Thanks so much Suzy, for inviting me! I am very excited to be part of this discussion. I hope to be able to contribute in a meaningful way and of course learn from everyone else contributing here as well. My name is Olga Mink, I work as the artistic director at Baltan Laboratories in Eindhoven (NL). I'll start with introducing my organisation and how this relates to similar fields of interest. I would also like to mention that my comments here, reflect my personal opinion and not necessarily the general vision or opinion of Baltan as whole.;-)
Baltan Laboratories is a collaborative platform for future thinking that places art and design research at the core of its activities. Baltan is both a network and a methodology: It sees the lab as a way of working and as a place where ideas are put into practice through projects in which freedom of thought, openness towards the unknown, experiment and playfulness are key. Baltan stimulates a cross-disciplinary approach conducted in an open-minded atmosphere based on trust, empathy and mutual inspiration.
Baltan was founded in 2008 as a pilot for researching how the (media) lab of the future should look like. Conducted as a two year research, the pilot contained international expert meetings, symposia, workshops, art projects and more. The results and outcomes were shared in 2011 in the publication 'A blueprint for a lab of the Future', edited by Angela Plohman (former director of Baltan). Based on these insights, Baltan is now developing long term strategies, programs and collaborations, based on open innovation trajectories with local and international collaborators, e.g. Open Labs, Age of Wonderland, Hack the Body as well as an ongoing research into new business models in relation to electronic art .
Baltan is named after Kid Baltan, aka Dick Raaijmakers, an important inventor in the field of electroacoustic music who started his career at the Natlab, the Physics lab of Philips in which we are located since 2013. Raaijmakers was an outstanding example of the benefits of combining art and research. Groundbreaking ingenuity, such as the CD player, tape recorder, and the first international radio broadcasting service were all developed at the famous Philips Natlab. Natlab was ahead of it’s time, allowing freedom of experimentation for scientists to pursuit industrial and fundamental research (and therefore many weird experiments were conducted).
Today, a Natlab old style is unaffordable. In our current market driven economy, its hard to imagine that corporations such as Philips would be investing their budget into fundamental research and allowing freedom of experimentation without strict rules or deadlines. Of course this all changed when managers were implemented in corporations to apply market driven policies. The economic circumstances changed dramatically and, consequently, applied research received increasingly more priority over fundamental research.
Art is equally subject to change. Artists now also inhabit the domains of technology and science. They do this with the curiosity and wonder of the scientist and add their own autonomy and playfulness. It is this idea of art, informed by, and working within the realm of science, that provides a new interpretation of the core of what the old Natlab represented. So, inspired by this historic anecdote as well as recent discussions reflecting on the cultural sector how to measure or validate the cultural impact, I’d like to suggest the following statement: “The interdisciplinary artist/designer is the new fundamental researcher of the 21st century.”
In a time in which fundamental research is under increasing pressure and industrial research is steered by protocols, art is an outstanding free domain. One of our challenges here might be for example, how to sustain autonomy whilst simultaneously stay open for new, applied (business- and corporation) models and strategies? Maybe this can also be used to interrogate how culture can validate (or maybe not validate or measure at all?) its impact and value in relation to the industry and other domains outside the realm of the arts? I am also curious how that relates to the idea that the arts & culture function as the R&D of our society, and therefore contribute to a breeding ground for new and useful insights in general?
So far my blurbs of the day, hoping they make some sense. Anyway, if my thoughts here lead to a dead end, I won’t be offended..;-).