Human Power Plant – Border Sessions

Human Power Plant

The Human Power Plant is a multi-disciplinary research project into the possibilities of human energy production in a modern society. How would the Netherlands and the Dutch look like if all energy would be supplied by humans? Could we maintain a modern lifestyle with human power alone? A strict focus on human energy production offers unique insights in the debate on sustainability.


Melle Smets is an artist, researcher and curator with a career of more than fifteen years. He has directed numerous creative collectives across Europe, South America and Africa that have produced a large body of work focused primarily on social interaction with public space. Using existing social structures and local customs as a starting point, Smets presents an alternative vision on our habitat. More than a physical space, he understands our habitat as a mental space.

Melle Smets studied OK5/ Art and Public Space at ArtEz Academy in Arnhem. After his study Smets became the co-founder of art collective G.A.N.G. As cultural project developers they operated through interventions in public space, and the travel agency P-reizen (P-travel). P-reizen organized expeditions to the parallel world of highways, airports and ports.

In 2005 Smets established his independent practice in Rotterdam and in 2008 set up the Aardschap foundation. Aardschap is a collective of action researchers that uses methods from art and academics to develop communities-of-practice for challenging places, and pieces together what makes them function. Smets has been a guest lecturer at different universities in the Netherlands and during the period 2014-2016 he was the Director of the temporary Master ‘System D Academy’ at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.

From 1996 to 2007, Kris De Decker was reporting on cutting-edge science and technology as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines in Belgium. In 2007, he moved to Spain and started Low-tech Magazine, a popular international blog that focuses on the potential of past and often forgotten knowledge and technologies when it comes to designing a sustainable society.

On the one hand, De Decker shows why high-tech solutions only make things worse. On the other hand, he researches and documents visionary low-tech solutions that arise when old technology is combined with new knowledge and materials, or when old concepts and traditional knowledge are applied to modern technology. He also looks for inspiration in the developing world, where resource constraints often lead to inventive solutions.

Since 2016, De Decker collaborates with the Demand Centre at Lancaster University (UK), which researches the social dynamics of our ever increasing demand for energy. In 2017, he started the Human Power Plant, an art project in collaboration with Melle Smets, which combines social and technological research to find out what sustainability actually means. Central to De Decker’s work is a broad historical context – a subject can only be understood if its complete history is taken into account.



Thursday 14 June


16:30 - 17:00

Session type



Filmhuis Den Haag – The Bliss Suite