Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen as a Laboratory for Social Design

Designers Challenge Visitors to Actively Participate in their Change Projects

20 OCTOBER 2017
Doing your washing in a launderette, producing a glass service from local sand or recycling plastic yourself; everything is possible during ‘Change the System’ – a design exhibition in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen that runs until 14 January 2018. The museum wants a range of Change Challenges to actively involve visitors in social design. ‘Everyone’s participation is important in changing the system,’ explains curator Annemartine van Kesteren. Designers challenge visitors to play an active part in their projects. The Change Challenges are part of ‘Change the System’, which features work by fifty designers and artists whose ambition is to change our environment – in small steps or with one grand gesture. The exhibition is about art and design’s power to bring about change and the solutions to global threats such as pollution, conflicts, scarce raw materials and political tensions put forward by today’s designers and artists.

1. DIY Plastic Recycling

Designer Dave Hakkens wants to make it as easy as possible for everyone to recycle. He has designed four recycling machines that shred, melt, crush or bake used plastic into new objects. The design of these machines is freely accessible online. He wants to encourage people to use them themselves. Designer Suzanne Koops was inspired by Hakkens’s project and built the four recycling machines in the museum’s central courtyard. Until 5 November visitors can hand in old plastic at the recycle lab and, with Suzanne Koops, transform the second-hand plastic into a beautiful new product.

2. Human Power Plant

Melle Smets and Kris De Decker are using The Human Power Plant to research the possibilities of creating energy from human muscle power. The artists are working on a proposal to change a twenty-two-storey block of student apartments into a self-supporting power plant where the energy is created by the students themselves. The prototype of this power plant will be on display in the museum square during Change the System. One of the project’s challenges is how to encourage people to become productive energy suppliers. During workshops on 4, 5, 10 and 11 November, and the family day on 7 January, visitors can contribute to the composition of a work song and create energy themselves.

3. Doing Your Laundry in the Museum

There is a launderette in the centre of the museum where visitors can do their washing free of charge until 23 December. The Boijmans Launderette is a project by social designer Manon van Hoeckel that aims to bring people together. The launderette acts as an easily accessible meeting place. While the machines are running strangers can talk to one another. There is free admission to the museum for anyone who brings in their washing. When you visit the ‘Change the System’ exhibition, the ‘Wash Cycle’, a set of simulating questions, provides extra topics of conversation.

4. Portal: Recording Museum Visitors’ Clothes

In her installation One-to-One, designer Elisa van Joolen explores the identity of a fashion brand. She goes beyond a discussion of the classical manifestations and tries to get behind the essential relationships in the fashion system. On 10 and 11 November, as a sequel to this installation, she will perform Portal; working with students from MA Fashion Strategy (ArtEZ University of the Arts) she will investigate the emotional, social and economic values of museum visitors’ clothes in a room-filling installation. Visitors will be asked to take off a garment, tape its outline on to a life-size sheet on the floor and answer a set of questions about production, materials, ownership and emotional value. As much information as possible will be collected over the two days and the relationships between the items of clothing will be investigated in order to expose the stratification of the formation of meaning in fashion and to query the value systems. After 11 November the remnants of the workshop can be seen in the room in the form of an A1-size book. Elisa and the students will also analyse the collected data and the results will be presented in the museum in January.

5. Rotterdam Glass Service

The supply of white sand for transparent glass is becoming scarcer worldwide. Local sand will become an increasingly important source. Present-day industry still cannot deal with the variable quality of local sand. Atelier NL has developed a production method to make glass from locally extracted sand. The research shows the rich spectrum of types of glass that can be produced with local raw materials. During Change the System, Atelier NL will make a glass service using sand from the Maasvlakte. Anyone interested can reserve a Rotterdam glass service by filling in a form available during the exhibition. The production of the first batch will start after twenty reservations. On Sunday 26 November, Atelier NL is organizing an excursion to the Maasvlakte to collect, prepare and grade sand. Sign up at

6. Shrink to 50 cm

Artist Arne Hendriks explores what the consequences would be if people were only fifty centimetres tall. People are getting taller, which means that more food, energy and space is needed. But what if we use our knowledge to shrink people? The artist has temporarily moved his workplace to the museum and along with the public he is trying to form an image of the fifty-centimetre-tall human. Arne Hendriks will be organizing several activities around this new human image, a new economic theory and various mythical creatures during the exhibition period.

Transition Space - Children of the Light

The light scenography of ‘Change the System’ was designed by Children of the Light. Alongside a tailored light system, they designed two transition spaces: a completely dark room and a room filled with light. They form a stepping stone between exhibition galleries and themes and act as a kind of reset button for visitors.

For more information about the Change Challenges and the current programme go to

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