Research lab: Loneliness and the City

In collaboration with the National Council for Health and Society (Raad voor Volksgezondheid en Samenleving, RVS), students from different departments investigated the issue of loneliness within the Dutch urban context during a Research Lab called 'Loneliness and the City'.

The results of the project were presented in an exhibition that opened on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2017, where a publication of the RVS, on Loneliness, entitled Wat ik met Kerst mis was also launched.


Loneliness and the City
An Exploration requiring all Senses
15 - 24 February 2017

Initiative Research Lab & Exhibition:
National Council for Health and Society
Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Interior Architecture and Furniture Design department

Tutors Research lab:
Erik Blits
Jan van Grunsven

Research lab exhibition Loneliness and the city
Research lab exhibition: Loneliness and the City

Participating students

BA Graphic Design, 3rd year

Media Stigmatizes
By stereotyping, the media is creating a notion of normality. Therefore, the framework of ethics also stigmatises that which does not fit the description of ‘normal’ presented by the media. With my project, I aim to encounter this stigmatisation within the media itself.

BA Photography, 2nd year

Not I?
The language and the mouth are the main tools of our communication. But what happens to these tools when a person feels lonely? In my project, words that characterize the feeling of loneliness try to reach an audience. Reaching even one person would already be enough. Can you recognize yourself when you are really lonely? How much strength is needed to express your loneliness?

BA Interior Architecture and Furniture Design, 3rd year

Interactive letter
The start of my research about Loneliness and the City was a letter. With this letter I aimed to interact with citizens of The Hague and receive an answer to a question that addressed the high percentage of loneliness felt amongst inhabitants of cities. Why do people in The Hague feel lonely despite the fact that the city offers numerous social activities for its community?

Unfortunately, I did not get any respond to the letters which I spread around. From that moment on, I changed my research strategies. Almost like an urban anthropologist, I started observing human behaviour in the city. I interviewed people in the streets. I took pictures. I tried to understand the social, urban infrastructure of The Hague. The results of my research and experience of this journey became a book.

BA Fine Arts, 2nd year

The Dance of Loneliness
Is a representation of the physical interaction with the concept of loneliness.

Everyone, in one way or another struggles with loneliness in their lives, but these encounters can also be experienced as personal moments of self-reflection upon our identity. Therefore, Loneliness becomes a friend, with whom we can consult and engage in moments of isolation within society. A loner is not necessarily a sad person, but because of our judgmental prospective towards the other we believe a lonely person suffers of sadness and even madness. Thus brings the loner into the moment of isolation, and us instead of giving a hand we categorize and put them into the box of loneliness.

Darkness is a medium that stands for the surroundings of the lonely, an isolated space.

BA Photography, 2nd year

Something most people in the Netherlands could never imagine happening to them, something they probably never get familiar with; fleeing away from your country and starting over without family and friends. Starting a life where you don’t speak the language, however it’s the only place where you are safe. This project is about people who have been through this struggle, or are still going through this process.

BA Graphic Design, 2nd year

The Lonely Gamebook
Say hello to your new companion – loneliness. Get used to it, take it by the hand, follow it and let it lead you to the journey. It is a trip through the most confusing periods of time, through the most tense states of your mind, through the darkest parts of your head, which leave you hopeless and broken. So do not be shy - play the lonely game.

BA Graphic Design, 2nd year

My Name is not Nǐ Hǎo
Loneliness comes when I feel I can not involve in society deeply. As an Asian, a social minority here, my other Asian friends and I sometimes experience racist and offensive situations in which we feel not accepted as social members of society. With this project, I address this type of racial discrimination in the Netherlands. I named this phenomenon social bullying. In my project My Name is not Nǐ Hǎo, I share my personal encounters with this phenomenon, those of other Asian people living here and offer a survival kit for this ridiculous type of harassment still present in society nowadays.

BA Photography, 3rd year

In Wafts
Loneliness is being detached and disconnected. Loneliness feels helpless. And loneliness is uncomfortable. In my research, I focused primarily on how an audible expression of these phenomena could sound like. What would the inner sound of a lonely person be like? In my work spherical sounds, deep growl and a subtle rhythm that could evoke a heart beating get supported by rather abstract moving images that show a distant bright material wafting in a pitch-black gloom.

BA Interior Architecture and Furniture Design, 2nd year

Personal Distance
As a former student in Biomedical Sciences, I analysed the subject Loneliness and the City from a biological perspective. I looked at the theory of personal space and how you sense and maintain this specific distance to others. Touch, smell, hearing and vision all play a role, but their influence is experienced at different distances. With my various personal spaces, inspired by different locations in everyday life, I want to make people aware of the phenomenon of personal space and the way you sense it.

BA Graphic Design, 2nd year

Soundless Transmissions
Living in a world in which sound, sight and language are omnipresent, we often think of communication as something ordinary. But what if you don’t have the ability to hear or look or use all your senses at the same time? Communication then can almost become a burden. In my work, I want to emphasize this difficulty of speaking and show that it’s not something we should take for granted. My aim is to bring understanding, and let people experience language in a different way.

BA ArtScience, 2nd year

two iambic hearts make trochees

˘ ¯ ˘ ¯ ¯ ¯ ˘
place the piece of your heart

take notice

“a lot of problems find their origins in relationships

and that is also the place where they can be solved,

but then you have to make a connection.”

(Leonie Dijkhuizen, hypnotherapist)

how can art foster connectivity and understanding between one another?

BA Interior Architecture and Furniture Design, 3rd year

Loneliness as a state in which being in public does equalize socialising and being among others. Excluding yourself as a matter of choice. Avoiding any contact, lonesome feelings disappear where a stuck position makes you forget who you are.

BA Graphic Design, 3rd year

Lonely Teens
“Social media tend to reinforce the feeling of loneliness among teens”, states a famous newspaper. My project Lonely Teens shows a series of Tumblr blogs, a social media platform where teenagers can post images of what they would like their life to be. A text box is translating the negative thoughts that they have when they expect too much. The connection between text and images is easily found: react-text.


Prior to the opening of the exhibition by Willeke Alberti on February the 14th, a symposium was held at the academy with i.e. speakers Prof. Dr. Dick Willems - Raad van Volksgezondheid en Samenleving, Eric van der Burg - wethouder Amsterdam, Arie Ouwerkerk - Organisatie Coalitie Erbij, Pauline Meurs - voorzitter RVS and Marieke Schoenmakers - director Royal Academy of Art, The Hague.