Social Design Projects and Positions

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Each editorial is a collection of different articles, carefully selected to emphasise a certain issue, topic or theme and guided by a text by the curator to read articles in a new way. More info here.

Social Design Projects and Positions

Photo: Workshop Social Practices Q7

by Remko van der Pluijm

There are a number of ways in which to look at social art and design practices. This editorial contains a group of articles in which students were asked to document their favourite community art project. Then, they were asked to assess them based on two different frameworks. The first framework focusses on transformative and artistic power and involvement of the community, while the second adds a political dimension to the positioning. These are discussed by students in Beyond Social in a traditional wiki way (using the accompanying discussion pages). In this way, Beyond Social will slowly develop a mapping of social art and design based on communal agreement on the positioning in these frameworks.

Core Qualities

The first framework is a well-known framework in The Netherlands and Belgium and focusses on the four core qualities in participatiry art practices[1] These core qualities are:

  • Artistic: particiartory art is using imaginative and creative force for change;
  • Contextual: it is tailor-made for a socio-political issue;
  • Participatory: it involves civilians and institutions in the process and creates leeway to redefine their relations and visions;
  • Transformative: it acts to incite new action perspectives and critical reflection to a broad audience.

Pascal Gielens community arts framework

The second framework draws on a chapter in Pascal Gielens book called Mapping Community Arts[2]. In it, Gielen argues for a distinction between the following (gradual) dichotomies:

  • Digestive versus Subversive: When a community arts project generally accepts the current hegemonies and accompanying power structures, the work is seen as digestive. When the work challenges these power structures, it is seen as subversive.
  • Auto-relational vs Allo-relational. When in the end the artists own signature is more important than the communities', a work is called auto-relational. When, on the other hand, the position of the author is subservient to that of the community.


  1. Demos & CAL-XL(2015),Art in Transition: Manifesto for Particpatory Art Practices, edited by Sandra Trienekens & Wouter Hillaert, EAN: 9789491938047, Obtained at
  2. Gielen, P. J. D. (2011). Mapping Community Art. In P. Gielen, & P. De Bruyne (Eds.), Community Art. The Politics of Trespassing. (pp. 15 - 33). Amsterdam: Valiz. The editor gave a presentation on this field which can be found at Prezi.

Selected Articles

Hwages review
This article reviews a youtube movie that criticises in an artistic way the position of woman in Saudi Arabia. It shows how visualisation can be used as an effective method to criticise social inequality. Furthermore, the author argues that the medium of Youtube with the possibility of discussion gives it an extra social dimension, since it maps feelings around such strong issues.

Pig 05049
Article on Meindertsma's work of disclosing to the public the origin of pig meat. It suggests on how Open Design can add to its development and impact.

A well-written article on a graphic novel and animated film called Persepolis. While showing strong autonomous tendencies, the author successfully argues why this should be seen as a form of auto relational and subversive social art (perhaps with some autonomous tendencies).

Drinking water out of a billboard
Clear and well-structured article on a social engineering project In which billboards are used to generate drinking water.

Stop Telling People To Smile - Tatyana Fazlalizadeh
An analysis of an ongoing participatory and travelling social artwork in which women are given credit by giving them a stage via photos in locations where they feel unsafe. Very well documented and suggested how this can be implemented as a project in Rotterdam.