Julia Janssen (’94) makes the challenges of our digitalising society tangible in art. Through performative and interactive installations she makes her audience aware of the underlying infrastructures of data-driven technologies, such as informed consent, bias in AI, the right to be forgotten and so on. Her work takes you on a visual journey and explores how to deal with fairness, autonomy, freedom and democracy in a data-driven society. Janssen is an artist and ambassador of the Dutch Data Protection Foundation in lawsuits against Twitter and Amazon. In her practice she develops a visual language to create consciousness and movement to make the Internet a better place.
Janssen studied Graphic Design at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem (’12-’16). Her projects were mainly socially and politically engaged and she created her designs based on research and mathematics. Her interest in our relationship with technology grew and resulted in several projects researching digital identity, terms and conditions and Internet standards. For her graduation project, Janssen took a deep dive into Big Tech business models and stated, “The data business has enslaved us.” With the project Bank of Online Humanity (2016), she showed people the value of their personal data. From that moment, she envisioned dedicating her practice as an artist to fight these (power) inequalities and to make the internet a better place.
It was a time before all big scandals, whistleblowers and law enforcement. Nobody really cared about data and how big tech was making tons of money by monetising attention and exploiting people’s behaviour. It was not given to take a stand for digital civic rights and criticise our beloved technologies – especially as a young, female artist. This and the zeitgeist at that moment felt like a pushback but became a strength. Her motivation and mission gained ground when winning the Crypto Design Award with Bank of Online Humanity in November 2016. Followed by receiving the prestigious Grant for Talent Development from Creative Fund NL and a Pioneer Grant from the SIDN Fund for Innovation and Internet. She found courage and support to create her own path and artistic practice.
From there, she started building the foundations for her knowledge and network. She read books, academic papers, regulations and policies and contacted many highly renowned experts in the field to pick their brains and dig deeper. Janssen developed her own research method to structure her observations. She naturally connects and dissects different theories, directing her to the core of what challenges we are facing in the digitalisation of our world.
Over the years, she developed many self-initiated research and art projects and travelled all around the country and abroad to exhibit her work at a variety of events and places, such as Architecture Biennial Venice, Lowlands Festival, Masterly Milan, Dutch Design Week, the Social Economic Council and the Dutch Data Protection Authority. Occasionally, she works on commission or in collaboration with parties in line with her mission and ideologies.
Her practice grew beyond being an artist and data nerd. Janssen developed herself into a spokesperson for a better Internet. Creating art installations, giving lectures, participating in panels, hosting podcasts, telling her story on television, radio and podcast shows, in magazines and making it to the cover of The Netherlands’ premier intellectual magazine Vrij Nederland. Her art is the cornerstone and from there, she builds conversations and advocates for digital civic rights and data sovereignty. Pushing the boundaries of art and design, debating with lawyers, challenging data professionals, confronting authorities, and encouraging politicians.
Next to her artistic practice, she also developed a career in public speaking. Janssen did her first presentation and panel (with nobody less than Cathy O’Neil, writer of Weapons of Math Destruction) in 2017. From there, she developed her way of presenting herself and her work and practised this at many different places and in front of many different types of audiences. During the pandemic, she started her own podcast series. First in Dutch (Achter de klik) and continued with an English show to invite internationally renowned experts. In her field, she became a well-known figure and shares her research, vision and projects at e.g. tech conferences, governmental events and art festivals. She takes her audience on a visual journey behind the surface of the Internet and makes people think about their relationship with data and AI. Janssen is a common guest in podcasts, television and radio interviews.
Stichting Data Bescherming Nederland
Janssen is the ambassador of the Stichting Data Bescherming Nederland (Dutch Data Protection Authority). In February 2022, a representative from SDBN invited her to meet. Not knowing exactly what they were working on yet, she was intrigued. When they talked, first vaguely about SDBN’s ambition, she knew this was big and something she would love to join. She signed the NDA and got started. We are suing Twitter.
Up till the campaign launch in November 2022, they worked completely in secret on a lawsuit and campaign against Twitter. Together with a small team, she created Je staat te koop. An awareness campaign and platform to inform people about Twitter’s illegal data trading practices. During this process, SDBN appointed Janssen to be the ambassador of the foundation, to represent them in media and talk to the press. In June 2023, they launched a second case against Amazon.
In 2022 Janssen started as a first and third years tutor at Design Art Technology, ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem. But decided not to continue with this because of a demanding schedule. She is a guest teacher at various academies and organisations in the Netherlands and abroad. For example at the IED (Istituto Europeo di Design) in Rome.
Janssen moved to Freedomlab at the beginning of 2017. A campus and institute for innovation and redefinition. A beautiful place across the street from Artis in Amsterdam for the FreedomLab Think tank and other entrepreneurs, start-ups, and journalists working on technology and innovation in a wide scope. It was a strategic choice, to move to a technology space instead of an art and creative hub, to learn from and be surrounded by entrepreneurs and people researching technology too. She worked in this co-working space for about four years and met many data and tech people who defined her career.
This place was perfect in the first years of her career. When she realised more and bigger installations, she knew she had to move to her own studio space. In search to a perfect fit, she moved to shared studio spaces twice in 2021. First to the Wheelhouse in Amsterdam Centre and then to the Werf in Amsterdam North. In May 2022 she moved to her own studio at Maakgemeenschap de hoop. A community with about 160 artists, makers and creatives on the edge of Amsterdam.
2023 Mapping the Oblivion | Mapping the Oblivion is a series of works researching what it means to be forgotten in a world that is built on data. This first installation researches the influence of percentage certainty on our lives. (Funded by the pioneer grant from the SIDN fund | Designed for The Architecture Biennial in Venice 2023, Palazzo Bembo).
2022 2023 Je staat te koop | Campaign and lawsuit against X. Twitter and Amazon (Commissioned and in collaboration with The Dutch Data Protection FoundationStichting Data Bescherming Nederland)
2022 Dear data, how do you decide my future? | An interactive installation with four elements about the decision-making process of AI – and why that process is not neutral. (Funded by the Dutch National Research AgendaNationale Wetenschapsagenda | Designed for Lowlands Festival 2022).
2021 Non-discrimination by Design | Guideline to minimise bias in AI (commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations)
2021 The HyperClick | Podcast in English, In conversation with internationally renowned experts such as Cathy O’Neil and Paul Tang.
2020 Why :i: like Green | Almost 4000 ping pong balls printed with Julia’s personal data. To find the data why an algorithm says that she likes ‘prefectures of Japan, sun, sportswear, fright transport, Amsterdam and the colour green – and 106 others. (Funded by the pioneer grant from the SIDN fund)
2020 Achter de Klik | Podcast in Dutch, taking you on a journey behind the surface of the Internet. focussing on dissecting the meaning of the word privacy and why we should avoid (replace) this word in the privacy debates.
2019 0.0146 seconds | A collective read-out-loud performance of 835 privacy policies you all accept with just one click.
2018 One Click | a book with 835 privacy policies you all accept with just one click on ‘got it’ when visiting the website www.dailymail.co.uk.
2018 The Attention Fair | an installation with twelve experiments, games and visualisations on the value of your data. (Funded by the grant for talent development and pioneer grant from the SIDN fund)
Awards and nominations
2016 Crypto Design Award
2019 Icarus Award (Nominee)
2022 Breaking Walls (Nominee)
Collaborations and clients
Dutch Data Protection Foundation
Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations
FreedomLab Institute for Redefinition
Microphone Media Podcast Agency
Nationale Wetenschapsagenda Dutch National Research Agenda
Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society
Selection of exhibitions
Architecture Biennial Venice | Palazzo Bembo
Beyond Data: Data for Society | Eindhoven
Data Sharing Days | The Hague
De staat van het Internet | Waag society, Amsterdam
Dutch Data Protection Authority (2x) | The Hague
Dutch Design Week (2x) | VEEM Ketelhuisplein, Eindhoven
I-Interim Rijk | Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom relations, The Hague
Into The Great Wide Open
MoneyLab | Institute of Network Cultures
Mozfest | Mozilla (3x) |
Museum of Modern Art | Siegen, Germany
OBA | Public Library of Amsterdam
Oyfo Technology Museum | Hengelo
Rijksakademie voor beeldende Kunsten | Amsterdam
Salone Del Mobile | Masterly The Dutch Pavilion | Palazzo Francesco Turati, Milano
Social Economic Council | The Hague
The Big Brother Awards (2x) | TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam
Todays Art Festival | The Hague
Tolhuistuin | Amsterdam
Talks and panels
De nacht van de filosofie | Leeuwarden
Conference on Research Data Infrastructures | NFDI, Karlsruhe, Germany
Brave New World | Naturalis, Leiden
FAIR Digital Objects | Naturalis, Leiden
ID Next | Utrecht
Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics | Rotterdam
Maxxi Museum of Contemporary Art | Rome, Italy
CataWiki | Amsterdam
De Groene Live: een ander internet | De Groene Amsterdammer and TU Delft | Delft
Bodyscan 223 | Amsterdam Fringe Festival
Dutch Future Society | Digital meet-up
More-IP | Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam
Dutch Data Protection Authority | The Hague
I-Interim Rijk | Dutch Ministry of Interior and Kingdom relations
Art & Consciousness in 2020 and beyond | Todays Art Festival, The Hague
Symposium Post-Master IT-Auditing & Advisory | Erasmus University, Rotterdam
TITL 25th | Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society
The Kick – Design for good | Utrecht
Fixing the Internet: Privacy and Data Beyond GDPR | Freedomlab Campus, Amsterdam
Weapons of Math Destruction with Cathy O’Neil | TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht
Design Matters | Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam
Tech denkers: de toekomst van creativiteit | De balie | Talkshow
Kassa! | TV
Brainwash Special: hoe intelligent is AI | TV
Radio 1 Nieuwsweekend | Radio
Radio 1 8:00 uur journaal | Radio
Bits of Freedom | Podcast
Keuzecast | Podcast
Radio 3Fm | Radio
Radio 1 Spijkers met Koppen | Radio
Future Shock | VPRO tegenlicht | Radio
Boekmanstichting | Magazine
VPRO Tegenlicht | Podcast
Met nerds om tafel | Podcast (2x)
DDW TV | Young Talent
DDW TV | De macht van de media
De Nieuwe Wereld | Talkshow
De Nieuwe Wereld | Digital sustainability | Live talkshow
Top Names, Fast Moving Targets | Talkshow
Public Spaces | Talkshow
Fake Me Hard | Podast
BNR digitaal | Radio
Toekomstbouwers | VPRO | TV
RTL Editie NL | TV
De Volkskrant | Newspaper
Trouw | Newspaper
KRO NCVR | Radio
News&Co | Radio
Dezeen | Talkshow
ArtEZ Institute of the arts
Workshop Innovation in libraries | Cubiss, Tilburg
2023 Pioneer grant, SIDN fund for Innovation and Empowerment of the Internet user
2022 Arts and science at Lowlands, Dutch National Research Agenda
2020 Own Your Own Data, SIDN fund for Innovation and Empowerment of the Internet user
2019 Private funding, Head of Cyber Security at Catawiki, former head of Cyber Security at Adyen
2017 Talent Development, Creative fund NL
2017 Pioneer grant, SIDN fund for Innovation and Empowerment of the Internet user