ABOUT

The University of the Underground was founded in February 2017, as a charity with a ANBI status (RSIN 8575.82.781) . We are a free, pluralistic and transnational university based in the basement of nightclubs- with headquarters in Amsterdam and London- and actively working with both institutions and nightlife. As a charity, we hope to bring generations together to democratise access to public institutions and trigger changes and critical reflections through the use of creative and experiential practices. With an explicit focus on political theory, design of experiences, music, theatrical practices, film, social actions and social dreaming; our university aims to provide toolkits for members of the public and students to actively participate in revealing power structures in institutions. The University of the Underground supports unconventional research, countercultures and practices that apprehend and challenge the formulation of culture, the manufacture and commodities of knowledge. The University of the Underground believes in a transnational form of education which exist beyond national borders. As a result we are also developing educative programmes in the USA, starting this summer 2019, in collaboration with the Hannah Arendt Center of Bard College and the United Nations, but also soon in North Africa, Greece and beyond.

The University of the Underground charity supports students from around the world by granting them scholarships while it co-hosts a master’s programme, the Masters Design of Experiences, with an accredited academic partner, as well as running public events, radio programmes and workshops. Most recently we also opened a research programme, the Unconventional Research Office, which supports the development, identification and empowerments of countercultures in institutions.

We work on multiple outlets:

WE ARE AN EDUCATIVE STRUCTURE

The University of the Underground, in 2017-2019, provided a two-year full time Masters of the Arts in the Design of Experiences (MA accredited) in collaboration with the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam. 15 students were selected for two years of classes in Amsterdam and London.

The Masters Design of Experiences exists at the nexus between critical design, experiential, theatrical, operatic, filmic, semiotic, political and musical practices. It aims to teach students how to engineer situations, to design experiences and events to best support social dreaming, social actions and power shifts within institutions, companies and governments.

Students have rarely before been given the tools and means to learn
to understand their profession in terms of the increasingly multi- faceted and malleable role it assumes in today’s world. The programme encourages students to use their own voice, style, tone and aesthetics as manifested in final outcomes of performative product scenarios, products embedded in the context of the built environment and institutions.

The curriculum is concerned with a contemporary and strategic foresight implying politics, economics, systems thinking in institutions, new technologies and scientific developments both in Artificial Intelligence and in the current digital ecosystems. It makes innovative use of a variety of practices to engage members of the public with the experiences and the debates created.

The programme brings together theory with classes in politics, linguistics, cultural entrepreneurship and so forth as well as practice including project brief developed within specific institutions (ie; British Council, Dutch National Opera, British Film Institute etc…). This yearbook is an introduction to the year one and year two programme of the Masters Design of Experiences 2017-2019.

Following our international recruitment, we have selected 15 students out of 187 applications from 40 different nationalities to start in September 2017- 2019. You can see the students work here

If you wanted to apply for the next round of applications- sign up for our newsletter or email us about it. **Please note 2019-2020 we will be running research residencies across the globe instead of the Masters programme.

The MA Design of Experiences is a two year, full-time MA programme. (Friday is not scheduled for classes so that students can take paid roles to support their living expenses). Our programme exists at the nexus between critical design, experiential, theatrical, filmic, semiotics, political and musical practices; it aims to teach students how to engineer situations, to design experiences and events to best support social dreaming, social actions and power shifts within institutions, companies and governments.

The programme runs as such:

YEAR 1 2017-2018

In year one, both practice and theory were taught together simultaneously. The first-year programme was fast- paced, providing both the methodologies and tools to students to develop their unconventional practices. It focused on supporting their original approaches in the formulation of events in selected institutions. Students were assessed at two points of the calendar year in an interim assessment and year 1 assessment in which they demonstrated that they responded to each set brief with evidence of research, analysis, experimental actions, documentation of
their process, production, personal and professional development, meaningful experiences, and innovation (ie: applying a method from one field to another in an unexpected manner).

Theory:

– In the fall, weekly theory classes (2 hours each): Cultural entrepreneurship/ Linguistics/ Political strategy/ Theatrical practices/ Political philosophy and methodology (ethnography, design practices, ethics and gender studies). Sports classes take place every Tuesday morning to teach students team work and endurance as a form of work ethic. Alongside scheduled classes, students also run self directed studies with their own group discussions.

– The Allegory of the Cave series runs weekly and it is co-curated by both the teaching team and the students. It is a series of illuminating talks and discussions on various topics and timeframes, questioning our plausible futures, unique design and unconventional research practices, economics, politics, sociology and more. In the fall 2017, guests included Head of Documentary at the Guardian Charlie Phillips, designer Daisy Ginsberg, filmmaker Noam Toran, Activist and member of Anarchist Feminist group Pussy Riot Nadezhda Andreyevna Tolokonnikova, cyborg Moon Ribas, science fiction author Bruce Sterling, feminist and serbian author Jasmina Tesanovic and more.

– Thursday evening screenings. In collaboration with production studio Dartmouth Films a series of documentary films questioning politics, society and economics, proposing methods and visual investigation of research.

Thursdays 5 to 6.Time for current affairs’: Every Thursday from 5pm to 6pm, students and staff discuss one piece of writing, one piece of recent news relevant to their research investigation. Together we read, share sources and references and we identify some innovative or imaginative concepts, both challenging and problematic which might influence students’ practice or research in the coming years.

Practice:

Every brief start with a full day of talks presenting different viewpoints on a specific topic to the students.

– RADIO PODCAST: group work, a monthly podcast by the students in MA Design of Experiences, produced at the University of the Underground in the basement of nightclub DeMarktkantine. The programme’s treatment is written by the students monthly in relation to their course programme.

BRIEF 1: CELEBRATIONS! This brief focuses on the geophysics of the underground, surveillance and countercultures. It is developed with the Night Mayor of Amsterdam Mirik Milan and tutor Teun Castelein and it explores celebrations throughout history and the development of nightlife. Students are tasked with the production of an innovative celebration in collaboration with an institution of their choosing.

WORKSHOP 1: Material and visual workshop lead by visual artists Our Machine.

BRIEF 2: The Immortal Monkey. This brief, lead by tutor Thomas Greenall, explores Artificial Intelligence (AI) and gender studies. From the dawn of mechanized human forms to cutting-edge technology fresh from the lab, we interrogate the 500-year quest to make machines human. Focusing on why they exist (and the potential implications of their existence) rather than on how they work, we explore the ways robots mirror humanity and the insights they offer in our contemporary ambitions, fears, and desires, and our perceived position in a rapidly changing world.  Students are tasked to design a new test for artificial intelligence (an alternative Turing Test) in collaboration with an institution of their choosing, in order to challenge our limited understanding of human intelligence, and to explore a more productive future for human-machine interaction.

WORKSHOP 2: Material exploration and visual software (ie: Illustrator/ Photoshop/ Adobe After Effect, etc…) workshop lead by designer Clemens Winklers titled ‘Event Score and Techno-Katastrophe in Motion”.

WORKSHOP 3: Music and music production workshop lead by Fay Milton and Ayse Hassan of the rock band Savages titled ‘Composer’s practice: Sounds of the Underground’.

WORKSHOP 4: Experimental Architecture workshop lead by with Prof. Rachel Armstrong, Andrew Ballantyne, Simone Ferracina and Rolf Hughes titled ‘Making Monsters’.

–  WORKSHOP 5: Set design workshop lead by an artist Joseph Popper and space architect Dr. Barbara Imhof titled ‘Capicorn Two – A Mars Mission Simulation’.

– INTERIM ASSESMENTS

BRIEF 3: Since 1989. A brief in London’. In collaboration with the British Film Institute (BFI), the British Council and their archive department together with independent record label XL Recordings. Students have access to film and audio archives to rethink post-truth and narrative arcs. When post-truth is the new normal, what is the role of fiction in revealing hidden political narratives? Cultural institutions and the entertainment industry gain a whole new relevance when emotions matter more than facts.  Students are tasked to question the role of the curator, the role of films in human archiving for the age of the network and clouds of data. Part cinemathèque, part theatre set, Since 1989 is collectively constructed by the students of the MA Design of Experiences, culminating in 24h of live performance and experience rethinking the future of storytelling in cinema and sound. It was presented publicly by the students at Convergence 2018, a media festival in London.

WORKSHOP 6: Fast paced storytelling workshop lead by a graphic designer, illustrator and writer Stefan G. Bucher titled ‘The Benefits of Time Travel’.

WORKSHOP 7: Immersive digital storytelling workshop lead by Google Creative Lab director Tea Uglow and London based book publisher Visual Editions titled ‘Is the writing on our walls?’

BRIEF 4: Repeat after Me. A brief lead by tutor Sjaron Minailo in collaboration with the Dutch National Opera, Opera Director Peter Sellars, together with the department of dramaturgy at the University of Amsterdam. In this brief on post-colonialism and reenactment, students are introduced to strategies for writing and rewriting history. Students are tasked to develop, write, design and perform a concept for an opera as a reflection on a collective traumatic event. They are expected to choose an organization, to define and reveal the trauma they are, or have experienced, to study it and its working, and offer a reflection in the form of an opera.

WORKSHOP 8:  Deep Democracy workshop lead by one of the first practitioners of the Deep Democracy method within the Netherlands,Yonathan Keren. The workshop focused on group dynamics, and how groups carry shared trauma and offering techniques for group discussions around conflicts and decision making.

WORKSHOP 9: Magazine workshop lead by the editors of the publication NXS World. The students were taught how to put together a publication where they can include their research and libretto for their opera.

FIRST YEAR ASSESSMENT

SECOND YEAR PROPOSAL: Students have to present the institution they want to work with, in their second year, their research question, summer programme and thesis topic.

THE GLOBAL PROGRAMME: Summer assignment. Students have to work at an international institution of their choice which has to present challenges to both their practice and their training. Along the way, they learn to write, fundraise and imagine new roles and potential job descriptions for themselves.

YEAR 2 2018-2019

In their second year, students designed events, products, experiences, political outcomes, and experimental actions in collaboration with institutions and experts of their choosing. This included the documentation of both their process and results. Students’ final year projects aimed to be developed by the students according to their own topical agenda and in their own voice, at a site either within an institution of their choosing.They also wrote a 10,000 word thesis which formed the core of their theory and research for their final year project. Most of year two was student led including the choices of workshops and evening lectures. Each student was assigned a tutorial group that they kept for the year. In line with year one, students were assessed at two points of the calendar period in an interim assessment and year two final assessment in which they were expected to demonstrate evidence of research, analysis, experimental actions, documentation of their process, production, personal and professional development, meaningful experiences, and innovation (i.e: applying a method from one field to another in an unexpected manner). Year two started with a kick start economic project brief called ” Reverse-Engineering Economic Mania” which can be seen here.  It was a project brief on economics established as a research and practice project between Amsterdam and Istanbul, with its culmination as a series of daily live presentations and radio broadcasts at the public programming of the “School of Schools” themed Istanbul Design Biennial in October 2018.

On the year of the 10th anniversary of the global financial crash, Reverse-Engineering Economic Mania critically investigated colonial and contemporary trade connections between the Netherlands and Turkey. Looking at the Netherland’s colonial history as a backdrop, being the home of speculative trade methods, students were tasked to develop and publish thoughtful experiential alternatives for economic exchange in a global future. You can see some of the outcomes of their projects on the dedicated website https://www.schoolofschoolofschools.com/

 

The MA Design of Experiences is composed of creatives pirates, activists who are able to propose new models of thinking through their own experience of systems, whistle-blowers, fearless mythologists who reveal systems, hidden creative agents of change, leaders of new operational modes for both local and global groups to co-work and co-produce, Willy Wonkas of modern times, the contemporary Velvet Underground’s, Marie Curie’s and Wu Tang’s, action researchers and designers and makers of new worlds, living below ground in the underground and connected above while surveying from space.

As such The University of the Underground is looking for bold, hard-working, passionate and engaged students ready to jump on the rollercoaster and to experiment with various teaching disciplines in order to develop meaningful unexpected experiences in an institution. We encourage our students to challenge the rules of their everyday by developing a performative, political and hybrid critical practice with an existential attitude.

This programme is very challenging and intense with multiple and pluralistic approaches.

It is also clear that our students will venture into further tormented geographies and politics, new territories, unknown surfaces and materiality. So, to be able to accept that they might meet new circumstances never encountered before, is a part of the process. In that, we are confident that these Designers of Experiences, magicians, cartoonists, horror filmmakers, ice sculptors and more… will make good use of their learning in their ability to navigate and challenge established systems whilst remembering their history/ histories and being able to take responsibilities for our collective memories and past actions. To maintain mental stability in state of precarity, to think and reflect is critical to undertake courageously critical changes beyond lands and borders.

The University of the Underground responds to the current trend of increased fees for postgraduate programmes by firstly proposing a model in which students in the MA Design of Experiences are invited to receive a scholarship from the University of the Underground charity (RSIN 8575.82.781), to cover their tuition fees. The University of the Underground is making steps towards an ambitious model for financing postgraduate education with the hope to diversify leadership and access to knowledge. As a charity, the University of the Underground is pioneering the ‘100 years of education’ programme in which individuals are invited to commit long term- for 100 years- to a better redistribution of wealth. Both individuals, philanthropists and private sectors are invited to donate to our charity. While we are actively fundraising in the private and individual sector, we are also fundraising in the public sector through governmental grants. 

We hope to actively nurture and support new experimental practices, diversity in leadership and to develop a network of tuition free universities around the globe. We propose to develop a network of creative agents able to drive changes from within and support plurality of thinking against the contemporary reaffirmation of ideologies and revived temptations for nationalism. As a result, we believe that it is key to separate education from national politics and to set up a federation of schools that can support one another independently, and who can imagine together new political and economical models, avoiding governmental and lobbying pressure in the development of our educative journey. In this context, our charity aims to receive 50 percent of our donations from local and governmental grants and the rest from individual donations through original fundraising campaigns (ie: events, open calls, x rays records, etc….), philanthropy and corporate responsibilities.

At the University of the Underground, we believe that a new leadership should be established which is both more diverse, pluralistic but also which includes creatives at key roles in public institutions. We believe in the freedom of learning but also we believe that education should be free to students. We are experimenting with models in order to achieve this.

In the University of the Underground, we believe that it is most urgent to equip young designers with the learning that allows them to use their knowledge of the material world within the navigation of governmental systems, institutions and power structures. We are concerned with the modelling and physical existence of students’ dreams, beliefs and myths. We believe in social dreaming becoming the fuel for social actions. Through our curriculum and the research and creative methodologies taught, we wish to democratize the experience of the institution. If nothing else, experiences and events make you feel alive and connected to the world around you. Music can do just that, but many other art forms too, and it is within this realm that we experiment within the MA Design of Experiences at the University of the Underground.

Students have rarely before been finally provided with the tools and means to learn to understand their professions as the increasingly multi-faceted and malleable role it assumes in today’s world (which is ever changing and disorienting) – where designers enter the realm of authors, directors, politicians, planners, dreamers, activists, mythologists and musicians. We encourage students to use their own voice, style, tone and aesthetics as manifested in final outcomes of performative product scenarios, products embedded in the context of the built environment and the institutions.

The University of the Underground introduces some core beliefs, which are informed by the philosophy of political theorist Hannah Arendt, in thinking through experiences, experimental actions and independent education; namely: 1)-education should be free and we should make our own economic systems to maintain it ; 2)- education should exist beyond nation states as a transnational entity- independent from governmental politics; 3)- schools have to maintain plurality both in their approach but also in leadership.

It is a most urgent mission as it is advocating for transnationalism  and plurality in education and beyond in the reminiscence of totalitarianism temptations and ideological policies with Trump, Le Pen and now Bolsonaro in Brazil. In this context, it is important to address plurality in thinking, now more than ever, since the temptation for ideological regimes are making a fierce revival in society. Hannah Arendt and her writing in this context is therefore incredibly relevant as she reminds us what happened with authoritarian regimes during the Second World War but also our capacity to banalize the evil and to forget the importance of thinking in our modern bureaucracy, educative and political systems.

Students are tasked with the production of events that can modify power structures in public institutions of their choosing. In this process they have to document their experimental actions and meaningful productions and formulate new roles for themselves to maintain their activities and critical reflections within the institution they have selected. 

We expect our students to demonstrate unconventional creative practices and to extend their events production in scale, scope and modes of engagement into the territory of architecture, systems thinking, critical design, sociology, philosophy, music, film, performance of politics, and experiences. Students are invited to observe, explore, collect, examine and extrapolate the ordinary in institutions through the design of products as events, experiences, systems, film, and musical reenactments.

We hope for our students to go into societies’ institutions – companies, health services, government departments etc. – and to use their creative drive to change these institutions and make them serve pluralistic society, dream further rather than have their creativity crushed. We want them to provoke events, projects and experiences in these institutions which make those who work there think and act differently. Our clarion call is: Use your creative urge to action change.

You can see the students work in the yearbook here

As a methodology and critical research practice with the potential to modify existing politics, the Design of Experiences takes root in the field of Critical Design and exists at the nexus of other disciplines such as theatre, music, film, linguistics and political philosophy. The following manifesto intent is to introduce some of the key research focus of the Design of Experiences. It falls into two parts; status, which introduces the context in which this manifesto exists in the design discourse and the manifesto itself that summarises the key ideas of the Design of Experiences.

a) Status
More than ever, designed objects are seen as constituent artefacts, embedded in a contextual environment with its social, technological and institutionalised layers. At the same time, the boundaries between products, services, interiors, architecture, infrastructure, political and global systems are blurring. In their complexity, these interfaces and systems of exchange have become a central part of our design experience. They set the scene for the narratives of human activity to unfold and evolve with particular events. These experienced events are called products. Design has been opening its doors to these experiences – whether from the speculative end of the spectrum with fictions, stories and scenarios; or on the applied end of the spectrum, which concerns authentic scripted reality of personas, usability simulations and narratives of design testing.

In this journey, we have established a role as a Designer of Experiences, a job title that was created and defined as oscillating across the axes of Critical Design, theatrical practices, existential philosophy and the performance of politics. The Design of Experiences encourages a political design practice. It extends the field of design in scale, scope and modes of engagement into the territory of mythology, ethnography, philosophy and experiences. Participants in the production of the Design of Experiences are invited to observe, collect, examine and extrapolate the mundane through the Design of Experiences. They are required to zoom in and out of different scales of context and to consider critically the implications of their roles in relation to their environment. Indeed, the designer of the Design of Experiences is encouraged to challenge the rules of design by developing a performative, political, embodied and Critical Design practice.

As such, the Design of Experiences is about crafting tangible scenarios relevant to and representative of the institution and its workers’ topical agendas. Final outcomes might be, but are not limited to: performative critical products, films and experiences shaped as events, scenarios or products embedded in the context of the built environment or in the context of the institution. The Design of Experiences oscillates between the human condition and the human factor. We believe that the role of the Designer of Experiences, as a maker, should be extended to the practice of the mythologist, ethnographer and performer and should assume a role as a key agent in the context of governmental, political, scientific and technological institutions.

To the question is the Design of Experiences intended to design experiences for experience’s sake, or is it intended to reveal power structures through performance and/or documentary film, the answer is that, it aims to do both. Indeed, it is an experimental practice that allows for experimental actions to take place in the institution. But it is also a practice that intends to demonstrate and reveal existing power structures in order to modify them. Experimental actions can develop towards such a result or be reworked to bring the change and power shift initially intended to the community and the institution. Trial and error are a part of the process, just like any theatrical practice which require rehearsals or design practices which require multple iterations in the development of a product.

The Design of Experiences is, in sum, a performative, critical, experiential and event-based political design practice. As such, the following manifesto highlights five areas of interest: i) Research practice, ii) The performance of politics, iii) Existential attitude, iv) Design events and performance as experiences and v) Activating the dreamers of the day.

b) Manifesto
i) Research practice
The Design of Experiences is a research practice that proposes to deconstruct hierarchies in institutions. It questions hierarchies’ context, network and systems. It disassembles the institution, industrialisation processes, theatrical practices and politics and it designs functions to edit, choreograph and build experiences and experimental actions. To develop the Design of Experiences means to go on site into real contexts of use and production; first as ethnographer, second as mythologist and finally as performer, an active instigator of the performance of politics and social actions. The Design of Experiences is a research practice that places a strong emphasis on the tangibility of the experience in revealing power structures. It produces original content, new metalanguages to trigger reactions and social change. It moves from the purely technical and aesthetic functionality of a prototyped product towards the experiential, the existential, the human performance and the mundane. It thinks in terms of manifested, political experiences and physical products beyond the sole use of the written word, the diagram and the image. In this research, the process is documented by distinguishing, manifesting and utilising theatrical practices and coercive systems within the institution. This research practice enables the performance of politics.

ii) The performance of politics
The Designer of Experiences is unravelling labour structures in institutions and shifting power. We aim for social action through the use of critical thinking, Critical Design, theatrical practices, existential philosophy and experimental actions. In this, the Design of Experiences is politically loud and as such, the Designer of Experiences is an agent of change and an active researcher. The active researcher performs politics using carefully crafted and produced experiences, sets, props and characters. The performance of politics exists in its challenge to hierarchies and the status quo, making use of visceral theatrical practices and staging such as the Theatre of Cruelty. Everything is questioned and power structures are modified through, and allow for, the taking place of poetics and critical thinking. Decision making is imposed on Animal Laborans and supports empowerment of the workforce through engineered situations and experiences. Politics is manufactured via the existential attitude.

iii) The existential attitude
It questions access to design and to scientific, academic and political knowledge. It works with amateurs and experts so as to create access for people to experience and engage within. It designs with an existential attitude to democratise the experience. Our work aims to challenge power structures by initiating and engineering events. It rejects absurdity and boredom in the everyday and responds to it with passion, thrill and free will, thereby generating new forms of individual and social imaginings and actions. We work both with the public and stakeholders in institutions. We produce critical experiential outcomes that, in turn, allow for social actions to take place.

iv) Design events and performance as experiences
Designers of Experiences believe that design should be embedded in a physical experience, something that is imprinted on to your memory: similar to seeing a painting and remembering the colour of it. We believe in wonders and experimentations with other disciplines and their mode of representations. Meanwhile, experimental actions take account for everything that happens in the mundane and which score the everyday as potential materials for a programmed chaos; this we translate through the experience. We think that design can generate events, challenge power structures, incite riots and demonstrations through performance. We believe that research, through design and politics, needs to provide this experience in order to activate Animal Laborans, the dreamers of the day.

v) Activating the dreamers of the day
As a result of our investigations, we have determined that Animal Laborans dream louder than Homo Faber in public institutions. What the Design of Experiences can achieve is to allow Animal Laborans to begin to act out their critical ambitions for the institution. As such the Design of Experiences is involved with the narration of the stories of the workforce, who think as social and active dreamers: the manufacturers, the Animal Laborans. we are working with and for them to better insure that we, as a society, remain away from what Arendt called the ‘Alienation of Earth’ (Arendt, 1957).
The Design of Experiences establishes spaces for discord and humanity in the institution.

The criteria for the MA Design of Experiences involves:

1.Research

2. Analysis

3. Experimental Actions (Ability to demonstrate the formulation, development and implementation of series, groups and/or unique experimental actions in the context of the institution and in collaboration with a given community. Risk taking and testing of ideas and materials in the production of experiences)

4.Documentation of the process (Ability to demonstrate and record intelligent, strategic process, power shifts and outcomes in the context of the institution. Skills in the selected media; awareness and adoption of appropriate conventions and languages; sensitivity to the needs of diverse audiences)

5. Production (Demonstrate skills and appropriate tools, planning and collaboration to enable the execution of ideas, concepts, experimental actions and experiences)

6. Meaningful experiences (Demonstrate the ability to design and shape experiences with a potential to engage social dreaming, social actions and power shifts on a long-term basis. These experiences have to introduce/and/or to reveal additional, possibly new meanings to the community, workforce, institution and original existing context.)

7. Innovation (Ability to create original knowledge, creative systems and to question status quo. Original and unique uses of theories, methods and techniques.)

8. Collaborative and/or Independent Professional Working

Yes, the MA Design of Experiences is an accredited Masters of the Arts (MA Design of Experiences) developed in collaboration with the Sandberg Instituut.  The Sandberg’s Instituut is the postgraduate programme of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

To maintain international standards, we have an external examiner providing the teaching team with feedback and a report every two years. For 2017-2019, the external examiner advisor is Dr. Caroline O’Sullivan.  Dr. Caroline O’Sullivan is a cultural sociologist focusing mainly on the disciplines of popular culture, media and music. She currently holds the position of Head of Creative Media in Dublin Institute of Technology. She was previously co-director of the Centre for Creative Arts Research and Senior Lecturer in Creative Media at Dundalk Institute of Technology.

WE ARE A CULTURAL INSTITUTION SUPPORTING UNCONVENTIONAL RESEARCH PRACTICES

The Unconventional Research Office at the University of the Underground supports research and practices that apprehend
and challenge the formulation of culture, the manufacturing and commodification of knowledge. The Unconventional Research
Office was created to support the development, identification and empowerment of countercultures in institutions. There, practitioners in residence define new means by which they can challenge political, economic and sociological systems in institutions and beyond.

The University of the Underground’s Unconventional Research Office strongly believes in research through practice and education. As such the Unconventional Research Office hosts multidimensional experiential projects that are investigating, unravelling, characterising and speculating on the commodification of the act of thinking. By questioning the social and cultural capital of education, we are opening up discussions about the manufacturing of knowledge, as well as confronting past and present fears. The Unconventional Research Office intends to demonstrate the state of ideologies in contemporary societies; where knowledge is interwoven with the idea of the nation states and cultural heritage and current development in technology proposes a global notion of ‘collectiveness’. Through the production of both multidimensional experiential projects and written texts, we are aiming to act as a point of dialogue between stakeholders, politicians, academics, students and parents, proposing to portray the value of social dreaming, experiences and theatre as critical research practices. In 2019 the first resident researchers were the Bureau of Lost Culture with Paul Heartfield and Stephen Coates. They focused on telling the story of cold war culture, bootleg technology, music as resistance and human endeavour with their X-Ray Project in collaboration with live musicians including Thorsten Moore (Sonic Youth), Marc Almond, Barry Adamson, Veronika Harcsa and Lydia Kavina.

Another researcher in 2019 has been opera director Sjaron Minailo with a project bringing together the Sandberg Instituut and the University of the Underground’s research office, the University of Amsterdam (MA International Dramaturgy), Amsterdam Conservatory (Amsterdam Electronic Music Academy) and the Dutch National Opera, for the creation of a series of mini-operas exploring an alternative Genesis as means of reflecting on contemporary socio-political or cultural issues.

More research residencies accross the globe will be announced soon- sign up for our newsletter to receive all updates

AGORA CLUB hosted by the University of the Underground, is a series of cultural events involving the board members of the University of the Underground charity and sharing some of our educative methodologies with nightlife audiences. AGORA CLUB is funded by Creative Netherlands Fund and hosted at nightclub De Marktkantine. AGORA CLUB takes its participants on a journey exploring problematic futures, from the Anthropocene and grey goo scenarios to providing insight into the future of the act of celebration as well as touching on collective fears. AGORA CLUB provides an arena for performing collective thoughts through music, dance, design, performances, and discussions.

 

Guests inhabit the role of Homofaber’s (humans that think) as they navigates cognitive experiences, meet trans-species whilst exploring various neurological landscapes before joining the collective act of party and celebration. Contributors so far included: Regine Debatty, Magid Magid, Moon Ribas, Dr. Rachel Armstrong, Lukas Taks, Marjolein Stappers, Debbie Aitatus, Arne Hendricks, Shabazz Palaces, David Wise, Peaches Christ, Peaches, Otis Mensah and many more.

More details on these can be found in the Experience section of our website.

In 2019, students of te MA design of Experiences also developed multiple student led activities; from musical recordings to developing new bands, workshops, radio and TV shows to creating unique evening events such as ‘Amazing Basement’, in which they produced, directed, designed, communicated, recruited, financed and more, creating a very well attended and followed series of live performances with original and curated music, events and dancing.

The University of the Underground is based in the underground of the urban space, down below nightclub De Marktkantine, in Amsterdam. We are collecting books from members of the public, donations from creatives and well-known designers, which are accessible to members of the public through a monthly membership. Books, records and other collections will be stored down below and literature seminars are organized on a monthly basis to discuss meanings and popular cultures, countercultures and other unconventional research practices; learning from methods and disciplines borrowed from theatre, design, music, film, semiotics and politics. [currently in Amsterdam]

The University of the Underground also hosts the Library of Dangerous Thoughts. A library containing dangerous thoughts, recordings from musicians and eponymous thinkers, which have never been heard or released before. Each of these recordings take the form of a X-Ray record (known as ‘bone music’ or ‘music on the ribs’), vinyl type record made with audio cut onto radiography film. X-Ray records were made as an act of defiance against censorship in the cold war era Soviet Union, where they were used as an underground method of distributing prohibited music by Western, emigre and banned Russian musicians. The records are created on an original 1957 recording lathe by Paul Heartfield and Stephen Coates of The Bureau of Lost Culture. The project, initiated by the University of the Underground exists on a digital platform built by The Collecteurs, a digital museum with a mission to give the public access to millions of unseen artworks.
The Library of Dangerous Thoughts aims to raise awareness against censorship and encourage plurality of thinking. It is a cultural response to state censorship and is presented as a contemporary reminder of our not-so-distant past. As a part of the launch, some of the recordings were made to auctions in support to our charity.

Participating thinkers and musicians to date included: musicians Massive Attack, Pussy Riot, Jonsi of Sigur Ros, Alex Somer, philosopher Noam Chomsky, cyborg Neil Harbisson, former Lord Mayor of Sheffield and european MEP Magid Magid, Alex Somers and Jonsi of Sigur ros amongst others.

The University of the Underground hosts a sound studio. We are currently producing a podcast hosted by the University of the Underground students called ‘Thirteen Steps Below’. The programme’s treatment was written by the students monthly in relation to their course programme. The show can be found on Spotify, Itunes and Soundcloud amongst others. It is called Thirteen Steps Below and can be discovered under the tag University of the Underground. You can also listen to it here

Through our podcasts, we are hoping to disseminate internationally some of our ideas on a pluralistic creative education that truly supports free access to knowledge and new leadership.