Enthusiastic acclaim befell the Studium Generale Rietveld study trips to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Armenia and Azerbaijan between 2002 and 2008.
In Cairo, Teheran, Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo, Tripoli, Baku and Yerevan the travellers were introduced to leading artists, curators, journalists, activists, musicians, architects as well as to organisations and institutes. These new contacts have led to some very productive collaborations and exchanges between individuals as well as between institutes. As an antidote to current limited and negative representations of the Middle East the trips and the adjoining lecture-programmes have raised awareness of the rich diversity and potential of this in many aspects troubled but nevertheless very energetic part of the world. Upon returning in Amsterdam quite a few fellow travellers stated that they felt that their outlook on the world had changed forever.
For the upcoming four years we are going to shift our focus from the Middle East to the so-called BRIC-countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Countries whose economies until quite recently were qualified as "un- or underdeveloped", be it as a result of colonialism or communism. Today these very same countries are hailed as the fastest growing economies of the world. How does the spectacular expansion of BRIC-economies and the globalization that comes along with it, affect the lives of "ordinary" people? How does postmodernity in neo-liberal style affect traditional and religious structures in these parts of the world? Will hardcore capitalism destroy their rich cultural and natural diversity? And what can artists and designers contribute to the prevention of such disasters? How do the expanding art markets in the BRIC-capitals affect local arts and craft practices? How are the issues of poverty, censorship, neo-colonialism, nationalism, intolerance and authoritarian populism addressed by leading artists and intellectuals? And how do we, as artists and designers living in Western Europe, relate to the dazzling developments in these seemingly distant yet so incredibly nearby parts of the world?
From 13 January to 2 March, 2009 a group consisting of students, alumni and professors from the Rietveld as well some befriended artists and intellectuals are travelling to Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai and other places in South India. Upon return the group hopes to share its findings with the Rietveld community at large.