The Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, The Netherlands, has a long and prestigious history. Established in 1948 first as an art academy, it became over the decades a unique place for research and production in the three areas of fine art, theory and design. Its nature of being a post-academic institute allowed for research, experiment, daring innovations, trying out new ways, in an institution which was not bound by the academic codes and rites, with no courses, no teachers, no grades and no diplomas, just engaging with what was deemed essential, in the spirit of collectivity and wide collaboration across the boundaries of particular disciplines. Over the decades it produced a wide variety of artists, designers and theorists many of whom occupy today very important positions in their respective fields and stand at the cutting edge of new research.
At the same time it provided a space for questions that may be deemed useless, for futile projects, for crazy ideas, for the beauty of the pointless, regardless of the logic of social promotion and success. It hosted a vast number of international guests, some of them among the most important artists, theorists and designers around, and all the guests were invariably very taken by the enthusiasm and the engaging environment it provided. The spirit of free research, of intellectual and artistic courage, of trying out new ways, of sharing and discussing, combined with the high competence of researchers in their disciplines, provided a powerful focal point that inspired enthusiasm, a capacity that the present day academia is sadly lacking. Almost all the alumni regard the time spent at Jan van Eyck as a formative experience, an essential period of their development, an expansion of their capacities, for there is indeed something in this institution that is transformative of people’s lives. The Academy acquired a wide international reputation across the world and became a point of reference.
The austerity measures imposed by the Dutch government, indicative of the general closing of the European mind that is now increasingly implemented across the continent, put the existence of this institution into jeopardy. It will survive, but on a smaller scale and in a very curtailed form, with a new program which in many ways departs from what this institution used to be. We can only wish the best of luck to this new development on a changed platform, despite the skepticism that many of us harbor. But the numerous alumni who have been attached to this institution in the past wish to continue with what we see as the uniquely inspiring and productive practices that formed the gist of the Jan van Eyck spirit over the last decades. We form a community of researchers who firmly believe that these practices can and should be pursued despite the institutional break and discontinuity.
This calls for the founding of a new institution, the JVE A, whose purpose is to keep this experience alive, to expand it, to build on it, to enable it to flourish in new ways. The aim is not to nostalgically hold on to something that used to be, but to assemble people who have been in various ways formed by this experience and want to continue on this basis, for this experience can only be kept alive by being transformed, submitted to constant reshaping and innovation. We believe that holding on to the old ways is the best way to invent new ways.
The three areas of fine art, theory and design are not usually associated under the roof of a single institution, but the past Jan van Eyck experience has amply shown how enriching such an association can be. The interdisciplinarity, or trans-disciplinarity, most often promoted as an easy catchword or a bureaucratic agenda, was in Jan van Eyck a common way of life, practiced daily as something self-evident and challenging and from which everybody profited for his or her own work. This tradition, which may have been established by contingent ways, is a common good that we all treasure and want to continue on its basis. All three areas also share the same concern of addressing the new ways of conceiving radical politics, something that essentially belongs to the Jan van Eyck core tradition.
The new association is first of all open to all ex-researchers of the Jan van Eyck over the years, then to guests and collaborators who have visited the Academy and feel close to its practices and agendas, further-more to the present and past staff members of the Academy who would wish to continue along the ways that proved most fruitful, and finally to new members who wish to join this rather unique gathering and work with us.
The JVE A organizing committee, Berlin in July 2013
JVE A, founded in 2013
Organizing Committee 2015, Berlin
Simone van Dijken
Anne van Leeuwen
Annette le Fort
Organizing Committee 2014, Berlin
Anne van Leeuwen
Board of Directors 2014
Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield
Jack Henrie Fisher
Board of Directors 2013
Ludger Müller, Simone van Dijken (2014-2015)
Gal Kirn (2013-2014)
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