This course will attend to tools and tool-making processes and the hacking of tools as means of artistic research. We will explore other ways of interacting with tools (digital or physical tools) that we use in our practice, to unsettle common notions such as usability and efficiency. The meetings will comprise a series of lectures, exercises and workshops – which are relevant for all artistic disciplines. The emphasis will be on the process rather than the results. No prior knowledge is required.


Anja Groten, PhDarts candidate

Heerko van der Kooij, creative technologist and educator

For whom?

For 2nd, 3rd and 4th year BA students of the KABK and Leiden University and MA students of KABK.

The course will be in English.


5 Wednesdays, semester I 2021/22 (Sept.-Dec.)

Study load

3 ECT (34 contact hours and 50 self study hours

About this course

During the course we will be looking at a range of tools, theoretical tool concepts, as well as tool-making practices. Along we will question in what way our tools take influence on our artistic/design methods and utterances. What kind of relations do they establish and disrupt? What are our dependencies on the tools we use as artists and designers? To what extent can we differentiate between using and making tools? What are other inspiring tool-making practices? And how do communities evolve around tools and tool-making?

Students attending this course will (re)make a tool, or a series of tools, including a definition of the ‘toolness’ of the tool, that is – its characteristics, functions and malfunctions. The departure point could be a software application such as Photoshop, or a manual tool such as a paint brush, – as long as it is significant for the respective art/design student.

There are no admission requirements for this elective course.

For KABK students: Register in OSIRIS between Wednesday 8 September from 9:30 until Friday 10 September at 17:00.

For Leiden University students: register in uSis before August 20, 2021.

Max. 16 students can be admitted for the course.

Full attendance is obligatory in order to receive study points towards the Individual Study Trajectory (IST).

For questions Emily Huurdeman, coordinator of the lectorate, at

  • (Self-)critical investigation of the tool ecologies that are specific to the group of participants.
  • Critical, practical as well as collaborative investigation of human computer interaction
  • Project-based (rather than instruction-based) learning about electronic circuitry and the Arduino software and hardware.
  • Breaking and re-purposing (aka hacking) existing tools.
  • Developing a critical understanding of the implications of tools in art and design practices.
      • A tool, series of tools or remake of a tool, including a definition of the ‘toolness’ of the tool, that is – its characteristics, functions and malfunctions. It is up to the students themselves if they want to go for a low-tech, high-tech – or no-tech approach for their tool projects.

      • Every class will be used to further the tool research and will produce its own outcomes. Students are asked to bring their own work and/or work in progress to class to discuss in the context of the thematics of the course.

      • Assigned readings should be prepared before each session

      • Engaged participation in group discussions, exercises and the workshops

      • Documentation (medium free of choice) of the tool research

Class dates and times (Wednesdays, Block 1, Semester 1):

1. September 22 2021- 10.00-15.30 (BB202)
2. October 6 2021- 10.00-15.30 (Hackers & Designers Studio in Amsterdam, NDSM-plein 127, 1033WC Amsterdam)
3. October 13 2021 - 10.00-15.30 (BB202)
4. October 27 - 10.00-15.30 (Hackers & Designers Studio in Amsterdam, NDSM-plein 127, 1033WC Amsterdam)
5. November 3 2021 -10.00-15.00 (BB202)

Recommended reading:

      • Richard Schmitt, “Heidegger’s Analysis of ‘Tool’”, The Monist, Vol. 49, No. 1, Linguistic Analysis and Phenomenology (January, 1965), pp. 70-86 (17 pages) Published By: Oxford University Press
      • Graham Harmen, Tool-Being, (2002) (35-49), Chapter one, 3. Equipment is Global, 4. Reversal: Broken Tools
      • The Whole Earth Catalog – Access to Tools & The New Woman Survival Catalog
      • Adam Kleinman. “Intra-actions”, an interview with Karen Barad, Mousse 35, 2012
      • Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, Feminist Studies Vol. 14 No. 3. (Autumn, 1988) pp. 575-599.
      • Suchman, Lucy (2002) "Located accountabilities in technology production," Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems: Vol. 14: Iss. 2, Article 7.
      • Lev Manovich. The Language of New Media, Chapter 2: The Interface, 2001.
      • Colm O’Neill, Adversarial Interfaces
      • Karen Barad. “On Touching—The Inhuman That Therefore I Am” in: differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 2012.
      • Shaowen Bardzell, "Feminist HCI. Taking Stock and Outlining an Agenda for Design”
      • Constant Association of Art and Media, “I think that conversations are the best, biggest thing that Free Software has to offer its user” (2014)

Jack Halberstam “Vertiginous Capital, or The Master’s Toolkit”

    Competencies addressed in this course:

    • Creative ability; You show originality in the handling of assignments, giving expression to a distinctive artistic/discursive ambition or vision; You are able to develop work in which you explore new directions, based on the insights and experiences you have gained in this course;

    • Capacity for critical reflection; You are able to demonstrate a critical and inquiring attitude toward the strategies, techniques and theories that are offered in this course; You are able to reflect on your work and evaluate its effectiveness and quality;

    • Capacity for collaboration: You are able to productively collaborate with fellow students; You are able to realise your goals in consultation with others.

    Assessments criteria:

    • Completed deliverables (see course outcomes)

    • Presence and active participation in collective meetings and workshops

    • Self-determined, open and collaborative process

    • Critical reflection on own and peers processes

    • Documentation (medium free of choice) demonstrating a rich and iterative process including trial and error.


    Each class starts with an introducing the focal point of the session, followed by exercises, discussions, individual talks or workshops.

    Each class will furthermore produce its own outcomes.

    Preceding the classes the students will be asked to prepare materials, for instance short readings or to be prepared to share their process on their tool research project.

    The tool research could be on an existing tool, a remake of a tool or a tool built from scratch.

    The classes will be comprised of:

    1. Introduction into different tooling aspects

    2. Collective discussions, exercises and individual meetings.

    3. Two hands-on workshops during which students will be introduced to different tool-making approaches in a hands-on manner. These workshops will include an introduction to simple electronic media and circuitry, as well as a brief introduction to the Arduino software for those who have not worked with it before. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software.

    No prior technical knowledge is required to participate in the workshops. For the more tech-savvy there will be enough to explore too. It is up to the students themselves if they want to go for a low-tech, high-tech – or no-tech approach for their tool project.

    Preparatory materials:

        • Richard Schmitt “Heidegger’s Analysis of ‘Tool’” The Monist Vol. 49 No. 1 Linguistic Analysis and Phenomenology (January, 1965) pp. 70-86 (17 pages) Published By: Oxford University Press
        • Graham Harmen Tool-Being (2002) (35-49) Chapter one 3. Equipment is Global 4. Reversal: Broken Tools

    Preparatory materials:

    Preparation for the workshop

      • Please download and install the Arduino software on your computers

    Preparatory materials:

        • Familiarize yourselves with the Whole Earth Catalog as well as the New Woman Survival Catalog, the history and practices evolving from the Whole Earth movement.
        • Read the introduction note and pick one conversation, that you tell the group about in class: “I think that conversations are the best, biggest thing that Free Software has to offer its user"

    Preparatory materials:

      • Adam Kleinman. “Intra-actions”, an interview with Karen Barad, Mousse 35, 2012

    Prepare the deliverables and documentation for your presentation


    Anja Groten is a designer, educator and community organiser. In 2013 she co-founded the initiative Hackers & Designers, attempting to break down the barriers between the two fields by enforcing a common vocabulary through education, hacks and collaboration. Groten's design practice revolves around the cross-section of digital and physical media, design and art education and her involvement in different interdisciplinary collectives. Groten works on (self-)commissions and besides heads the design department at the Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, Master of the Rietveld Academie.

    Anja is a PhD candidate at PhD Arts, a practice-lead doctoral study at ACPA (Academy of Creative and Performing Arts) Leiden University, and works as an embedded researcher at the consortium Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making.

    Heerko van der Kooij is a creative technologist and educator based in Amsterdam. He has taught at diverse Art schools in the Netherlands and abroad. Currently he is a tutor at the Graphic design department of the Utrecht University of Arts. His interests are diverse, ranging from electronics and augmented reality to woodworking and handcrafts. Heerko has been a member of Hackers & Designers since 2017


    This course is part of the Art Research Programme of the Lectorate Art Theory & Practice.

    For questions about the courses in the Art Research Programme, please contact Emily Huurdeman, coordinator of the lectorate, at