The collective Concrete Blossom grew up in Rotterdam and operates in a range of different situations as a design studio, publisher and cultural platform. In the fall of 2019, the collective announced in their typical way (in Dutch) that it is entering into a long-term cooperative partnership with Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Initially, Concrete Blossom is playing a prominent role in programming for The Hoodie, but the collective will then go on to disrupt the day-to-day business of the instituut in all kinds of other ways. This deliberate disruption forms the heart of a joint, ongoing investigation of the possibilities for an alternative set-up of Het Nieuwe Instituut and other cultural bodies.
New strategies and an updated set of instruments are currently in development within several departments, with the aim of helping better coordinate institutional activities and supply to the dynamism and rhythms of ‘the real Rotterdam’. How can we (to freely quote sociologist Iliass El Hadioui) reach an ‘institutional tipping point’?
How, in other words, can organisations such as Het Nieuwe Instituut work towards a situation where the diversity of the inhabitants of our urban centres, communities, neighbourhoods, social practices and the wide range of diasporas feel that they are being heard and represented?
Concrete Blossom formulates its own concrete contribution to this process like this: “First of all, we are advising various departments of Het Nieuwe Instituut on language, outreach, informal and decentral organisation structures, content and communication. Secondly, we are developing (autonomous) programme lines and communication strategies for an intimate dialogue with the city. Thirdly, we are working on recruitment and selection processes to up the heat in the Sauce. We hope this will result in a Sauce-sensitive HR policy organisation-wide in the medium term. Finally, we are developing tools to enable this institute to get with Rotterdam now – maybe even by strengthening various scenes and (creative) ecosystems throughout the city. It might sound mad abstract, but look at it like this: we will move among the various departments, inside and outside of Het Nieuwe Instituut, like a kind of extra department representing the city.”
In the months ahead, Het Nieuwe Instituut and Concrete Blossom will develop by doing more and more practical exercises, creating scope for change, plurality of voices and reciprocity. At the moment, (cultural) diversity within arts institutions is still too often limited to a popular, socially and politically desirable – but above all temporary – topic. One of the intended outcomes of the disruption is more fundamental reform: when an institute makes an appeal to individuals and communities active in the city, the ‘products’ of this partnership must in turn be good for the people and the city.
A just, democratic and inclusive cultural sector is a precondition for a society where emancipatory movements are never ‘finished’ – where it is recognised that collective critical reflection, dialogue, openness and preparedness to change are not ephemeral projects but basic preconditions. Het Nieuwe Instituut realises that the path towards this situation will involve a lot of trial and error. By putting the instituut somewhat off balance, entering into a partnerhsip with a collective that has both feet firmly in the city, we hope to take the first steps in the right direction. This conscious disruption will be made possible as transparently as possible through the communication channels of Het Nieuwe Instituut and Concrete Blossom, and there will be plenty of opportunities to ask questions and make comments, suggestions, recommendations and give criticism.