The Ponies is a research and design collective. 

Their basic strategy is research through making, with every exploration taking material form. These forms occupy or are brought back to the places under study. 

What is returned may not be immediately recognizable to the members of those communities – their work thus gives back what was never possessed in the first place, with research becoming an occasion for generous and eccentric exchange.1

We work at the crossroads of research, design and society. Our projects are realized both in The Netherlands, and internationally, on locations where there is palpable friction between citizens and government. By making installations in public space our work creates a shift in perspective – thus reevaluating complex social issues.

Our oeuvre includes numerous self-initiated projects; often in cooperation with diverse organizations including The Dutch Ministry of the Interior, Amnesty International, Paradiso and a scala of local partners.

Projects from our collective have been published, and exhibited widely, including at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Kwaku festival – and in public spaces all over the globe. The Ponies regularly teach and lecture at art academies and universities.

Cǎihóng 彩虹

Beijing, CN/WW (2014 - 2021)

Cǎihóng 彩虹 is an app that predicts the formation of rainbows, and sends you an alert if rainbows are nearby. You can spot, upload and share your rainbows – to show that rainbows are here to stay! Originally designed as a reaction to the (2013) law banning homosexual propoganda in Russia – Cǎihóng 彩虹 is a comment on the power of nature versus politics, and a (meteorological) protest without fear of reprisal. The app was re-designed in 2019 and launched during IDAHOT, in China.

Sponsors: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Beijing, Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark in Beijing, Ministerie voor Buitenlandse Zaken, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Wilhelmina E. Jansen Fonds, and rainbow fans all over the world. Exhibited: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Partners: Amnesty International, Club Interbellum, LBGTQTIA+ activists in China, Paradiso (NL). Special thanks: Erik Schrijver, Studio Julien McHardy, The Orchid Beijing.

Spotted rainbow
Chinese students color rainbows spotted in RU (Paradiso)
Poster with qr-codes at the NL Embassy in Bejing
Serenading the DK ambassador in Beijing – ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’
Spotted rainbow
Rainbows predicted for Kherson 🙏🏼

Cornucopia

Detroit, US (2010)

This still life depicts 180 pieces of produce, sold in one day by Peaches & Greens, a Detroit based mobile produce stand.  Peaches & Greens provides fresh produce to residents in the ‘food desert’ which resulted from the financial collapse of local supermarkets. After joining the delivery truck for a day we created this ‘infographic’ on Belle Isle as a tribute.

Sponsors: Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: Peaches & Greens, Belle Isle.

Peaches and Greens delivery truck
Produce sold
Building up the still life

De Kapitein

European parliament, EU (2019)

Prior to the Brexit referendum, the Fishing For Leave campaign was created by UKIP to mobiles British fishers. De Kapitein flips the paradigm to enact how not only politicians – but also the people they represent – can deploy cultural rhetoric and symbols in the political arena. Europarliamentarian Annie Schreijer-Pierik, and Minister Carola Schouten (NL) both wore the golden earring we designed in collaboration with the Urker fishing community, during Brexit negotiations in Brussel. De Kapitein depicts ‘God’s rays’ – a meteorological phenomenon and a symbol of hope. This jewelery was realised as part of our overarching project De Tijden.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN. Partners: Visserij Coöperatie Urk, Juwelier Romkes, P.O. Urk & Urker fishers and friends. Special thanks: Annie Schreijer-Pierik, Minister Carola Schouten.

EU Parliamentarian Annie Schreijer-Pierik
De Kapitein
Kotter earings during protest
sdr
Sketching at sea
Proposals for Brexit earing
Online polling
Minister Carola Schouten

Drawing on Farnsworth

Detroit, US (2010)

This large scale installation gives material form to our research about the underlying structures which led to the repopulation of this previously deserted neighbourhood street. We invited residents to participate by hosting a bbq in the front yard.

Sponsors: Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: Bridget Michael, and all Farnsworth Street residents

Layered maps
Installation
Downstairs in the yard
Legend
Upstairs
Drawing out people’s connections
Lamppost as hub
One connection
Roadblock

Final Fantasy

Heerlen, NL (2013)

This park appeared empty almost all of the time, but it was full of dog sh**, a sign the park was actually being used. By layering multiple images captured from a camera we installed on an  adjacent rooftop, we could understand how long visitors spent in the park on average, and depict the actual density of the park population.  (We used existing surveillance notification signs from the municipality to legally capture these images .)

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN, Gemeente Heerlen, Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: residents of Vreiheide.

Five to 2 0’clock

Heerlen, NL (2011)

The bell tower had been silent for years because of the deterioration of the Christus Koningkerk. In years gone by the sound of the church bell was a shared experience every local identified and remembered. We illegally occupied the church tower to reawaken the spirit of neighborhood by sounding the bell again at five minutes before two, precisely the time when the clock stopped. Our action ended when the police demanded we climb down from the tower. We wrote a letter to the priest explaining our motivation.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN, Gemeente Heerlen & Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: residents of Vreiheide, Christus Koningkerk.

Christus Koningkerk
Pastor MacMahon
Letter to MacMahon

Flipside

Heerlen, NL (2013)

Group portraits contrasting two neighbourhoods next to each other, in Heerlen.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN, Gemeente Heerlen, Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: residents of Vreiheide.

The ‘affluent’ neighbourhood
The ‘disadvantaged’ neighbourhood

Formation

St. Petersburg, RU (2013)

We were invited to make work in public space during the NL/RU Cultural Exchange year. Simultaneously, manifestations in public space were forbidden in Russia. We invited citizens to stand in formation with us on Palace Square and perform small synchronised movements, to explore the space between suspicious and illegal. 

Partners: Cascoland.

Freedom

Heerlen, NL (2012)

During an audio-tour including anecdotes from residents in Vrieheide, Henk describes his beard as a symbol of freedom – and equates it to the freedom he experiences living in the neighbourhood. When describing Vrieheide he explains, ‘More freedom than here is unimaginable.’ Before the city council took part in our audio-tour, they rarely visited Vrieheide. When they did, they rode through the neighbourhood in darkened buses, and did not get out. After listening to the anecdotes during the tour, they started scheduling ‘kitchen table’ meetings with residents.

Sponsors: Stichting Doen, Gemeente Heerlen. Special thanks: Heerlen residents.

Galvanize

Arti et Amicitiae, NL (2020 - 2022)

Together with the Urker fishing community we transported an eight meter long puls-wing into the oldest artist’s society in Amsterdam. The installation illustrates the consequences of the European puls debate in which science wrestled with propaganda – resulting in the nullification of 168 strong Urker puls-fleet. Identifying numbers of kotters forced to refit their ships because of new legislation were drawn on the mirrors.

Sponsored by: Stichting DOEN, Agnès b. Commision: Arti & Amicitia, Museumnacht. Partners: Visserij Coöperatie Urk, , P.O. Urk & Urker fishers and friends. Thanks to: Jesper Buursink.

Gascoland

Amsterdam, NL (2013 - 2022)

Following our project Supernatural, we designed another anerobic digestor and fitted it in a Kolenkit home. Methane gas is produced by supplementing green garbage with specially designed bacteria. Local women use the methane powered stovetop to cook for the neighborhood and guests.

Sponsors: Stadsdeel Amsterdam West, Stichting DOEN. Partners: Amsterdam Energy, Quirijn Calis, Cascoland. Special thanks: Anna Berkhof.

Adjusting pressure
Cooking bread for the neighborhood
Adding old bread
Anerobic digester backstage
Visualising gas production

Golden Rock

Sint Eustatius, BQ ()

Together with school children on Sint Eustatius (NL), we made a series of scale model landmarks as a proposed addition to theme park Madurodam. Following an island wide campaign, children voted for their favorite landmarks using the island’s official voting equipment and procedures. In this way, a new generation experienced how to participate in the electoral process. Madurodam reviewed the proposal and chose not to include it in the park.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN, NuStar, Prins Bernhardfonds Caribisch Gebied. Exhibited: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Partners: Historical Museum Foundation Sint Eustatius, Bethel Methodist School, Governor de Graaff School, NuStar School, Lynch Plantation SDA School,  Golden Rock School. Special thanks: Glenn Helberg, Erik Jutten, Francesco Guadeloupe, Valika Smeulders, Ron van der Veer.

Goldmine

Heerlen, NL (2011)

The neighbourhood asscociation fixed-up the local park by adding new benches and fruit trees. This did not deter dog owners, who continued not cleaning up after their dogs in the park, resulting in a taboe wafting over the neighbourhood. Residents were intimidated when they confronted dog owners, sometimes rotten eggs were thrown against their windows. To restart and reinvision the discussion we indexed all of the dog sh** in the park during a ten hour installation.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN, Gemeente Heerlen & Fonds BKVB. Partners: dogs of Vrieheide/De Stack. Special thanks: Marc Faasse (photo.)

Aerial detail
Aerial detail
Documenting the installation
Preparing the markers
The local park
Installing on site

Greater Detroit

Detroit, US (2010)

We exploited the existing network of church signage in downtown Detroit to spread positivity, and challenge the city’s negative image. In each sign we replaced the word ‘God’ with ‘Detroit’. Later, we worked together with local parishes to spread the word.

Sponsor: Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: Pastor Covington & Pastor Diane Chapelle

The concept
Map showing churches in downtown Detroit
Preparing for pastor meeting
Pastor meeting
Spreading the gospel
Flagwaving ceremony at Ruth Chapel
The Ruth Chapell’s message to the city

Islands in the Stream

Rotterdam, NL (2018)

After our proposal together with children from Sint Eustatius to add the former Dutch colonies to theme-park Madurodam was rejected, we didn’t quite know how to move on. As a means of research, we worked with the Bert Hellinger Institute to stage a family constellation – of The Kingdom of the Netherlands, at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.

Sponsors: CBK Rotterdam. Partners: Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. Special thanks: Bert Hellinger Institute, Jan Jacob Stam, Erika Sprey and all participants.

Kwak!

Rotterdam, NL (2016)

The municipality of Rotterdam commissioned us to design a public campaign to warn people of the effects of overfeeding ducks. We wrote several humorous texts and broadcast these on infrastructure boards normally used for larger municipal projects. Our long term goal was to generate a storyline for the Donald Duck weekly magazine.

Sponsors: CBK Rotterdam. Commision: Municipality of Rotterdam. Partners: ducks.

Malatang

Beijing, CN (2019)

For Beijing Design Week, we were invited by The Embassy of The Netherlands in Beijing to present our work in a way that gave insight into our practice. We invited Mr. Gao, a traditional street-food vendor from the hútòng to prepare and serve traditional Chinese cuisine at the embassy – the first time this food had been prepared there since the embassy opened. Malatang soup is a simple concept, in which some thirty ingredients are offered, varying from mushrooms and tofu to fish and meat skewers, leafy vegetables and noodles.  Everyone gathers their ingredients in brightly coloured plastic baskets which are added to a large communal soup pot where the broth is already simmering for many hours.

Sponsors: Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie. Partners: Beijing Design Week, Dutch Design Week, The Embassy of The Netherlands in Beijing. Special thanks: Studio Julien McHardy and Mr. Gao.

Mining

Heerlen, NL (2013)

While working in Vrieheide (Heerlen) we became fascinated with piecing together the original interior of the modernist residencies designed by architect Peter Sigmond. This interior was now fragmented over the 837 houses – it had become something the neighborhood shared. We rang the doorbell at each house to inquire, ‘What is original here?’ By one house it was a doorbell, by another a piece of the floor.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN, Gemeente Heerlen, Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: residents of Vreiheide.

Vrieheide circa 1966
Vrieheide 2013

Nature’s Bounty

Nanjing, CH (2014)

Nine days long our students produced as many artificial sakura (cherry blossoms) as possible. Students alternated between making, and researching the social, economic and political history of the blossom. At the end of the workshop, the students sold the blossoms on-line to buy one square meter of land from a farmer. This is rare, as almost all land is owned by the government. The workshop is inspired by ‘Christmas Village’ (Yiwu), where workers produce sixty percent of the world’s Christmas ornaments – though they have no cultural or emotional connection to these products, or to the countries to which they are exported. The workshop explored what happens when there is a cultural or emotional connection to what is being mass produced, and how the profit could be spent.

Partners: Nanjing University of the Arts, China Calling (Cola Zhang)

Commision: China Calling. Partners: Nanjing University of the Arts. Special thanks: our students.

Numbering artificial cherry blossoms
Mass producing sakura bij hand
Installation at the exhibition
Number of auctioned sakura blossoms

Nature’s Hobos

Europe, EU (2016)

We were invited to make a project on the Europe Endless Express, a 3-day festival on a night-train (and also the longest train in Europe.) We set-up a mobile labratory and used the train as a giant machine for collecting samples of nature that emigrate across European borders.

Commision: Europe Endless Express. Partners: Wim Hendrikx.

Testing on Wim’s car
Lab in train compartment
Preparing slides
Slides on windows
Pollen forecasts

Nature’s Playlist

Worldwide, WW (2011)

We made a soundtrack including every song we could think of that mentions a natural phenomenon, including themes and tracks for each day of the week (except Monday.)

Commision: Fotodok (Utrecht.)

Okina Kutsu

Tokyo, JP (2013)

In Tokyo, the businessmen, the geisha girls and the fashion commandos all wear big shoes. A big shoe is usually worn three sizes too big, with extra inches between the heel, and the backside of the shoe. Passersby are confronted with documentary imagery of blown-up big shoes.

 

Commision: Still City Project. Special thanks: Daniel Ruigrok.

Projecting images of big shoes
In the business district
Man in metro wearing big shoes

Podzemka

Sint Petersburg, RU (2020)

Podzemka is Russian for ‘underground’ – and was performed in the subways of Sint Petersburg. For the NL-RU exchange year we were asked to make a work in public space, simultaneously Putin introduced legislation forbidding group manifestiations the public realm. To test the boundaries of this legislation, we dresssed like the Russian women we admired and entered the subway together carrying large houseplants. Eventually, we were noticed by undercover agents.

Commision: Cascoland.

Secret Society of Plants

Amsterdam, NL (2013)

Aura-Chakra reader Hanako Lodder explained how local vegetation protects residents from the negative effects of the neighbourhood’s history. Brambles and Milk Thistle are found throughout the Oostelijk Havengebied. These plants grow in abundance in areas that can best be avoided. Dandelions also grow profusely and cleanse the area. Trees lining the Lloyd kwartier are remarkably large in relation to other parts of the city – because they shield the houses from negative energies. This Secret Society of Plants is depicted on an apron, derived from the Freemasons, another secret society based on the principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth. On the left is Milk Thistle seed, on the right is Dandelion seed, and in the center a Sycamore tree. Hovering above, is the future seed – representing the ongoing expansion of power of nature.

Sponsors: Lloyd Hotel (Amsterdam) Commision: Slowlab. Partners: Hanako Lodder.

Silver Darlings

Scotland, UK (2019)

In the final weeks leading up to the (first) Brexit deadline we travelled up and down the Scottish coast to meet with local fishing communities, to listen to the other side. Largely due to longstanding frustrations about territorial water rights, and a contentious quota system, they overwhelmingly voted to leave the European Union. In conversation with them, we tried to understand the impact Brexit could have on their industry.

Partners: BankGiro Loterij Fonds.

Fish Auction Peterhead
EU supported wall

Spuiten of Hakken

Nijmegen, NL (2013 - 2019)

Time changes perception. What we choose to value correlates with the context it exists in. ‘Spuiten of Hakken’ reminds Nijmegen of its own history and its layered relationship with this history. Fleeting graffiti tags – utterances of our time – are paired with Roman stone carving, in preparation to enter the future. Layering these two different kinds of craftsmanship – the spray can and the chisel – dares the passerby to ponder on the meaning of the pieces, and more importantly, the essence of what is worth preserving.

Sponsors: Nijmeegs Ontwerp Platform, Gemeente Nijmegen. Partners: Besiendershuis (Nijmegen), Familie Van Luijn. Special thanks: Donatella Pizzaria, Doorn Roosje, grafitti artists (you know who you are.)

Gerard van Luijn chiseling
Call me Anytime

Steam

Detroit, US (2010)

Steam was a byproduct of a bad deal that Detroit made to continue burning other cities garbage, while their own city was unpopulated. We experimented with what could be done this leftover steam.

Sponsors: Fonds BKVB

Egg baked on steam

Sterk Water

Texel, NL (2018)

We sold ‘strong water’ sourced from a historical bron on the island Texel to local beachgoers and in the souvenir shop. Our self-designed and bottled product is used to start conversations about how colonial symbols are still implemented to market the island’s identity.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN. Partners: VoC de Kade (Texel.) Special thanks: Jesper Buursink, Julia Mikx.

Supernatural

Amsterdam, NL (2013)

The Muslim community in the Kolenkit gives old bread to the animals and the earth, instead of throwing it away in the garbage (forbidden by the Koran.) This resulted in a rat plague in the neighborhood. With permission from the Imam, and together with the municipality and microbiologists from The University of Wageningen, we designed and exhibited an anaerobic digester that makes energy from holy bread. Supernatural is at the crossroads of science, politics and religion. 

Sponsors: Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Stadsdeel Amsterdam West, Stichting DOEN, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie. Partners: Amsterdam Energy, Cascoland, Enki Energy, Lost Property, Mevlana Mosque, Yvo Sprey, University of Wageningen. Special thanks: Anna Berkhof, Kolenkit residents.

Bread exhibition in the Kolenkit
Sharing the technology
At the Islamic school
Bacterial experiments
Drying bread for the exhibition
Bread tests
Coalition dinner
Exhibition opening

The Still Life of Hot Memes

Beijing, CN (2018)

The Dutch Embassy in Beijing invited us to make work celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). While working together with local LGBTIAHQ+ activists we became interested in how digitally coded language (emojis) are often used in China to subversively talk about forbidden subjects. We extracted a lily, a peach, and a mirror from the digital realm and transformed them into a living still life. The still life was displayed as a table-top centerpiece at the embassy during discussions and meetings.

Sponsors: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Beijing, Embassy of the Kingdom of Denmark in Beijing, Ministerie voor Buitenlandse Zaken. Special thanks: LBGTQTIA+ activists in China, Studio Julien McHardy, The Orchid Beijing.

Still life with lily, peach and mirror

Thirty Meters

Amsterdam, NL (2011)

A 30-meter long underpass below the A10 highway connects the Kolenkit neighbourhood to the Amsterdam city center. When the municipality threatened to close the tunnel, we made a visualisation of pedestrian traffic in the tunnel, to show how busy, and important this route is for the community.

We charted the traffic flow on a Saturday, from morning until night. Three tones of green pencils (morning, noon, night) mark outgoing traffic, and three tones of red pencils mark ingoing traffic. People using the tunnel drew one continuous 30 meter line while walking either in, or out. The drawing stopped when the pencils ran out.

Special thanks: Gemeente Amsterdam, residents of the Kolenkit.

Trainspotters

Europa, EU (2017)

We were invited to make a project on the Europe Endless Express, a 3-day festival on a night-train (and also the longest train in Europe.) Instead waiting for spotters to spot the train, we asked the train to spot the spotters.

Commision: Europe Endless Express. Partners: Jesper Buursink. Special thanks: trainspotters.

Europe Endless Express

Unda George Ta?

Curaçao, CW (2016)

We celebrated the 100th birthday of George Maduro by tracking down all of the Georges and Georginas, on Curaçao – and transformed them into 3d figures. The modern day Georges and Georginas placed inside a historic model of Willemstad from theme-park Madurodam; the same model we rediscoverd in our project, Waar is Willemstad?

Sponsors: Kooyman BV, Rijnja Repro, Stichting DOEN. Partners: Curaçao Innovation & Technology Insitute, National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management (CW). Exhibited: Het Nieuwe Instituut. Special thanks: Jesper Buursink, Julia Mikx, Moru Bon Dia, Radio Dolfijn, Radio Hoyer, Sajoscha Talirz, all the Georges and Georginas.

George Jonkhout gets in touch
Moru Bon Dia host with Madurodam figurine
George Goedgedrag
George Schmidt
3d modeling
Georgina being scanned
3d models of Georges and Georginas
Placing himself in the historical model
National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management

Van Zwart naar Groen

Heerlen, NL (2013)

‘The situation is so bad here, there are even trees even growing on the roof.’ – Municipality Heerlen. This installation on the rooftop of a modernist housing block in Vrieheide is an ode to nature, and comment on the political operation of the same name designed to transform industrial mining territory to public green. We worked together with local residents to light up these trees at night in celebration of uncontrollable developments in the face of a lack of oversight from the municipality.

Sponsors: Stichting DOEN, Gemeente Heerlen, Fonds BKVB. Special thanks: residents of Vreiheide.

Heerlen coal
Van Zwart naar Groen in the evening
Modernist Vrieheide, architect Peter Sigmond
Residents watching the installation

Waar is Willemstad?

Willemstad, CUW (2016)

During archival research for our  proposal to add the former Dutch colonies to theme-park Madurodam we discovered one used to be there: Willemstad. Our journey to find this lost model took us from the inner chambers of The Hague to a living room on Curaçao. Our odyssey is detailed in the podcast ‘Where is Willemstad?’ The Willemstad model can be visited at the National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management, Curaçao.

Sponsors: Ministerie voor Buitenlandse Zaken, Ministerie voor Binnenlandse Zaken, Stichting DOEN. Partners: Jesper Buursink, Alexi Myslitsi, National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management (CW), VPRO. Thanks to: Ena Dankmeijer, Wim ter Hart, Henry van der Kwast, Maduro Archive (CW), Doy Salsbach, Family Sinot, Nos Lanterna.

Archival photo of part of the model
Madurodam song, Doy Salsbach
Queen Juliana opens Williamstad in Madurodam
The moment we found the model
Interviewing Ena Dankmeijer, relative of George Maduro
Model piece
Maduro archive (CW)
Residents from care facility Nos Lanterna recreate the model for us