About the project


We live in a society that revolves around optimization. Optimization of systems and processes, but certainly also of ourselves. The digital development in recent decades helps with this. Processes are automated as much as possible; ever smoother, faster, easier, better.

We also know automation as an internal process. After all, our primary thoughts and actions are determined by deep-seated personal attitudes, feelings and assumptions. That goes automatically on a subconscious level. Even if we are aware of this mechanism at all, it is difficult enough to rise above it and look at it from a distance. Questioning those primary thoughts and actions, demands even more of us.

Time and space for reflection is anything but automated in our society. After all, we have to keep moving forward. Our optimal self is actually exactly what we want our world to be; coherent, productive and efficient.


We don’t have to deny the benefits of automation and digital development to see the drawbacks. The downside is loss. Perhaps most of all, the loss of space. The space that exists around entrenched ideas, ingrained (re)actions, known strategies and unshakable convictions. Free space, which is neither predictable nor safe, fixed nor peaceful. It is precisely this space that is needed to come closer to ourselves and to each other. To be able to formulate rebuttals to the problems of our time.

I read two books in 2021 in which I recognized the call to look for that free space. In her book Filosofie met de Vlinderslag (2016), Woei-Lien Chong talks about Daoism as an exercise in suspending primary thinking and acting, which arise from ingrained patterns and beliefs. She uses terms such as deprogramming, deconditioning and deconstruction to describe this exercise at a fundamental level. I also read Frictie (2020) by Miriam Rasch. The book is about the implications of the belief that the world can be captured in data (dataism).

Rasch frequently uses the term de-automation. She borrows this from the Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky, who with this term indicated the alienating and space-creating effect that literature has. The book inspired me to think in an almost activist way about de-automation as a free space-creating activity.


Rasch cites the Situationist dérive in a passage describing her wanderings through a city. She writes how, with her phone in her pocket, she contributes to feeding data. This gave me the idea to use the dérive the other way around; as an active refusal to contribute to efficiency and productivity. In the summer of 2022, I organized a dérive with the artist collective De Derde Place, of which I am a part, which I later called the drift. An activity in which we made an aimless, 12-hour wander with only some bills in our pockets.


The experiences surrounding the drift ultimately led to the development of this project. In the interesting before and after discussions with the collective, I discovered the power and relevance of the connection with others in my work as an artist. I see the experience of the drift as a form of collective research into free space, in which de-automation is the means.

With this project I build further on this collective research by creating a literal and figurative research space. In this I explore free space with fellow artists and the Amsterdam public, by means of forms of de-automation. With this I want to question our social urge for optimization and the loss that goes with it.

Within the research space, (public) activities take place in the form of (guest) lectures, creative sessions, conversations and performances. It is also a space for exchange and experimentation in regards to developing (collective) non-actions.

Questions/ Remarks/ Join?