Melle Smets (1975) studied OK5/ Art and Public Space at the ArtEz Academy in Arnhem. Within this tradition of turning spatial design into an art form, Smets designs prototypes for public space to trigger a new view on our habitat, and spark a broad participation in shaping our shared space.
Melle Smets is active as a researcher, artist and critic, specialized in creating new meeting places in public space. In doing so, he starts from existing social structures and local customs. In his view, these relationships with the living environment provoke questions of identity, ownership and community. He goes on to research and answer those questions in search for the foundation of a well-functioning society.
Action Research is his method. Through ‘looking hard’, developing an alternative view of the environment and thereby converting ideas into action. To achieve this, he collaborates with artists, designers, scientists, companies and governments.
After finishing OK5, Art and Public Space at the art academy in Arnhem in 1999, he co-founded the artists collective GANG. The group organised city dwelling tours, exhibitions to the so-called Parallel World of airports, harbours and highways.
In 2005, he moved to Rotterdam and set up the Dutch Highway museum, wrote a book about his experience of living in a car for 30 days, and participated in a number of Land Art projects. In 2012, Smets initiated Aardschap Foundation, an action-research group that uses arts and science to help communities transform their environment. Aardschap built a car in Ghana (2013), set up a Border Study Centre in Cucuta Colombia (2017), and organised an Informal Justice Court in Ikoyi Prison Nigeria (2021).
Throughout his career, Smets lectured at a number of universities and became co-director of the temporary Master ‘System D Academy’ at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam (2015). From his lecturing experiences emerged the Department of Search, in collaboration with the University of Utrecht (2017).
Podcast on Spotify
Informal Justice Court