Building such a dynamic space was not an easy feat. NonFiction didn’t have many good options before the Biotoop, bouncing around small traditional offices or startup spaces which couldn’t handle the unique double requirements of computer- as well as production fab-lab space. “We were basically a kitchen office,” Andrea says. The exhibition-based schedule also meant a stark fluctuation between large group- and small core-members-only periods. On top of that, NFP was balancing disparate directions - being both a business, a group for social good, and an artistic collective. Fortunately, Andrea was told by a Biotoop resident artist that a photographer wanted to share his space with like-minded groups. NonFiction took this opportunity immediately. Soon it was clear that the Biotoop was not only a perfectly suited physical space but also a perfectly suited ideological space. “I think this was a match made in heaven,” Andrea says. “But also we love the ideology of it. It's a space with a story.” The whole legal construct of the Biotoop, as a formal reallocation of empty, wasted living space, “is a very social initiative, and we can only applaud that… We got very lucky. We could finally really be ourselves.” For more information on the group that turned the Biotoop complex into the living community it is today, check out CareX via this link.
Andrea points out that the photoshoot papers behind the exhibition stands were generous gifts from a neighbor. As a space “the Biotoop really is suited for creative collaboration, people are primed for these valuable interactions that you wouldn’t find at other places.” This is apparent when walking down the hallways, where spontaneous collaboration (whether piece work, construction, or helpful cleaning) is a regular feature. But despite the bohemian energy the businesses here are very serious. Rent is due and wages are paid, keeping the overall tone remarkably ‘normal’ for such a unique space. “We like the buzz of people being entrepreneurs, and we also like the entrepreneurial side of the creative field, because I think a lot of creatives that need to be entrepreneurs don’t love that side of it… A lot of creatives here have that entrepreneurial spirit. Fitting into the community was easy, everyone is just being entrepreneurial, and we are as well. Everyone’s interested in each other, so they visit and meet each other. Everyone tries to help each other out.”
NFP was at first sharing its current location with several others, but over time they left the site. Before long NFP was the sole renter of the group-contracted space. With the newfound permanent location the office has flourished. Enjoying the wide spaces, office dog ‘Saartje Popcorn’ runs across the room and pulls our attention away for a moment. Across the room a tall fence-like grating holds miniature exhibition design layouts. Next to these are printed 3D renders of the exhibition designs from isometric views. Notes for new recruits, volunteers, and old teammates mingle on the posterboards.
As part of its social focus NFP actively tries to integrate new people so that they can see the arts industry in real life. “A lot of people that are doing an internship or are new in the business, they are really looking for a sense of what the business really looks like. So not just the theory of it but the practice, and not just their own practice but getting an idea of what everyone else is doing, and that's something you can really get from that. Just doing it, and just being there and seeing a lot of people and having them surround you is the way to get it, because you never know who you end up hanging out with. And they tell some story of a project they're working on and it gives you insight, and a whole new perspective into other businesses.” This holds true for NFP, where the team has a rainbow of backgrounds and past experience