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Online / Offline
Open / Closed

After two months of forced closure, public life will cautiously start up again on 1 June. Cultural institutions are among the first to reopen in support of the “right to free, unimpeded cultural development,” enshrined in Article 22 of the Dutch Constitution. In addition, public revenues are indispensable to the sector.

Although Het Nieuwe Instituut has developed alternative formats and remained open online, it’s now possible to reopen physically on 1 June, thanks to the reduced pressure on healthcare. 

Nothing beats the added value of an actual visit, a direct confrontation with an object or the specific context which only an exhibition can provide. Right?

Or will some visitors prefer to continue making digital forms of visit? Will the current protocol and other measures result in a fenced-in visitor experience, lacking in spontaneity and chance encounters? Will a sense of discomfort predominate and will that other visitor be reduced to a potential contamination risk?

These questions are prompting Het Nieuwe Instituut to develop more hybrid programming in the near future, based on online and offline elements. At the same time, the policy around Covid-19 has also led to new questions. How does the domain of design relate, for example, to the idea of the 1.5 metre society and the basic forms of inclusion and exclusion associated with it? The disciplining and exclusive mechanisms of design have been regularly discussed within the institute in recent years. It’s interesting that these qualities are now, again and again, being used as solutions to a social problem. And although in the Netherlands the physical variant in terms of 1.5 metres is central, we have already been warned – for example by Naomi Klein – about the way in which the current digitisation, fuelled by the data explosion during lockdown, entails new forms of control.

In other words: ‘open’ does not necessarily mean, ‘open and accessible to everyone’. For example, pre-ordering a ticket with a time slot is required, which makes it necessary to share an email address in order to receive the confirmation. Not everyone will be willing to do this, perhaps for privacy reasons. Also, with public transport use intensifying again, some visitors will prefer to wait a little longer.

In order to lower the potential threshold for a visit, the various restrictions have been covered as far as possible. At the same time, the new situation has been approached as a design question. For example, there’s now an opportunity to realise a unique visitor experience, one that is about personal meaning and intimacy and where you can still celebrate each other’s company – at a distance.

Het Nieuwe Instituut also offers – on a voluntary basis – the possibility of paying the discount rate if there is a financial barrier to visiting the institute.

The institute is making several of these topical questions part of its upcoming programme.

The Dutch entry for the Venice Biennale (moved to 2021) and the accompanying programme also focus on these questions, parallel to the importance of multiple social and ecological voices.