configure new inclusive forms of thinking, engagement, making and critique.

Through colloquy, collaborations and commissions, an invited group will work through discussion, presentation and exchange to share ongoing projects, and to produce new critical content—resulting in cumulative, collaborative commissions and critical texts solely- and jointly-authored, which will both analyse and contribute to this expanding field. The resulting work, visual and textual, will be disseminated through a dedicated online platform/archive and supporting pop-up exhibitions/commissions in arts schools in Sweden, the U.K. and Holland. The project will actively seek inventive, self-reflexive forms through which to realise new work, resisting established orthodoxies and echoing the close attention paid to the ‘subject’ in each contributor’s enquiry. (2019)

Tentative Transmits: The Radio as G/Host in the “former East”

Olivia Berkowicz, Marianna Feher

Tentative Transmits: The Radio as G/Host in the “former East” attempts to reclaim lost sites and spaces of Eastern European narratives, in an exploration of de-Westernising art and academic practices. For this research, we propose to reorient the focus East in order to reflect on post-socialist transitions as pluriversal sites of knowledge production. Tentative Transmits seeks to de-construct notions around the “former East” through the radio as a platform. The research project intends to explore archival findings on the Eastern bloc’s transnational and multicultural phenomena, located in a time of polarized visions and imbalances between centers and peripheries.

The research topic revolves around how solidarity combines estrangement and engagement, suggesting interdependence without the loss of singularities and multiplicities. Through concepts such as off-modern, hauntology and post-memory we seek to put the relationship of archive and memory into question. (2020)

Searching Power of the Collective Laugh

Oscar Lara

Searching Power of the Collective Laugh aims to test the power of humour and its materialization – the production of comedy – as a tool to normalize new information and help in the acceptance of societal change. The project utilized as a tool one of the most historic cultural expressions of Lima, Peru – street comedy (Comedia Ambulante). This started on March 2017, establishing a working team of six participants: an art therapist/Theatre for the Oppressed facilitator, a journalist/researcher, a conservationist/biologist, and three street comedians.

The project coached street comedians on matters of reality of illegal gold mining in the Peruvian jungle. For this, we organized numerous workshops that resulted in the production of new comedy material that was tested in different contexts from the AAA Theatre in Lima and the Plaza San Martin (the iconic square for political demonstrations in Lima), to the widely-recognised theatre group Yuyachkani and on tour to the most affected mining region, Puerto Maldonado, for an unsuccessful attempt of having a major public appearance, among others. (2017)

Spaces of Care, Disobedience and Desire. Tactics of Minority Space-Making

Rado Istok, Marie-Louise Richards, Natália Rebelo

Departing from the conditions of architecture as a field largely dominated by heterosexual cismen of European descent, generally imposing design on ‘others’, we would like to dedicate our research to spatial practices that are based on a variety of minority positions in terms of gender, sexuality and race. We hope to connect the past, present, and future in our research by recovering forgotten connections as well as establishing new connections between Stockholm and other contexts that might be geographically distant, yet share some of the same urgencies. We believe that working collaboratively can bring us closer to an intersectional understanding of space in which the overall research has a potential to become more than a sum of its parts.

We thus hope to establish through our research a vocabulary of spatial practices for minoritized subjects across particular identities. (2018)

The Aesthetic Strategies of the Documentary Theatre: For a Contemporary Information- and Document-based Critical Artistic Method

Samuel Richter

Today’s global economy is generating incalculable flows of information. It becomes increasingly harder to determine if a text or image is to be considered as news, a commercial or a commodity. Not seldom does this placeless, mass-circulating information contradict the lived experience of people and individuals.

In this context, the documentary theatre’s artistic and political methods can be considered a rich, but often overlooked, tradition, from which an inventory of possible aesthetic strategies is to be found that can respond to our contemporary situation. From the perspective of the field of contemporary art, this project looks at the documentary theatre tradition with the aim to practically and theoretically identify, evaluate, and appropriate specific aesthetic strategies within this tradition. The intention is to create an artistic form of working with a critical view on information and documents that can correspond to a political now. (2019)

Exchanging Letters as a Form of Resistance: or on how art can be used to express solidarity in thinking and practice

Petra Bauer

How can we use art to rethink the past, present and future? How can a historical memory of a political struggle continue to actively live and inform the present? How can art explore and activate the concept of solidarity in thinking and practice? These are question that we pose in this project. In a time when the social climate is hardening and groups are positioned against each other, we see the necessity to revisit the concept of solidarity and ask ourselves if it is still possible to use it in art to imagine and create alternative realities beyond present conditions.

We explore a specific history of solidarity – the Swedish engagement in the South African resistance movement against the apartheid regime. In 1950’s the struggle against apartheid started to grow strong and it engaged institutions and individuals on both a private and public level in Sweden. This history points towards how collective international engagement effected the outcome of political events in South Africa. Among other things, Swedish aid money was transferred through secret channels to the resistance movement in South Africa. The exchange of private letters between families in South Africa and Sweden was used as a cover for this operation. However, apart from being a transport channel for money, the letters also testify, through mundane stories about everyday life, to the impact of political history on personal experiences and lives. But the letters also address both the possibilities and limitations of private acts of solidarity. The research project will take the letters as a point of departure in order to reflect on this very history.

As there will be two research groups considering the same history, but from two different positions and geographical locations, this project further asks important questions of how different political and social contexts effect our ways of seeing, interpreting, reflecting, organising, and shaping histories and materials.

With this as a background, we will consider how artistic production can help deconstructing history and suggest new interpretations and readings; we will revisit history but anchor its political and artistic strategies in a contemporary context.

The project is run in collaboration with curator and professor Gabi Ngcobo at the Wits School of Arts, Johannesburg; Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm; artist and professor Petra Bauer at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm; The South African artist group Title in Transgression, and the Swedish artist group Study Group for Solidarity and TransActions (Petra Hultman, Theresa Traore Dahlberg, Linda Sestrajcic and Cristian Quinteros Soto). (2017)

Crossroads and sidetracks –empiricism, experience and events in the artistic process

Sigrid Sandström, Jenny Kalliokulju

The project is based on the artists Jenny Kalliokulju and Sigrid Sandström’s respective practices in painting, sculpture and poetry, and intends to study how those relate to empiricism and experience. The intention is to identify, highlight and analyze the material that is usually seen as peripheral reference, or as inspirational material. Which parts of our processes are empirical, and which are associative or non-material—and how do they relate to each other? What becomes empirical matter and how do we experience this?

A historical botanical collection is the starting point for our investigations. The collection is nowadays scientifically unfit because its lack of systematic and continuous data. The intention is to empirically study this material and analyze it from a position of the artist. In addition, the artists will participate in a number of scientific surveys, identifying and mapping the depth of lakes. The research will be communicated through smaller pop-up exhibitions, lectures, and seminars at the Royal Institute of Art, and the final presentation will be an exhibition and publication/map. (2018)

The Gender of Sound

Susanna Jablonski, Cara Tolmie

e will conduct a period of research together towards the facilitation of an event/festival in Stockholm calling out to debates past, present and future on the position of gender, performativity and resistance within sound.

Preferring to take our cues from the constitutional character of music and its inherent poetic texture, our research will endeavour to explore alternative structural strategies for the public event that echo and cradle its content – to respond to its inherent needs of articulation, rather than pigeon hole it. (2017)

Map on the Politics of Space

Tatiana Letier Pinto, Astrid Eriksson, Tove Möller

Map on the Politics of Space is a project that attempts to unveil hidden urban processes, and through that suggest action. It will focus on the space of our city and pose the question of which city we want to live in, and what is our agency in making that choice? Through interdisciplinary collaborations we will map the ownership of the built environment of Stockholm focusing on assets that belong to the American private equity firm Blackstone.

Over the period of two years, we will gather information to produce a creative map that unveils another layer of Stockholm’s built environment, creating a different narrative of the city. Mapping is a process that unveils facts, connects entities, and generates a space beyond physicality. Furthermore, while mapping, there is a reflection on the past, an analysis of the present, and a projection to possible futures. (2018)


Anna Knappe, Amir Jan

The research project and film Warland investigates how violent images affect the people who participate in their circulation and how images of war become a part of cultural identity. Warland focuses on Afghanistan and the images produced inside and outside of Afghanistan since the start of the conflict, from Soviet occupation to the War on Terror and present victims of terrorist attacks. The images are approached from the point of view of the emotions they create: the anger, sadness, disgust, empathy, alienation, etc.

The aim is to give a space to interpret the images to those who participate in their circulation, to understand the politics of emotions in action. (2019)

The completion and experimental stage of The Royal Wax Printer

Ulrika Rosengren Gustafsson, Esther Ericsson, Erik Cederberg, Anneli Scheutz, Leila El Harfaoui

With The Royal Wax Printer, The Royal Institute of Art will have a sensational and unique tool for artists. Since this is a new invention, there are no manuals. The wax printer is built completely from scratch, where each part is specially adapted and customised. There is great interest from other universities, foundries, and the international 3D-maker world who are lining up to work with us. We are now very close to the process of conducting tests and artistic experiments. It is now of the utmost importance that we get the opportunity and time to complete this project.

The Royal Wax Printer contributes to linking The Royal Institute of Art’s workshops and invites new technology to a fusion with the traditional craft techniques. The possibilities that the wax 3D printer provides are endless and open to brand new artistic working methods and expressions. (2020)

External link to project blog