about the cluster
Soft Connection Lab, 28.04.2022, photo: Aaron Lapeirre
Catherine Willems, Future Footwear, photo: Thomas Nolf
Soft Connection Lab, Nomadic School of Arts, Urban Foraging, 09.2023, photo: Giada Giccetti
Disobedient Practices offers a framework and experimental environment where existing and emerging technologies and skilled practices can be questioned, challenged or re-used in new environments creating an opportunity for tech bias to be subverted, dismantled or repositioned.

Disobedient Practices

about the cluster

Artistic research in this cluster is carried out by musicians, visual artists, media artists, performers, live coders, media critics and designers and focuses on different modalities of technology – understood here as a set of skills, both digital and non-digital – such as skilled practice and its relationship with both tangible (objects) and non-tangible (processes) output. Performing with these skills of technology involves devising toolsets and critical discourses to broaden or hack our experiences. Sentience or tangibility is no prerequisite to be attributed agency: objects, machines, tools or even natural phenomena also qualify. These all influence our environment and participate in shaping social and cultural practices.

Through the lens of critical storytelling, we aim for new forms of technological knowledge and new modes of expression therein. We question what skilled practice can mean in different circumstances, for instance in Western versus non-Western traditions. Simultaneously, research in this cluster questions conventional thinking on and ethics of innovation and the idea of progress linked to technology. This critical stance aims to dismantle tech bias with its sometimes-fixed value and belief system.

Critical approaches in this cluster can take on many different guises. We reposition practices or instruments. We hack, redefine meanings of usefulness and repurpose emerging technologies. Furthermore, re-installments of the transformative power of storytelling and imagination in technological and scientific evolution all inform this cluster. As such, a process-based approach encourages experimentation, risk taking, and exploring innovative bold ideas.


Within this cluster technology refers to the tools and techniques, both digital and non-digital to create, produce and present knowledge and experiences. In Beyond Art and Technology: The Anthropology of Skill, Tim Ingold claims that the Latin ars, from which our ‘art’ derives, and the Greek tekhne, the root of our ‘technology’, meant much the same thing, namely skill, of the kind associated with craftmanship. This etymological observation plays a crucial role: we intend to re-connect art, technology and craft in a contemporary setting. We aim to do so through a disobedient or critical approach; approaches, that is, where technology is not merely considered a functional tool to serve a for-profit, economic goal or consumer-based market. Technology is viewed as a means deployed for, by and in relation with various actors where its use and validity can be challenged in a paradoxical sense. We aim to open doors to spaces where we can focus on low-tech as well as high-tech and where technology can be beaten at its own game. As such the act of hacking, as described by e.g. Bruce Schneiers in A Hacker's Mind, will be one of the key ingredients within this cluster. Disobedient Practices intends to handle a framework and experimental environment where existing and emerging technologies can be questioned, challenged or re-used in new environments.

Skilled practice

We talk of skilled practice or craftmanship in the context of our artistic research practice to refer to the mastery of the technical and conceptual skills necessary to create, design or perform art at a high level of quality. Included are the development of a range of technical abilities, such as proficiency in drawing, music, design, coding, sculpting, textile, or other media, as well as the ability to use specialized tools, equipment and materials. Yet this cluster will not focus merely on the technical or mechanical aspects of skilled practice. The artistic principles and subjective dimensions that are at the foundation of craftmanship will be on an equal footing. These include creativity, imagination, knowledge transfer, problem solving, innovation, critical thinking and social embedding. Skilled practice in this cluster is thus driven by an ongoing process of learning, experimentation, refinement, a passion for creating meaningful and impactful works of art that stand in a close relationship with their maker(s), their own direct environment and the background from which they arose.

Process based approach

As is customary in research, we advocate for a process-based approach. Such a process can include personal background, vision, beliefs and narratives of the researcher(s) involved. We strongly believe that doing so can help to re-install the connection between technology, skilled practice and art, which is at the heart of this cluster.

A process can not only involve both human as well as non-human agents (e.g. algorithms, software, machines or other species), but also networks of associations between humans and non-humans, the so-called 'collectives' as introduced by Bruno Latour, can play a key role.

With the process-based narrative we aim for in this cluster, we intend to facilitate opportunities to voice a critical stance towards technology, skilled practice and their usages. Methods from domains such as hacking, critical or speculative design can play a vital role in this. A critical voice can manifest in many different ways; from repositioning practices or instruments, extending software, redefining the meaning of usefulness and purpose of new emerging technologies to the re-installment of the transformative power of storytelling and imagination in technological development. As such, experimentation, risk taking, and exploring innovative ideas become inherent to this cluster.

Technology and skilled practice

Throughout history technology and skilled practice have been closely intertwined. Various fields ranging from medicine, visual and  performing arts to music and engineering rely on both. In many cases, technology has assisted tasks, made them easier or even automated them. While bringing numerous benefits, it also presents significant challenges and raises interesting new paradigms and questions. In recent times, technology is often regarded as the implementation of predetermined operational sequences, mechanical or algorithmic procedures. With this cluster we aim at bringing technology closer again to its original meaning, as hinted at in the term’s etymology (from the Greek "tekhne," meaning "art, skill, or craft," and "logia," meaning "study of" or "branch of knowledge") and help to restore its innate ties with craftmanship. For possible roadmaps towards this end, we find inspiration in Tim Ingold's The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. Technology cannot be dissociated from its social and human context. It impacts skilled practice by changing the nature of the practice itself. As such it can also create new possibilities and guide innovation in the artistic domain.

On a societal level new technology comes with responsibilities as its relations are inherently embedded in social relations. Its potential consequences are manifold; on issues ranging from privacy and algorithmic and data driven bias, to reinforcement or confirmation of discriminatory practices and skewed power structures. As technology is often developed with a for-profit consumer market in mind, possible downsides tend to be neglected or considered subordinate to the material gains. With this cluster we aim to provide alternatives or constructive answers to such practices. Technology is not approached as a tool with a pre-defined return on investment (ROI) ideology in mind. We aim to create an environment where technology and its relation to skilled practice can be developed without a utilitarian and/or commercial goal in mind. This involves questioning assumptions, challenging the status quo, assessing and working with ethics of technology, speculating and looking for alternatives or improvements.

research lines

Hacking: looking beyond the conventional implementation and use of systems and technology.

In this research line we intend to invite artistic projects that focus on hacking in various settings. With hacking we mean the exploitation of a system or technology in unintended ways that subvert or recontextualize its norms and rules. A system can be understood as a complex process, governed by a set of rules or norms intended to produce a set of desired outcomes (cf. Bruce Schneier, A Hacker’s Mind). Systems that can be considered in this line cover a broad palette; political, cognitive, legal, financial and social systems, but also AI systems. With the exponential growth and interference of AI in our everyday lives the possible consequences of hacking and AI should not be underestimated. A clear distinction here can be made between using AI in the hacking process and designing AI as hackers. Such an evolution has the clear potential to accelerate hacking on four levels; speed, scale, scope and sophistication. Of crucial importance with this research line is the underlying thought that just like art and creativity, hacking is part of the human condition. It is all around, ever present and can lead to the most beautiful as well as frightening outcomes.

Critical design: proposals to challenge assumptions and conceptions about the role virtual and real objects play in everyday life.

By critical design, as coined by Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne in Hertzian Tales (1999), we mean not only a movement or methodology but also an attitude towards design that takes its ethical, societal and environmental consequences into account. Like similar approaches towards design (e.g. radical design), we aim to give space to new practices towards the design of technology or virtual and real objects. Practices that challenge the status quo, that pose and address fundamental questions on the possible role they play in our everyday lives, and counter the existing narratives and assumptions that they are built upon. Practices, also, that focus on different possible future scenarios of current choices we make. As such, design can be subversive, speculative, shocking or even playful. The approach we put forth in this cluster entails that design should not always lead to usable products or functional objects. We encourage research which can lead to new ways of thinking, connecting and organizing as an alternative to a consumer and market-based ideology.

Art science: understanding the human experience of nature through the synthesis of artistic and scientific modes of exploration and expression.

Art science is a relatively new emergent field with a lot of ongoing debate abouts its exact definition, its boundaries and ontology. As such we take a stance and adopt some viewpoints. The first one being that art science in this research line is viewed as an intersectional and not as an interdisciplinary field of practice. We consider art science as a new hybrid practice that incorporates both art and science and transcends them by developing new unseen methodologies and practices. Art science as such should have the ambition to move beyond established disciplines and domains and claim a position of its own. The second viewpoint that is crucial for this research line is the prominent role of an experiential character in the domain of art science. This can be understood in the following way. In the broadest sense we consider science to be the production of new forms of knowledge with roots in human reasoning and experiment. Of course, this can also hold true for the arts, but there is more. Most artistic processes also focus on the creation of new forms of expression and human experiences without the need for systematic validation. Karl Popper's falsification principle does not hold in such a context, an observation with great importance in this research line. We are particularly interested in how an experiential approach can be translated to a scientific context and what possibilities this provides for art science practices. It is a challenge for which the domains of storytelling and speculative practices hold a lot of potential.

Skilled practice: revisiting craftmanship and performativity today

Skilled practice or craftmanship in this cluster refers not only to the mastery of technical and conceptual skills but also to its subjective dimension. With this research line we seek to restore the current rift between art and skill/craftmanship that has its roots in the late eighteenth century. As an alternative we aim to give room to re-discover skill/craftmanship in a relational and ecological approach as put forth by thinkers such as Gregory Bateson and Tim Ingold. To understand and revisit skilled practice we need to reposition skilled practitioners in their personal context of active engagement with tools, technology and their surroundings. Skill or craftmanship as such cannot be reduced to a mere algorithm, formula or pre-defined recipe of actions. The proposed approach towards skill also holds a lot of potential for new visions and formulations of craftmanship and the performing arts today. Rather than merely focusing on technical proficiency, key roles will be reserved for the performer(s), the context and the myriad relational connections in performance art (e.g. audience, social, ecological, ethical or political). As such we foster an environment in which craftspeople seek to develop a unique personal voice and vision.