All over the world people are set in motion to get to grips with their lives. They make passionate attempts to retain a firm ground in a quickly changing hightech society. The art manifestation HACKING HABITAT articulates the ever growing influence of systems and institutions, and pinpoints the impact of technology in this turbulent environment.

We are witnessing the rise of a ‘remote control society’ colonizing and infiltrating increasing realms of daily life for the sake of safety and risk- management. Monitoring cameras and smart gateways are installed everywhere, while we are classified and atomized by automatic face recognition. Software and algorithms define who deviates or contributes too little to our economy. Facebook directs our social life and Google leads us straight away towards the next purchase. The internet shapes our commercial and social relationships

Hightech systems are interconnected on a global scale. The Internet of Things for instance is extending rapidly and gaining more power everyday, to such an extent that we lose oversight. The internal mechanisms of institutions start to lead their own life more and more: services are automated, data are the new currency, efficiency has become the norm and is identified with everyone’s proper adjustment to machines. Technology’s promise of the quick fix is changing power structures everywhere and the appeal of solutionism is stronger than ever.

HACKING HABITAT looks for alternative ways. How can citizens take charge and reclaim their environment? And how to keep our relations human? First of all, HACKING HABITAT aims to encourage public awareness of a society mediated by technology. But the visual art manifestation also offers new tools enabling resistance against an excess of control and regulation: as a steppingstone to the exhibition four life-hack marathons will be organized. HACKING HABITAT will take place from February to June 2016 in the former prison at the Wolvenplein in Utrecht.

HACKING HABITAT consists of three streams:

1) In 2015 artists, hackers and citizens will meet in four life-hack marathons, where they will teach each other the art of surviving. Stakeholders in issues like debt, hampered freedom of movement, invisibility, and bureaucracy are invited to discuss possible solutions.

2) From February to June 2016 the international art exhibition will take place in the former prison of Utrecht: technology will sparkle but its dark sides will be spotlighted too.
3) During the event a large circus tent will give room for human creativity. Artists and non-artists together will create an inclusive public domain where differences matter.

Foundation Niet Normaal aims to realize large-scale exhibitions on urgent social issues. The foundation has a so-called ANBI status and works on a non- profit basis. Old as well as new means of funding are employed to make this manifestation possible. The earnings model is grounded on fund-raising, sponsoring, workshops on payment and ticket sales.


HACKING HABITAT is the fourth event in a series of large scale manifestations realized by Ine Gevers and Hester Alberdingk Thijm. The first three were entitled Ik + de Ander, Art and the Human Condition, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam 1994), Niet Normaal, Difference on Display (Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam 2009/10), Ja Natuurlijk, How Art Saves the World (Gemeente Museum, The Hague 2013). Since 2007 these events are developed under the supervision of Foundation Niet Normaal.

Features of these exhibitions are: an inclusive approach, a platform for diversity, putting dominant myths under pressure. The aim is to create awareness and entice people to leave their comfort zone in an affirmative way. Individual visitors and participants are inspired to take a different view on their world and worldview, but institutional boundaries are questioned as well. The manifestations, art works and interventions hardly ever stick with presupposed frameworks. Artistst like Thomas Hirschhorn (Niet Normaal) and Peter Fend (Ja Natuurlijk) create what we call dangerous art. ‘Dangerous’ because they do not abide by symbolic laws and prescriptions, but seek to intervene directly into life itself.

HACKING HABITAT fits well in this sequence of events. It highlights artists who substantially and constructively break rules and confront us with the barriers erected by sytems and protocols. Their interventions inspire and invite a follow-up by others.

Motivation and Ambition

Launch processes that can bring about an increase of justice in the present world, both ecologically and socially. The subtitle of Ja Natuurlijk was: ‘How Art Saves the World’, combining earnestness and a wink in one phrase. Art and philosophy are techniques badly needed in the 21st century.

Initiator and concept: Ine Gevers, artistic director of Foundation Niet Normaal

Cooperative partners: University of Utrecht, Delft University of Technology, Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe (Germany), The National Ombudsman, The HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, Tivoli Vredenburg Music Hall Utrecht, VPRO Broadcast, and multiple local partners.