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2020-2022, Tuindorp Vreewijk, Rotterdam, 
Cultuuronderzoekers: Artistic Researcher 
Chih-Hsun Chien and Landscape artist Janneke Derksen 

support by Experiment Grant Scheme Stimuleringsfonds and Gemeente Rotterdam

The Experiment of Investigating in Social Renovation in Tuindorp Vreewijk

The project results in several expressions of cultural interventions under the scope of transdisciplinary collaboration and with the notion of Performativity in creative industry field and social design.

Cultuuronderzoekers is a collaboration initiated between Eros Chien (TW) and Janneke Derksen (NL). The core motivation is to experiment with our different creative knowledges and more importantly, to investigate an alternative way to give back to our beloved city Rotterdam.

Tuindorp Vreewijk caught our attention for its unique character in the city, but also for the special counter-relating relation to the idea of living in a city, namely, living a village in a city. This duality of self-debating and complimentary quality mirrors our artistic experiment. To perform our research, we tested different formats including Workshop, Installation, Event, and finally on 24th September 2022, concluded as a bathtub performance at the local market of community day.

Generally speaking, we have received welcoming responses from the neighbourhood, residents are nonetheless curious about our approach, and questioning how is our experiment different from conventional social works. The questions usually returned to themselves as individuals, for they at the same time asked themselves what they could do for their living surroundings.

Our activities disclose the fact that despite there is always an organization (From Humanitas to Sol ) taking the role of the social work in the community, the need for a creative and alternative approach to social renovation remains unsatisfied.

The experiment orients our direction which is different from conventional social works. Our experiments do not put the quantifiable numbers as guidelines. We do not behold
any professional backgrounds of social work. Instead, our direction focuses on individual, personal, and the relationship between residents and community. Simply as the undefinable term “community art,” what we have been conducting in Vreewijk indeed lacks a possibly definite definition; however, this exact phenomenon of incomplete contour of our experiment shows precisely the most ignored need of a social development.

The difficulties however, are not about the similarity between our project and social work organisation, but instead, retaining residents’ trust and curiosity, if ever gained, throughout the process, while considering and measuring the effect of our activities. We concluded our activities, despite which format, were effective and positively received, but the real question is how to retain the effect for long periods enough to transfer into solid change.

On the other hand, as an experiment for our artistic collaboration from very different disciplines, namely landscape design and artistic research, are extremely fruitful and transforming our original methods of creative processes. The toolbox of artistic research opens vast new manners of recomposing elements from personal stories of individuals into design interventions; at the same time, the pragmatic tradition of design insights brings conceptual draft into workable solutions with knowledgeable guidelines.

Due to this collaboration, the core is therefore no longer on analysing conditions and restrictions from the subject. Instead, through the shapeshifting merge of pragmatic analysis and creative narrative from our two different ends, we found the common
ground as Theater, a realm where performativity empowers and liberates, with Deleuze’s terminology “Deterritorization” compliments along. Stemming from this understanding, we chose not to aim for a definitive design for our initial project but also because of the fact that the body of our subject is a large collection of households with numberless life stories and memories. We found a soft approach with temporary interventions as the best channel to materialise our research based on these reasons.

In in collaboration with
 Artist and Designer Jack Bardwell.

Vlaggen voor Vreewijk
Flag Making workshop

On April 3, 2022 we invited spatial and graphic artist Jack to organise our first workshop in Vreewijk, a flag making workshop with the residents from the community.

How the project idea was born and why flags?

On my first visit to Vreewijk I was struck by how active the community spaces still were, it reminded me of home. Janneke and Eros told me of all the previous communal infrastructure that used to be there, a shared bath house, a pigeon coup on the roof. Perhaps these physical spaces were no longer relevant for contemporary community life but there were stories tied up in these places.

One such infrastructure which is prevalent throughout the Netherlands is the flag pole holders on the facades of buildings. Officially they are there to hold the national flag on specific days (there are rules on when and how the can be flown). The simple premise of the project then was to use this readily available infrastructure, not for national sentiment but to communicate the local stories past and present. To fly them proudly in the streets, to start conversation about how the community lived there historically and how that could continue today.

Flags are such an old form of public communication, but still hold so much power. There is a long social and activist history of communal banner making. The idea to use flags within this project tunes into to these histories and uses flag making as a way to both tell and create local stories.
Badkuip verhalen 

2022 - Vreewijk - Rotterdam

This installation was made possible in part by the Stimuleringsfonds and Gemeente Rotterdam
in collaboration with Attach Studio and Digital Mass, Interactive Media

The installation was inspired by the cigar shop’s old community telephone, as well as the neighbourhood’s public bathhouse. Before the bathroom became a ‘domestic’ part of the household, people used to go to the collective bathhouse. A place where spontaneous meetings took place between neighbours in the past. The bathtub offers the idea to give residents the chance to “pour in” what they want to say and to “be engulfed” by the words of others, all anonymously and spontaneously. The installation has two sides, each with its own function. At the front is the possibility to record your personal story of what you want to “pour” in the bathtub. Some speak, others sing! At the back you can listen to the recorded stories from the front.

click here for information

Artistic Researcher
Chih-Hsun Chien


Neighbourhood Conversations is an event organised by Eros Chien in the evening of June 30, 2022. During this evening, exchanges between invited artists, enthusiastic residents and stakeholders sparkled. The purpose of the event was to invite artists with unique artistic practices to shared related knowledges with Vreewijk. We invited Vera Mennens (NL) and Dimitri van den Wittenboer (DE) to give presentations about their projects.

Vera brought her latest video work, Three Stages, together with her practice on archives and natural monuments in the Netherlands; Dimitri gave an impressive presentation about his practice in collective art with communal spaces and community houses. The topics both echoes to the very unique qualities of Vreewijk: green and social.

The outcome of Neighbourhood Conversation was that the stimulated participants of Vreewijk took a refreshed look at their own living environment together with the external artists. Questions arose as, insufficient rooms for creative and cultural activities, how to connect residents from different social circles, and more.

In this way the conversation of different levels can start again, with or without solutions at this stage. Sharing by different parties, potential alternative views from discussions contributing to the improvement of living quality through residents’ own hands.

Through this event, we learned that an artistic approach to social design is perhaps less nummeric but the outcome is apart from the a conventional one. Participants at this event brought out all the imaginations about their neighbourhood, yet, perhaps not a concrete solution was formed, but as a seed of intention, it formulate an awareness of the relationship between individuals and the social quality.

Flag Making workshop for Ukrainian refugee kids support by 
municipality of Rotterdam

On August 18, 2022 we organised another Flag Making workshop at De Brink. Together with initiators of the first workshop, spatial and graphic designer Jack Bardwell, and other passionate volunteers for Ukrainian refugee kids. We aimed to share the workshop format to local residents to be able to continuously create visual expressions for personal emotions and narratives.

Dag van Vreewijk
support by
municipality of Rotterdam

To summarise our project, on 24th September 2022, we transformed the inspirations from a public bathhouse into a communal space on the street. The bathtub stood on a vinyl floor and there were plenty of slippers for guest to use. We created bathhouse tickets, which has diverse questions for participants to shoot to each other. On top of the question, there’s also a QR code which links to a documentation of our activities in the neighbourhood for residents to chew back on to. We’ve hosted a surprising large amount of interested guests, with many conversations and exchanges happend within an alternative design with a strong performative quality between local merchandises.

jannekederksen 2023 — Rotterdam, The Netherlands