Thuistezien 226 — 05.04.2021

Anja Groten
Critical Making

In 2019, West hosted the Making Matters Symposium during which Anja Groten was invited to talk. In her talk, she reflected on the type of making that is stimulated and enforced within the format of a workshop as well as critically assessing its possible pit-falls. Groten is a designer, educator, and community organiser based in Amsterdam. At the time she was doing her talk for the Making Matters Symposium, she was doing research, drawing from her perspective as a design practitioner. Particularly, she has been working together with the Amsterdam based collective Hackers and Designers which has existed since 2013.

To begin with, Groten points out that the talk is going to be a two fold reflection — both introducing a workshop that would physically take place during the symposium but also as a reflection of the workshop as a format itself as well as the modes of production that derives from this type of format. The workshop she created for the symposium called ‘Walking Signals’ was organized in collaboration with the Seoul based artist duo Dianaband and explored other ways of using hotspots as a space for making, conceptually as well as visually. In practice, this workshop could materialize ways in which Groten is interested, a different outcome of the workshop format.

Groten’s motivation for discussing the workshop format comes from her own visual communication background from where she has gained a certain suspicion about the conditions under which designers work and produce. Essentially, a design practice is a discriminating one, which always contains the process of classifying, prioritizing and selecting, so for Groten it was interesting to explore modes of collaborative making as a possible attempt to counteract the assumptions that are made within typically individualized design practices. Doing her research, it became clear how dominant the format of the workshop was in design practices and how popular they had become as an alternative mode of making.

As she is well aware of, the workshop as a popular alternative format for creative making is an opportunity to connect and to meet people from other fields as well as learning from them and their methods. She has, however, come across a couple of dilemmas while researching which are linked to the way in which the format considers the act of making, where a physical outcome always has to be carried out and a problem always has to be solved. Through her research, and also from the experience of hosting workshops with the Hackers and Designers collective, Groten argues that the potential of a collaborative making situation like the workshop should provide space and tolerance of the not (yet) knowing which could make it possible to actually confront the dominant and given forms of making and give the possibility for makers to be confronted with their own forms of making.

Text: Rosa Zangenberg