Critical Making Project

The Dutch research council NWO has awarded a grant to a consortium headed by Prof. Dr. Janneke Wesseling (Leiden University) as main applicant and Dr. Florian Cramer (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) as co-applicant for their project ‘Bridging art, design and technology through Critical Making’. Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Waag Society in Amsterdam and West Den Haag are involved as consortium partners.

The project aims at furthering the discourse of Critical Making. Under the supervision of the senior researchers affiliated with the institutes involved, a PhD candidate and three junior researchers will work on four subprojects and will be located with one or more consortium partners. These positions are open to artists and designers.

Bridging art, design and technology through Critical Making

Digitization has led to the construction of 21st century creative industries as a hybrid of art, design and technology in which 20th century art and culture have largely been subsumed. This development shifts attention from aesthetics (‘perception’) to a technology-oriented paradigm of making. How can 21st century creative practices – art, design, technological making – overcome this industry logic of techno-optimistic makeability? Bringing together contemporary art practices and artistic research with today’s design and technology, our project will foster critically informed creative practices.

Research question

Critical Making, a concept coined by Matt Ratto, generally aims to reintroduce the notion of criticality into making practices that have been dominated by the industrial paradigm of creative industries. This project will investigate (a) how the concept of Critical Making can be further developed within the context of critical theory and the discourse on artistic research and (b) how such a renewed notion of Critical Making can problematize and correct the narrow focus on systems and solutions in the contemporary techno-creative industries. Therefore, our main research question is: How can the concept of Critical Making be expanded into a general approach that ties the critical methodology of artistic research and the established concepts of artistic autonomy together with contemporary creative-technological development?


  • The conceptual potential of Critical Making, currently applied to Maker culture and product design, will be fundamentally researched and applied to the specific context of art and design;
  • Critical discursive methods of contemporary art will be made available to design and technological making;
  • Artistic Research practices will enable the advancement of the Critical Making discourse in both the field of art and in academia on design-issues relating to technological innovation and the impact of this discourse on society and on cultural values;
  • The project will propose a new theoretical and practical positioning of disciplinary codes in the fields of art, design and critical theory in order to expand discourse between these largely separated domains;
  • In the context of Digital Humanities, this project will provide methodological insights for Digital Humanities scholars who feel stuck in traditional methodologies of computer-aided statistical analysis and the visualization of data sets. The artistic research projects, symposia and workshops organized in the framework of this project will use the competency of artists and designers to experiment with new methods of digital visual research;
  • In the context of practice-oriented polytechnical education (HBO), the project will introduce Critical Making as a reflective working method into Dutch art and design education and into the professional field of artists, designers and technological makers.

The Critical Making NL consortium consists of Leiden University (Academy of Creative and Performing Arts), Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (Willem de Kooning Academy, Creating 010), Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Waag Society in Amsterdam and West Den Haag. In 2016, the consortium has already been awarded a Creative Industries – KIEM grant for their project entitled ‘Critical Making as a model for art practice in the digital age’. In this context, several public events will be organized in the next few months. If you would like to stay informed about these developments and the programme, please send an email to