hi there Crumblers,
furthering the topic of art-sci art and curation, here is my report
from the Baltan Future of the Lab meeting in Eindhoven in early
December. Angela Ploughman organised a tight schedule of events which
included keynotes, case studies, working groups, mapping sessions and
invited key members of local art and research institutions to join
the meeting for the final discussions.
Keynotes and case studies varied from Horst Hörtner, Director, Ars
Electronica Future Lab (AT) detailing the history of developing the
Future Lab and its very successful merging of experimentation and
commercial practcie; to Eva De Groote who is currently setting up
Timelab (BE) looking at the challenges new labs need to respond to in
todays climate where economic, community and environmental issues are
Irene Hediger, Swiss artists in labs Program (CH) talked about the
tension between artistic and scientific or "innovation-driven" roles
of the lab. Caroline Naphegyi, Artistic Director, Le Laboratoire (FR)
detailed their approach to exhibitions to communicate research and
development activities to the public. Clare Reddington, Director,
iShed (UK) spoke on thier approach to transdisciplinarity, community
involvement and partnership building.
Marcos Garcia, Medialab Prado (ES) beautifully illustrated the case of
how open can future labs be. When we take the term openness beyond
open source, software and hardware or open science, does that mean
tolerance and inclusion of perhaps unpopular/prejudical research and
positions as well? Baltan commissioned an interresting text on
Openness by Joost RekveldHead of the ArtScience Interfaculty of the
Royal Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague - read
Openness and its Closed Side at
If it wasnt clear already the complexity and diversity of labs became
even more apparent in the hands on cut and paste mapping sessions -
where we all designed lab environments conceptually and pactically-
building models to accomodate from two people to labs of 20 or more.
This clarified that one model will never fit all cases and that in
fact the strength of media labs lies in their otherness, their
difference, their complex ecology and diversity of ecologies, their
variety and differences.
This diversity ensures we have the ability to provide many
alternatives to the currently accepted notions of what art research
is, and to challenge the parameters of the research paradigm itself .
In terms of profile a consistent point of discussion was on wether the
term Media lab is still relavent today? Does the name convey the
unique spaces we provide to pursue new forms of artistic research?
Highly debated was how we value the technologies created through
artistic research and how we share this between ourselves, or convey
the value of these types of research to funders and to a more general
public. A solution seems to be to validate our influence through some
sort of joint promotion and advocacy.
This is where curatorial knowledge and intervention is of most benefit
-to address the critical issue of accessing new audiences/different
audiences, initiating strategies to bring the wider public into
appropriate lab situations.it was clearly argued as well that some
labs are not appropriate for public interaction, and that one of the
benifits of the lab model is to give practitioners/researchers the
space to work for a period uninterrupted.
The lab is a crucial knowledge producer and art is a research
methodology, but what happens to that research and knowledge?
Exchange and sharing is dependent on finished documentation of
projects and processes, otherwise it is useless. Why do we all need to
keep reinventing different versions rather than building on what has
been done already? Models for Knowledge Mobility need to be designed
for everyones benefit.
There was also seen to be a need to acknowledge the validity of short
term, mobile or temporary projects which form themselves to
investigate specific knowledge /skills, rather than always upholding
the fixed, long term institutional model. Media labs and projects need
to be allowed to die gracefully when their relevance and usefulness is
Another issue that was raised which I personally believe needs to be
examined more closely is how do media labs address and embrace some of
the anti-technology backlash of the new arts and crafts movement.
The most concrete outcomes from the meeting were directed towards
trying to ensure that this collaboration is continuing and
- ongoing dialogue with most participating labs joining a "Collab"
group mailing list to focus further discussions in one place.
- organising another Future Lab meeting to be held during ISEA2010 in the Rhur
- initiating a joint publication around the topics explored during the
meeting, hopefully to be launched at ISEA2010
For me, being an periodic visitor from the Southern hemisphere, it was
great to put faces to email adresses and to discover the nuances and
clarify the differences and complementarities of each of the
participating organizations vision and experimentation.
Issues of accessibility, funding, profile, knowledge sharing and
audience development are universal, and its great to see this European
network, of massive diversity, self organizing to work towards
Pics of Futurelab activity including a lot of the mapping sessions
can be seen at the Flickr group:
cheers from sunny Brighton!