The Future of the Lab

Page 1



TFotL - 30 - 11 - 09 _ 13:53


The Future of the Lab



Angela Plohman 9

Future of the Lab?

Melinda Rackham 17

The History and Future of the Lab

Edward A. Shanken 23

The Case of TESLA

Andreas Broeckmann 41

Laboratories of the In-between


Learning from Past Models

Melinda Rackham 60

New Conditions

Eva De Groote 64

Map Lab

Social Spaces 71

Mapping the Future

Nik Gaffney 75

On Closing a Loop

Joost Rekveld 83

Positions, Profile, Passing On

Work group 91

“Design Research” makes us* Cool; “Design as Research” will make us Relevant. Eyal Fried 97 The Future of the Lab

Horst Hörtner 107

Contributors’ Bios 115 Partners 118 The Future of the Lab (2009) Participants Colophon

Table of Contents




TFotL - 30 - 11 - 09 _ 14:57


The Future of the Lab





The Future of the Lab


It seems as though the media lab is having a kind of self-reflective­ revival. ‘The labs are back!’ writes Juha Huuskonen on the Pixelache blog in March 2010.1 Why now? And back from where? Since MIT Media Lab’s inception in 1985 and the proliferation of media art labs and programmes in the 1990s (Ars Electronica Futurelab, V2_Lab, ZKM, to name a few), it is clear that the conditions and roles of media labs have undergone significant change. With technology more accessible, technological art a more mature discipline, and networked conditions radically affecting the way we work, we are at a moment that necessitates a determined questioning of the roles, forms and potential of the media lab of today. What is the future of the lab? A number of essays, meetings and research have been undertaken around this topic over the last years. One can think of Michael Naimark’s report for the Leonardo Journal supported by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2003 entitled, ‘Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Money. Technology-Based Art and the Dynamics of Sustainability.2 Walter Bender reflected on the seven secrets of the MIT Media Lab in 2004,3 and David Garcia explored the characteristics of media and culture labs in the Cross-over publication of BAM (Belgium) in 2008.4 In October 2008, Andreas Broeckmann and Carsten Seiffarth (ex-TESLA) brought together a number of labs in Berlin to address how artistic practice is changing today in relation to media, and to examine how labs, workspaces, production spaces and art institutions can best support artists in pursuing their work. The LabtoLab consortium5 was formed in 2009 to look at the lab’s potential as a collaborative space for life-long learning (a reflection on which can be found in the pages of this publication). And recently, V2_ organised a symposium on international media art/design laboratories in Beijing in June 2010 on the occasion of the opening of the new Tsinghua Media Arts Research Laboratory.6 As a key aspect of BALTAN Laboratories’ pilot phase (20082010), we have been undertaking both practical and theoretical research in an effort to devise a strategic and sustainable blueprint Introduction


for a Lab of the Future. This blueprint is meant as both a plan for the future of BALTAN but also a critical and networked reflection on the global state of the media lab today. As an integral part of this research, 35 participants from media art labs and programmes from around the world came to Eindhoven for three days in November and December 2009 for the expert meeting The Future of the Lab. The meeting aimed to challenge and debate future strategies and forms of the laboratory (or media lab) and the importance of research and production spaces for artists and creative professionals working with technology. It was a dedicated opportunity to bring all of these initiatives together, existing and emerging structures as well as diverse participants from a number of sectors, to evaluate how we can evaluate our practice and strengthen our network. The programme for the meeting was intensive and allowed us to touch on a number of themes in depth over those 3 days through a keynote lecture, short case study presentations, a mapping session and working groups. The questions we addressed included: What are the current conditions shaping the way we work and share our knowledge and experience with others? What does openness mean to future labs? How can we make research accessible and exciting for a larger public? How can we most effectively work across disciplines and sectors? The diversity of participants and contexts, goals and experiences presented a broad spectrum of perspectives – a fruitful beginning in coming to new forms of collaboration, knowledge sharing and a stronger network of practitioners that support the creative people working in this field. One key conclusion during the meeting was that it is impossible to offer a single definition of a media lab. Aside from the terminology itself that is up for debate, the contexts and diversity of each lab in relation to its local situation, history, ideologies, financial and organisational structures, and artistic approaches make it impossible to create a single profile. All labs, big and small, new and established, did however agree that they are facing a number of similar challenges. Is the term “media lab� still relevant today? We are working in a much more networked capacity which brings much opportunity but also complexity. Openness as a concept 10

The Future of the Lab

is extremely complex and there are many layers that can be addressed in the lab context: open processes, open code, open doors, open knowledge, tools, documentation. Being open requires work, resources and full commitment. As Marcos Garcia pointed out during the meeting, ‘open doesn’t always mean accessible’. We therefore need to devise innovative strategies for communicating artistic research to and in the public, considering the lab and art as potential interfaces for knowledge and learning. This publication is a way to highlight some of these challenges and take those raised during the Future of the Lab sessions a step further by proposing different interpretations and approaches. The essays in this publication represent the before, during and after of the expert meeting in Eindhoven. A number of statements and questions peppering the book were gathered before the meeting in an effort to map the issues of urgency pertinent to the participating labs. The essays by Joost Rekveld and Eyal Fried were commissioned before the meeting as trigger pieces for discussion. Some of the texts, including the case of TESLA elaborated by Andreas Broeckmann, Eva De Groote’s statements on the new conditions facing future labs, as well as the maps collaboratively created as part of a session facilitated by the Social Spaces research group of the Media & Design Academy in Genk, Belgium, are moments captured from the meeting itself. Edward Shanken’s essay outlining an historical perspective of the field, Nik Gaffney’s reflection on one of the maps created during the meeting, and the LabtoLab consortium’s piece on their current work around knowledge exchange and learning, were all written for this publication in an effort to develop some of the meeting discussions. Horst Hörtner’s reflection on the future of the lab closes the book as he opened the meeting in his keynote lecture at BALTAN. The meeting in Eindhoven was a start and reflected a specific moment in time, tracing the connections between many different forms of labs (experimental labs, mobile labs, labs in the city, academic labs, artist-run labs...) both old and new. The outstanding network and diversity in perspectives of the labs present at this meeting (admittedly but a small sampling of labs around the world) engendered excitement about the future of this landscape. Introduction


This publication seeks to capture this moment, and more specifically, the desire expressed by all labs for increased knowledge sharing. Throughout the meeting we aimed to address a number of questions but were not attempting to answer them. Rather, we concluded, answers should be found through action and in ways of working, in an evolution of the field. This publication continues the conversation beyond the temporality of the meeting, acting as a context for future connections and action, in relation to both practice and policy. The following pages reflect the changing and heterogeneous landscape in which we are working, and will hopefully stimulate future sharing, collaboration, resource and knowledge mobility, for which the media labs of the present and future can be exemplary.


1 – Huuskonen, J. (2010) The labs are back!, Pixelache, helsinki/2010/the-labs-are-back/, Date accessed: 7 June, 2010. 2 – Naimark, M. (2003) ‘Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Money. Technology-Based Art and the Dynamics of Sustainability’, A report for Leonardo Journal supported by the Rockefeller Foundation,, Date accessed: 15 July, 2010 3 – Bender, W. (2004), ‘The seven secrets of the Media Lab’, BT Technology Jour-

nal, Vol 22 No 4, October 2004 (pp. 5-6), bttj/ForwardPages5-6.pdf, Date accessed: 26 July, 2010. 4 – Garcia, D. (2008) Cultuurlabs. Creatieve ruimtes in het netwerktijdperk, In Cross-over. Kunst, media en technologie in Vlaanderen (pp 183 – 195). Belgium: BAM/LannooCampus. 5 – LabtoLab website,, Date accessed: 28 July, 2010. 6 – ‘Symposium on Media Art /Design Laboratories’, V2_,

blog/symposium-on-media-art, Date accessed: 28 July 2010.


The Future of the Lab

Acknowledgements We would like to thank the Mondriaan Foundation for their support of the expert meeting The Future of the Lab in 2009. And a special thank you to Virtueel Platform and BAM for their collaboration and support, as well as to all participants, reporters, and moderators who contributed to the meeting in Eindhoven. Thanks to the City of Eindhoven, SRE, Brainport, Cultuurfonds Strijp-S and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands for their support of BALTAN’s activities during the pilot phase. I would like to give special thanks to the four artists working as BALTAN’s artistic core: Marc Maurer, Geert Mul, Gideon Kiers and Lucas van der Velden, for their input, commitment and insight. Thanks to the past and current members of the board of BALTAN for their vision and encouragement. Thank you to the artists, developers and partners who have worked with BALTAN and contributed to this lab-in-the-making. And big appreciative thanks to Ingrid Bal, Robert Klinkenberg and Griet Menschaert. Thanks to Andreas Broeckmann for the opportunity to continue this debate at ISEA2010 RUHR. Much thanks to Clare Butcher and Eric de Haas for their exceptional work on this publication. Thanks to Annette Wolfsberger and Annet Dekker for their invaluable support and input. And sincere appreciation for 2018Brabant’s collaboration with BALTAN on our activities during ISEA2010. Lastly, we would like to thank the participants and contributors to The Future of the Lab from around the world whose vision and energy continue to illuminate the spirit of collaboration in this field.



BALTAN GENERAL - 20 - 03 - 09 _ 17:28


The Future of the Lab

Marc Maurer, Maurer United Architects/BALTAN Laboratories

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab

From: Subject: Date: To: Reply-To:

melinda R [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Future of the Lab ? December 14, 2009 1:31:30 PM GMT+01:00 NEW-MEDIA-CURATING melinda R

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 Plohman 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 practice; to Eva De Groote who is currently setting up Timelab (BE) looking at the challenges new labs need to respond to in Today’s climate where economic, community and environmental issues are paramount. 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 their 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/prejudicial research and positions as well? Baltan commissioned an interesting text on Openness by Joost Rekveld, Head 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 wasn’t 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 Future of the Lab?


environments conceptually and practically-building models to accommodate 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 whether the term Media lab is still relevant 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 benefits 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 everyone’s 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 completed.


The Future of the Lab

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 sustainable: - 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 Ruhr - initiating a joint publication around the topics explored during the meeting, hopefully to be launched at ISEA2010 For me, being a periodic visitor from the Southern hemisphere, it was great to put faces to email addresses 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 addressing them. Pics of Futurelab activity including a lot of the mapping sessions can be seen at the Flickr group: N22/

cheers from sunny Brighton! Melinda

Originally published on the CRUMB NEW-MEDIA-CURATING list: ATING;XxL4%2FQ;20091214123130%2B0000

Future of the Lab?


TFotL - 30 - 11 - 09 _ 15:26


The Future of the Lab


The History and Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab



Journalist Robert Fulford’s cynical quotation about the future may appear to be an inauspicious way to begin a discussion about the future of the lab. However it also offers useful insight. The point is not that experimental labs dedicated to broad transdisciplinary collaboration at the intersections of art, science and technology are doomed to failure. Rather, I suggest that conventional criteria are insufficient for determining whether or not they work. If a key goal of these labs is the creation of hybrid forms that transcend the disciplinary limits of any single field, that push conventional structures of knowledge and yield breakthrough innovations, then the evaluative methods particular to a given discipline may not offer adequate measures of success or failure. New methods for ascertaining the value of the outcomes of collaborative research – and for recognising the importance of process as an outcome in and of itself – must be developed. Harvard Business School professor Lee Fleming has noted that, ‘a creative team … [comprised] of very similar disciplines … will be unlikely to achieve a breakthrough,’ whereas a more diverse one (e.g. joining art, science, and engineering) ‘is more likely to achieve breakthroughs,‘ though with a greater proportion of insignificant outcomes1. If the media labs of the future want to generate breakthroughs, they must take extraordinary risks and be willing to fail most of the time. It would be unrealistic, therefore, to hold them to ordinary expectations about success and success rates. But we should also expect that every now and then these labs will work extraordinarily well, offering breakthroughs that would not have been made otherwise. I hope to revel as much in a lab’s failures as in its tangible successes and I encourage others to embrace these failures as a symbolic indicator of a lab’s success in pursuing the extraordinary. Indeed, as the following example of Bell Labs and 9 evenings: theatre and engineering suggests, some of the biggest flops in history provide some of the future’s brightest successes. A second case-study of historical artist-engineer collaborations at Philips Corporation offers further lessons that future labs should heed with respect to preserving their pasts for the future to build on. The History and Future of the Lab




Physicist Niels Bohr’s ironic aphorism about the future offers ironic insight into the challenges that the present faces in recognising what the future will valorize from the past. This insight is particularly relevant with respect to cutting-edge research that heralds new forms of practice, such as those undertaken in experimental labs, whose outcomes do not easily fit established norms and evade conventional evaluative rubrics. Throughout history, the present has demonstrated a remarkable inability to recognise what its most important contributions to the future will be. With this observation in mind, we must take into account that the outcomes and modes of operation of experimental research, although seemingly banal today, may be the breakthroughs of tomorrow. In its heyday, Bell Labs was arguably the premier scientific research facility in the US. Seven Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work completed there, and it can claim bragging rights for diverse theories and technologies, including the transistor, laser, information theory, the UNIX operating system, and the C and C++ programming languages. Bell Labs was also the site where p ­ioneering work in computer music, computer graphics, and computer animation took place, largely under the auspices of John Pierce, Executive Director of the Research-Communications Principles division. Known as the “father of the communications satellite”, Pierce also supervised the team that invented the transistor, a term that he coined. He not only co-authored a landmark report on pulse code modulation (the basis of digital audio)2 but penned a number of science fiction novels and popular articles including ‘Portrait of the Machine as a Young Artist’, which appeared in Playboy in 1965.3 In 1955, electrical engineer Max Mathews joined Pierce at Bell, which sponsored his early forays into computer-generated music (it then cost $200/hour to rent time on an IBM computer). The early music synthesis techniques Mathews developed earned him recognition as the “father of computer music”. In 1961, Pierce brought composer James Tenney to Bell as an artist-in-residence, where he worked closely with Mathews 24

The Future of the Lab

until 1964, further developing the possibilities of digital sound synthesis. Other artists in residence included Stan VanDerBeek and Lillian Schwartz, who worked closely with computer scientist Ken Knowlton, developing computer animation in the 1960s and 70s. Having worked with artists including Jean Tinguely, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg since 1960, Bell Labs engineer Billy Klüver gained Pierce’s approval to allow his staff to collaborate with artists on the production of the now famous event, 9 evenings: theatre and engineering, which took place in New York in 1966. At that time, art and engineering were far more autonomous fields than they are today. There would have been no professional or cultural reasons for artists and engineers to encounter each other, much less collaborate together. One could seriously ask, as Klüver did then, ‘Have you ever met a normal, healthy and working engineer who gives a damn about contemporary art? Why should the contemporary artist want to use technology and engineering as material?’4 It was in this context that Klüver framed 9 evenings as a ‘deliberate attempt by … artists to find out if it was possible to work with engineers.’ Importantly, this modest aim did not propose grandiose outcomes in terms of technical and artistic achievements but rather strove to investigate whether or not it was even possible for these two disciplines to collaborate together. With this goal, ten leading contemporary artists and thirty Bell Labs engineers worked together for ten months on a series of now legendary performances, generating several patents in the process. Seen by an audience of over 10 000, the project benefitted from 8 500 hours of engineering expertise (donated by the engineers, not the Lab), some “midnight requisitions” (presumably unauthorised) from Bell, and significant personal donations from Klüver, Rauschenberg, and others. As Klüver noted, everyone’s ‘investment in terms of putting-yourself-out-on-a-limb was considerable.’ Indeed, given that the aim focused on exploring the possibility of working together, the risk of failure for such an elaborate and high-profile event was exceedingly high, with the reputations of many renowned individuals and Bell Labs at stake.

The History and Future of the Lab


Despite the collaborators’ superhuman efforts, critics’ accounts of 9 evenings are remarkable for their insistence on the failure of the event. By most, it was considered a flop. They complained of extended delays and poor sound quality; that the technology did not work and that even when it did, it was underwhelming. The performances were panned for their lack of artistic merit. The artists complained that the engineers did not understand their needs and could not solve the technical problems quickly enough. The engineers complained that they did not get enough credit, that the artists did not understand the complexity of the technical challenges their artworks posed, and that they did not have enough time to solve them. Klüver complained that the critics had only attended the shaky opening nights and that they, like much of the audience, did not understand what they had seen, frequently confusing technological and artistic features. ‘Anything that was assumed to have gone wrong (whether it actually did or not) was attributed to technical malfunctions.’ He claimed that the, ‘engineers did a fantastic job – by any standards’ and that, ‘Half the performances were more or less completely successful; others suffered from a few failures which were by no means as catastrophic as the critics implied.’ This confused and conflicted reception had very little impact on the event’s success in popularising and capturing the public’s imagination about the idea of artist-engineer collaborations. During the process of organising the 9 evenings, the not-for-profit organisation Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was formed in order to make ‘materials, technology and engineering available to any contemporary artist.’5 E.A.T. helped coordinate a number of important artist-engineer collaborations, including prize-winning commissions featured in the exhibition, The Machine: As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age (New York, MOMA, 1968), and the Pepsi Pavilion, a multimedia marvel seen by over a million visitors at EXPO ’72 in Osaka. At its peak, E.A.T. could boast of twenty-eight chapters in the US and some 6000 members. Moreover, E.A.T’s activities, and 9 evenings in particular, have served as a vital inspiration for artists’ investigations of emerging technologies for over four decades, gaining legendary stature as new media art becomes increasingly prevalent and integrated into mainstream contemporary art. E.A.T.’s copious archives, including extensive photographic 26

The Future of the Lab

and video documentation, are accessible in several repositories and offer a rich source of information about the organisation and the early history of artist-engineer collaborations.6



American baseball legend Yogi Berra’s oft-quoted aphorism expresses remorse at the loss of optimism that was formerly associated with the future. It also suggests that what once looked shiny, new, and futuristic – like fins on automobiles – later become the quaint objects of nostalgia. This inevitable destiny plagues the future of the future, to use John McHale’s term. In light of this humbling recognition, how can we preserve the essence of our own forward-thinking visions and practices – both the historical, cultural contexts in which they emerge and the crucial lessons learned through experimental processes of grappling with the unknown – so that future generations can learn from and build upon them? Philips Corporation, based in Eindhoven, is a leading European electronics firm, with particular strengths in lighting and consumer electronics, especially audio. Important inventions include the compact cassette tape in 1963, the compact disk, which it launched with Sony in 1982, and the DVD, introduced in 1996. Philips has a long and distinguished history of innovative collaborations with artists. Compared with Bell Labs and 9 evenings, the works generated achieved a remarkable degree of success and recognition in its time. Yet much of that work has perished, including many of the archival records that would provide scholars and artists with deeper insight into the processes and outcomes of these early collaborative projects. In 1956, Philips engineers helped Nicolas Schöffer create CYSP I,­ which employs an “electronic brain” connected to sensors that enables the human-scale kinetic sculpture to respond to changes in sound, light intensity and colour, and movement, including that of the audience. The whole sculpture moves on four rollers, while its sixteen polychrome plates pivot and spin at different rates The History and Future of the Lab


depending on external stimulus. It premiered in a performance with the Maurice Bejart dance company, interacting with the dancers on the roof of Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse, accompanied by concrete music composed by Pierre Henry. This early responsive, robotic sculpture is perhaps the first work of art to explicitly incorporate the principles of cybernetics (CYSP is an acronym formed from the first two letters of the words cybernetic and spatiodynamic). It has had an extensive exhibition history and the sculpture survives in the artist’s estate. Not long after Schöffer’s successful collaboration, Le Corbusier was commissioned to design the Philips Pavilion for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. Based on sketches of hyperbolic paraboloids executed by his assistant, architect and composer Iannis Xenakis, Corbusier supervised the creation of a stunning building that served as a showcase for Philips’s technological innovations in light and sound. Xenakis’s composition Concrèt PH was heard upon entering and exiting the pavilion. Inside, Corbusier produced a remarkable visual montage comprised of a black and white film, three projectors, and a changing pattern of coloured lights. Synchronised with the film, Edgard Varèse’s three-channel music composition, Poème Électronique, incorporated a wide range of sounds from machine noises and vocals to electronic tones. Developed at Philips’s labs, using the latest electronic technology, Varèse’s music was reproduced on a spatialised sound system consisting of some four hundred speakers mounted throughout the structure.7 As Marc Treib has written, this landmark integration of architecture, film, music, light, and electronics presented a ‘liturgy for twentieth-century humankind, dependent on electricity instead of daylight and on virtual perspectives in place of terrestrial views.’8 Unfortunately the pavilion was destroyed soon after the fair was over, leaving scholars with the challenge of piecing together fragmented documentation to theoretically reconstruct a sense of the actual embodied experience of a tightly integrated synthesis of space, sound, and image. Another important early art-engineering collaboration sponsored by Philips also has been lost: Edward Ihnatowicz’s Senster, which was continuously displayed for four years at the company’s 28

The Future of the Lab

Evoluon exhibition hall beginning in 1970. Also produced as a showpiece of Philips’s futuristic engineering skill, this four metre, robotic sculpture was controlled by a computer connected to sensors including sound and radar, which enabled it to respond to the sound and movement of the audience. Dismantled in 1974, the electronic components appear to have been given away at the time, and, with the exception of some photographs, Philips’s archives related to the Senster were destroyed. As of 2003, the mechanical structure was displayed as an outdoor sculpture next to the engineering company that obtained it. Unanimated and decontextualised, the welded steel armature remains but a weathered ghost of a highly responsive surrogate being that in its prime enchanted thousands, providing them with a glimpse into the future.9



Novelist William Gibson’s well-known aphorism that heads this section suggests that the future of experimental labs and collaborative research is here, now, and that the issue is less a matter of existence than of spreading and disseminating it. Indeed, the precursors discussed above, in combination with the success of large institutional labs and cultural centres, such as MIT Media Lab, Ars Electronica Future Lab, and ZKM, laid the foundation for growing cultural investment in labs like BALTAN, which have proliferated internationally over the last couple decades. So what can we learn from Bell Labs, E.A.T., and Philips? How can that help us plot a path to the future? The success of an extraordinary, transdisciplinary project often cannot be gauged at the moment of its creation. Its reception will likely be confused and contradictory. Those who lack expertise in the key fields contributing to it will have difficulty evaluating it in either artistic or scientific terms, much less in framing its potential historical significance. As Florian Schneider has observed, ‘Collaborations are the black holes of knowledge regimes. They willingly produce nothingness, opulence, and ill-behaviour. And it is their very vacuity that is their strength….It does not entail the transmission of something from The History and Future of the Lab


those who have to those who do not, but rather the setting in motion of a chain of unforeseen accesses.’ It is into these vacuous black holes that the labs of the future must boldly plunge, enabling the unforeseen to emerge in its opulent nothingness. However, in a cultural context that is mediated by a bottom-line mentality that demands justification in quarterly reports, experimental labs must facilitate translation not just between artists and scientists but between visionaries and accountants. Venture capitalist funds invest in highly risky start-up companies with extraordinary growth potential and expect only a very small percentage of them to actually achieve extraordinary success. But even if only one in a hundred is a huge success and yields one thousand­times the investment, the VC will realise a tenfold increase in value. It must be noted that VC firms are highly selective, reject some 98% of projects proposed, and often play an instrumental role in managing the fledgling company. Similarly, media labs and those who invest in them should expect only a very small percentage of their projects to achieve extraordinary success. They must institute rigorous selective criteria and develop the expertise and resources to help nurture projects to achieve extraordinary success. Like VC firms, which pool the funds of many investors, media labs could also pool their investments together in order to spread risk and resources and to share in the success. Perhaps this strategy points toward how the future of the lab, following Gibson, is to become more widely (and evenly) distributed. The collaborations at Bell and Philips demanded inspired and visionary leadership from technologists and corporations as well as from artists and foundations. Similarly, participants today must be willing to take risks, to cross boundaries, and to collaborate in unconventional ways that involve ‘putting themselves out on a limb,’ as Klüver noted. They must be ready to deal with the challenges of translating across disciplines that employ very different descriptive languages, methodologies, and goals. Inevitably misunderstandings will arise, tensions will build, and egos will be bruised. Such conflicts should be embraced as a crucial and creative catalyst for innovation. Werner Heisenberg remarked that, ‘in the history of human thinking the most fruitful developments frequently 30

The Future of the Lab

take place at those points where two different lines of thought meet.’ But it is frequently at the points of friction between two different lines of thought that the most innovative breakthroughs occur. Such creative frictions demand that transdisciplinary teams forge hybrid forms of knowledge production that generate insights and results that could not have been achieved by using the methods­ and techniques of any single discipline. It is a supreme understatement that transdisciplinary collaboration is difficult. It requires extraordinary commitment from individuals and groups that are so dedicated to the idea that they are willing to volunteer their time, resources, and expertise to them, taking it largely on faith that the outcome – which could not be anticipated in advance – will be worth the effort. It is as much a matter of fastidious project coordination and of managing and motivating people, as it is a matter of inspiration and creativity. It takes time for a collaborative team to develop a shared language with which the members can communicate across disciplines and to identify suitable boundary objects that serve as the common locus of their research. And it takes time to develop trust in one’s colleagues, particularly colleagues from other disciplines, and to develop an effective and efficient mode of collaborating together. Team members must believe in each other and in their shared vision, even when their work is misunderstood by the public and panned by critics and colleagues, even when their labours might not result in an exhibition-worthy artwork or peer-reviewed article. In the context of the mid-1960s, when few of the artists and engineers had ever interacted with practitioners in the other field and did not meet each other until shortly before the event, it is truly remarkable what the collaborators in the 9 evenings were able to achieve in less than a year. It is perhaps an equally remarkable symbol of Klüver’s commitment to the idea of pursuing artistengineer collaboration as a full-time career that he quit a lucrative and secure job at Bell Labs and relied on philanthropic sources to fund E.A.T. and provide for his livelihood. On a philosophical level, if the fruits of experimental research are not strictly art, science, or engineering, then one must wonder about the epistemological and ontological status of these hybrid The History and Future of the Lab


forms: what exactly are they? What new knowledge do they produce or enable? What is their function in the world? On a practical level, the future sustainability of such research depends on answering these questions, because the labs themselves, like the careers of artists and scholars whose work fuses disciplines, will be prematurely curtailed if their contributions are not recognised and rewarded. As an integral part of their mission, labs must develop rigorous criteria for evaluating and documenting the processes and products of the transdisciplinary collaborations they facilitate. They must develop compelling rationales for the importance of such research as an engine for innovation – innovation not just as an immediately marketable commodity but as constituting more subtle and perhaps more insidious and profound shifts in the conception and construction of knowledge and society. Labs must also play a pivotal role in cultivating broader public recognition of the cultural value ofresearch at the intersections of art, science, and engineering and in helping to make resources and expertise more widely distributed. Ultimately, Rauschenberg believed, the success of E.A.T. could be measured by the degree to which it had become a “redundant organisation” – in other words, that artist-engineer collaborations would have become so commonplace that E.A.T. no longer was needed to facilitate them. To a large extent, E.A.T. has achieved success as gauged by Rauschenberg’s criteria. Artists and engineers do not need an intermediary organisation to play matchmaker. Similarly, the success of the new wave of experimental labs may be measured by their future redundancy: that the ­current challenges, such as evaluative criteria, recognition of scientific and cultural value, and ubiquitous distribution, will be solved.


The Future of the Lab


1 – Fleming, L. (2004) ‘Perfecting Cross-Pollination’, Harvard Business Review, ­

82, no. 9 (September 2004), 22-24. 2 – Oliver, B.M., Pierce, J.R., Shannon, C.E., (1948)“The Philosophy of PCM”,

IRE Proceedings, Vol. 36, November 1948, 1324−1331. 3 – Ballora, M. INART 55 – History of Electroacoustic Music, Bell Labs in the

60s, bell_labs1960s.html, Date accessed: 12 June 2010. In the mid-60s, Playboy was highly respected for its literary content, with contributors including Jean-Paul Sartre, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Vladamir Nabakov. 4 – Klüver, B. (1967) ‘Theater and Engineering, an Experiment: 2. Notes by an

engineer’ Art Forum 5, no. 6 (February, 1967), 31-33. Reprinted in Edward A. Shanken (2009) Art and Electronic Media (pp. 266-67) London: Phaidon. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Klüver come from this source. 5 – E.A.T. News 1:1 (January 15, 1967); 2. Officially incorporated in 1967 by Klüver

and Bell Labs colleague Fred Waldauer, together with Rauschenberg and artist Robert Whitman. 6 – These include the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and the Daniel ­L anglois Foundation in Montreal. 7 – ‘Edgard Varèse’s Poème Électronique.’ In Programme notes from Masterpieces of 20th Century Music: A Multimedia Perspective. Low Library, Columbia University, 2000,, Date accessed: 20 May, 2010. 8 – See Treib, M. (1996) Space Calculated in Seconds. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 3. 9 – See Website edited by Alex Zivanovic. Date accessed: 19 May, 2010. 10 – Schneider, F. (2007) ‘Collaboration. Seven Notes on New Ways of Learning and

Working Together’, Date accessed: 20 September, 2010.

The History and Future of the Lab


TFotL - 30 - 11 - 09 _ 17:23

BALTAN GENERAL - 20 - 03 - 09 _ 18:34


The Future of the Lab

Lucas van der Velden, BALTAN Laboratories

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab

THE CASE OF TESLA Andreas Broeckmann

The Case of TESLA



The Future of the Lab

In October 2008, the TESLA-Berlin association organised a workshop in Berlin called Labs for Art and Media. They invited a number of international media labs to come to Berlin to share three days of discussions around how artistic practice is changing today in relation to media, and how art labs, workspaces, production spaces and art institutions can best support artists in pursuing their work. An inspiration for The Future of the Lab, BALTAN invited Andreas Broeckmann, member of the TESLA curatorial team, to reflect on the outcomes of this workshop and on the experience of TESLA in Berlin from 2005-2007.

AB: The idea of the TESLA Media Art Lab in Berlin was, essentially, to create a space where artists could work. We had some funding and a building, and we opened up for residencies (lasting from a few weeks to a year) to work on specific projects proposed directly by the artists. TESLA looked at the proposals informally and then invited the artists. From the residencies, we created the core of our public programme, running for four days a week. We were, in retrospect, surprised by how much we could do in three years. One of the big projects was a series of symposia and performances with the artist Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag, who is interested in the history of electricity, connected to Nikola Tesla – making it a perfect key project for the TESLA lab. After two and a half years of operations, TESLA had to close down: the funding was pulled and the building was taken away. In retrospect, the surprise was not that the local government pulled the plug. The miracle was that we could do this work for three years in the first place! We should have understood earlier that this was a temporary project. If we had, then we wouldn’t have put so much effort into building an institution. You have to think hard about what you want to achieve in the amount of time you have. Don’t worry about institution-building if it will probably be temporary. Still, you have to be a little bit utopian… The art and media ship, MS Stubnitz, for example, was a crazy, expensive and impossible plan by a handful of people in 1992. After the fall of the Wall, the East German fishing fleet was sold off. The Case of TESLA


Some fully operational ships were sold for scrap metal. A group of artists bought a ship for a bit over 300.000 DM and had a vision of a floating art and media centre. At a workshop in 1994, they looked to see if there were possibilities for European co-operations. At the time, it seemed largely impossible to me because it seemed crazy to spend all that scarce art money on diesel. Now, almost 12 years later, the MS Stubnitz is still sailing, still under construction, run by a committed crew. It’s a valuable project, not least because it sparks people’s imagination. They have a lot of live performances and exhibitions. It’s grungy and edgy, and also very valuable in terms of community work. I admit that I misjudged the potential of this project in 1994. When they closed TESLA, a colleague of mine and I received some money to research how to set up a media lab in Berlin. This was a little weird because they just taken a working model away from us – but anyway… We spoke to a lot of people about possibilities and structures, and it turned out that unless you have good local and regional support, you cannot start something that is reliant on public funding. You have to have people in politics who support your activities, although they don’t always understand them. This is what we learned in Berlin, because we did not have that kind of local or regional support. So the message that we got out of our research was rather frustrating: I think that at the moment, constructing a lab in Berlin is not viable because there’s no support in the political arena. We wrote a little manifesto, a structural plan, which gave this message to the politicians: if you want to support art and media production in Berlin, here are three models. First: a real centre where competencies can be combined. The second possibility is to support a network where existing institutions can use money that is put into the network, where you give incentives for people to work together. The third possibility is to set up an agency that liaises between the different institutions. As a final report, we created a brochure listing 32 institutions in Berlin that deal with art and media in one way or another – a list that is supposed to indicate the potential of such a cooperation network.


The Future of the Lab

Q: Could you tell us more about the workshop [for labs for art and media] last year?­

Part of our research project was to organise an international meeting in October 2008. For four days, a group of about 15 people got together, mainly from European artistic organisations and media labs, to discuss the same questions that are raised here today [in The Future of the Lab sessions]. From that event came the first really important realisation that there is no “one” media lab. Most of us recognise that we’re from the same field and do more or less similar things. The ideological undercurrents are utterly different though – what motivates people to do what they do. The concepts of these different institutions can not just be copied and used elsewhere. For instance, Culture Lab in its Newcastle university setting is different in relation to the opportunities and restrictions of BALTAN in Eindhoven. What we realised in the workshop last year was that what brings us together here is difference, not necessarily common ground. The next thing we learned in the workshop was how dependent these structures are on individual people. Many organisations only survive on the backs of one or two people, and the whole organisation changes when these people change (or when they don’t). So it’s also a personality thing, since your personal energy and interests are in there. It’s fascinating to hear people speak about their different practices, because we are all working in the same field. [At The Future of the Lab] Melinda [Rackham] spoke about the problems of residencies, and we understand that. We can talk about the failures as much as successes. For me, TESLA is not a failure anymore. It was in 2007, but now I realise that it was a great thing to do for those years.

Q: If you say there’s no political will in Berlin to support a media art lab, don’t you think they are missing a point, and if so, what point do they miss?

To some degree, the talk about the media lab is self-serving and out of sync with the development of the role of media in the arts. It The Case of TESLA


assumes there’s a special place for media art, and I don’t believe that. At TESLA, with three people from different backgrounds (curator of sound art, someone from the field of performing arts and theatre, and myself with a background in art and technology), we never curated with an interest in technology, but always with high aspirations for artistic quality, whatever the technology or media the artist used. We founded a place where critical thinking was dedicated to recent digital media and the aesthetic effects of working with those media – a place to think about this is hugely valuable. I believe that the conversation about the relationship between art, technology and new media that we initiated is the most valuable aspect of the work done at TESLA: nowhere else in Berlin was there such a consistent and dense conversation on contemporary artistic practice as at TESLA at the time. Another asset we had at TESLA was a wizard in software and hardware interfaces. To have somebody like him, somebody who knows his stuff and can help artists or point them in the right direction, is a really important asset and something that you really need. So, whereas it remains important to support the specialised production in art and media, I think that we have to get away from the idea of an institution devoted solely to the presentation of new media art. That is not interesting anymore, and not necessary either. One of the results of TESLA was that most of those institutions in Berlin are not media art institutions, but they all give room to the media arts in their presentations. But support for production is really necessary.


The Future of the Lab

TFotL - 30 - 11 - 09 _ 16:48

The Future of the Lab


TFotL - 02 - 12 - 09 _ 15:34


The Future of the Lab

Clare Reddington, iShed

The Future of the Lab


BALTAN GENERAL - 30 - 06 - 10 _ 12:19


The Future of the Lab


Laboratories of the In-between



The Future of the Lab

OUTLINE LABtoLAB is a cooperative project set up by 5 European organisations active in the field of new media: Crealab, Nantes (FR); Area10, London (UK); Medialab-Prado, Madrid (ES); Constant, Brussels (BE); Kitchen, Budapest (HU). The project researches informal ways of learning by analysing the notion of the media lab via dayto-day practices of its initiating partners and those organisations invited to participate in LABtoLAB. There is a tendency in society to favour a professional working force with specific properties: flexible, swift to respond to changes, willing to be informed/reformed and re-trained if desired. Traditional visions of working life positions the process of learning before the professional career, and this birth-school-work-death logic still applies to most working situations. Increasingly however, the relationship between learning and work has started to blur, becoming less linear. Workers are now often required to update their skills regularly, to stay informed, to keep in touch with their field and to listen to what is going on in remote corners of their profession. Digital tools and the integration of technology into our daily lives offer new perspectives in terms of knowledge production and distribution. The marriage of the free market and the Internet seems convenient in a society looking for technological answers to its socio-economical problems. Clearly new ways of learning, less formal, and perhaps uncertified, are a matter of concern for every organisation. “Knowledge exchange” is a valuable tool, increasing an organisation’s viability. LABtoLAB is rooted in this context. As workers in a specific branch of the media art field, we feel there is a need for new spaces, other types of institutions and informal initiatives that are open for anyone to participate. Spaces (and by “spaces” we don’t only mean something with four walls and a roof) that take advantage of the hybridisation of specialism, that dare to be inconvenient and are willing to create a critical approach to the culture of technological work. Laboratories of the In-between


ROADMAP LABtoLAB is a prototype network between laboratories-organisations looking for challenging fields of exchange through art, education and technology. LABtoLAB started in December 2009 with a 5-day workshop in Kitchen Budapest and will end in June 2011 with a European meeting hosted in Nantes. As a network of organisations we are quite diverse in character, ranging from privately funded to institutional labs, artist-based collectives with activist strategies to local networked organisations and government supported media spaces. During the first meeting in Kitchen, we started a mapping session, visualising the workflows, structures and fields of operation in order to get acquainted with each other’s ways of working. A broad spectrum of interrelated practices, different skills, facilities, methodologies, experiences, expertise and interests that were present in our work began to emerge. Each organisation involved had developed a different type of informal space, dedicated to sharing expertise, to experimentation and innovation. Many of these actively cross borders between sectors and disciplines with the aim of entering terrains that are valuable for the work we do but not generally recognised as such. Now a year into the project, we can see several concrete outcomes of the collaboration. One result is that alongside the scheduled workshops, exchanges are taking place in multiple forms: residency programmes have been set up and also the first moves into “job shadowing” initiatives are taking place. In the course of the project, many other organisations are engaging in the workshops such as in Medialab-Prado Madrid where there is a large presence of Latin American media labs. Participants in LABtoLAB also share their expertise through participation in conferences, contributions to publications, etc. This chain of information exchange, of discussing with peer organisations and being informed by others, transforms what started as a ­sharing between a few core partners into a broad investigative platform. 52

The Future of the Lab

The final meeting in Nantes will be the opportunity to reflect on the practices we have developed over the last two years of the project. There we hope to present the potentials of collaboration and networks of exchange that could be pursued, extended, and applied. The final meeting will be open to a wide public of professionals and amateurs, active in European labs and local networks, with an individual, institutional, activist or academic background, representing a diversity of laboratory-organisations. This meeting will be the final step in the LABtoLAB project but will interrogate a potential common and networked space, that could and should continue to exist.

COMMON GROUND The investigation of the forementioned “informal spaces for learning” forms the common ground on which the LABtoLAB cooperation is based. These informal spaces are where we locate our research, where we try to expand the notion of the contemporary “media lab”. A testing ground where we investigate, explore, discuss, describe and enhance its values. LABtoLAB exploits “in-between spaces”. Unlike clearly paired opposites such as amateur-professional, beginner-expert, artscience,­success-failure, fields of operations such as experiment, improvisation, playing, collaboration, tinkering are open to appropriation for multiple purposes. These approaches continuously re-position themselves in the in-between, serving as sand boxes, testing grounds and drawing boards for the improvement of media related skills and professions. A media lab is capable of housing these forms of dynamic repositioning – as an accessible incubator of thought and experiment. The lab or workspace positioned in the “in-between” has a bridging function – an essential attribute in mediating our practice. Consequently, LABtoLAB partners share an interest in free/libre open source software tools. On principle, some partner organisations work exclusively with F/LOSS tools, while some have opted to mix proprietary and F/LOSS software in their work. We Laboratories of the In-between


acknowledge the huge potential of F/LOSS software for artistic and educational purposes and actively engage in its production and use. The most important aspect of F/LOSS and the Internet is cultural significance. How each has affected other spheres of culture and society. In a way, LABtoLAB participants could be seen as a “community of curiosity”. A community that involves organisations that are curious to learn from each others’ practice. In many instances people connected to LABtoLAB wear multiple hats: teachers, students, DIY amateurs, specialists, artists, cultural operators, project managers, educational programmers, workshop leaders, researchers, trainers, computer scientists, administrators, mediators, and as such we can learn from our diverse but also shared experiences.

POTENTIAL In order to understand the values of what we call a “media lab”, we have to take into consideration the specific historical conditions of the time in which we live: the so-called Information Era. The media lab that exists nowadays is preceded by several historical workspace typologies and forms of research institutes: the production workshop, the artist studio and the research lab, but also the museum, the civic centre, the library and the school. We currently understand media labs as research organisations that seek responses to the needs of an information society. These “needs” are not fixed assets nor known and defined in character. They depend on context. What is the object of desire, who or what is the asking party? These questions can be considered from political, social, cultural and educational perspectives. The rise of the Internet and digital culture generated huge expectations because of the simultaneous devaluation of the notion of public space. The Internet has reformed the public space paradigm. A great part of the Internet, specifically all that is linked to free culture, has become a collective lab where users can become collaborators in the production process: in charge of and concerned with the contexts and the tools they are using. 54

The Future of the Lab

One of the biggest challenges of the information era is to re­plicate the open systems of the Internet, as for example free software, in physical space, that is to say in cities. Here, media labs may offer an extraordinary potential as producers of public space for collective experimentation, where residents of a certain area can explore new forms of organisation, can think together about their neighbourhoods and take more control over the contexts that define them as users. In a socio-cultural sense, media labs offer public tools for know­ ledge sharing, socialisation and experimentation. The media lab does not work merely as a content provider; media labs are platforms where people from diverse backgrounds meet to exchange ideas and experiment together, all the time developing new models for that exchange itself to continue occurring. Media labs enhance citizen science, the knowledge generated by communities of doers that are not recognised experts. The media lab offers a system where recognised professional experts collaborate with amateurs, where beginners can become collaborators, where participation can be strong or weak. Media labs, like the Internet, blur the division between fields of knowledge and foreground the experiment, the prototype, that determines the skills that are needed in its development. The media lab is based on doing, on collaborative prototyping. This is why media labs offer inspiring and generous learning environments where participants educate themselves by doing and by getting involved in actual projects. The spirit of the Internet as a “network of networks”, is mirrored in the LABtoLAB objective to be a “lab of labs”: LABtoLAB is a meeting space, a network of organisations, an accessible hub in which the notion and function of media labs in general can be scrutinised, contested, refined and adapted; where experiment and thought go into working out new prototypes for sustainable future lab structures. FOR THE LABTOLAB NETWORK;

Catherine Lenoble (Crealab) Marcos Garcia (Medialab-Prado) Peter Westenberg (Constant) LABtoLAB project is supported by the Grundtvig’s Life Long Learning Programme

Laboratories of the In-between


TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 10:58


The Future of the Lab

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab

Ignacio Nieto, LaMe

The Future of the Lab


LEARNING FROM PAST MODELS Excerpt from a case study presentation by Melinda Rackham

Melinda Rackham, formerly the director of the Australian Network for Art & Technology, and now curator of Emerging Art Forms and adjunct professor of Media and Communications at RMIT University (AU), gave the first case study presentation at The Future of the Lab on lab models in Australia and the Australian art & technology landscape. To frame this presentation, Melinda stressed that full disclosure is important: in addition to successes, how can we share the knowledge of challenges faced and project failures? A number of questions were raised after Melinda’s presentation: Q: What were the expectations of the outcomes of ANAT?

The expectations were to build a bridge between art and science, to give artists access to research facilities, to get access to other funding models rather than art funding, which is very tight in Australia. Basically, to start the dialogue between art and s­ cience. The first example [given during the case study presentation about residency models] was the most successful, because it was a three-year embedded residency, although the art as outcome has a different focus because it’s often over-engineered. 60

The Future of the Lab

Q: Is the concept of innovation a realistic goal or expectation?

Innovation is so hyped in the funding procedures. The process of setting up a lab, to make a space where you throw in different resources, people and information, to see what comes out of that, that’s innovation. It’s a random conjunction. Q: Is the buying into the language of innovation a self-defeating trap?

It is a trap. I like to use the term emerging art form to describe new little organisms that are forming and that are not known yet. Twenty years ago, we took up the language of innovation, of industry and economics. We used the term creative industries to leverage funding opportunities in the arts however it is a trap because the art outcomes then become products. Q: How have things changed in the last ten years in Australia?

Art science is much more acceptable and thus more visible. Symbotica for instance, is now being consumed by the University system to provide an art science degree and facility in the University. Media lab models, initially set up by ANAT twenty years ago, were very experimental, now they are run by the Arts Council. Art science is becoming less experimental, everyone is looking for a way to innovate. The art is often getting lost in this.

For the full report on Melinda Rackham’s case study presentation see: Learning from Past Models


TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 16:37


The Future of the Lab

The Future of the Lab


Ecological concerns are intrinsically connected to any new lab.

A lab has to be connected to the city it is in, it is not (only) an isolated space for connecting to peers internationally or for working with experts but also a space rooting in a city, a society, you have to connect to local issues. International networking is evident – rooting in the city just as important. The idea is to go preaching to the unconverted, to go looking for new mini-audiences.


The Future of the Lab


Breaking down niches of interestspheres. Labs should be about breaking down walls not about making a minifort to work from within. Finding new/different/other entrance points for ideas/inspiration/innovation – for different types of ‘audience’ (also aim to reach politicians/city employees/(art) schools/other target groups in society).

New Conditions


Being open and connected not only in the sense of the Internet that is so common these days. Open and connected also means democratic, working as a team, respecting others, looking for connections on different levels with different groups of people.


The Future of the Lab

We need the new lab to be open in a broad sense; of course we need to connect to specialists and experts all of the time but the core team needs to have a permanently open gaze.

New Conditions


TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 11:44


The Future of the Lab


Map Lab



The Future of the Lab

The Future of the Lab was explored through a mapping session intended to be a social event where different participants had opportunities to exchange thoughts in a playful way. It was not intended to stimulate conversations about an abstract lab, but about the actual labs that participants know and run. The main goal of the workshop was to find out what a lab is, what a lab can be and what a lab needs in order to function dynamically.

What happened? The participants were divided into four groups. The moderators of the overall sessions and groups were Liesbeth Huybrechts, Jon Stam, Thomas Laureyssens, Priscilla Machils (Media & Design Academy, Social Spaces research group, Media & Design Academy Genk, Belgium) and Angela Plohman (BALTAN Laboratories). The moderator explained the rules of the game and facilitated the sessions. Each group identified 1 ‘presenter’. The presenter switched tables at each session and presented the group results at the end of the workshop. The map itself was divided in two zones: a border area where personal experiences could be mapped and a central collaborative zone that took the spatial blueprint of BALTAN Laboratories. Key values, people, things, infrastructural traits and key threats related to the lab were visualised via different icons. A prefab taglist of values was made based on the different written descriptions the participants made of their labs, namely: art, awareness, collaboration, consultancy, creativity, culture, dissemination, distribution, ethics, experimentation, hybridity, industry, innovation, interdisciplinary, international, meeting place, national, networked, open, production, public engagement, reflection, research, research & development, scientific, shared expertise, shared practice, society, technology, transparent Each participant received a series of coloured expressive icons for personal feedback that contained 1 bomb-icon + 1 safety-icon + 2 thumbs. With a safety icon, in the form of lock, people could make sure that items on the map could not be removed. A bomb-card Map Lab


could be played when a participant doesn’t agree with a situation or item on the map. The thumbs could be played when a participant likes or dislikes a situation or item on the map. Each workshop had 3 sessions. After each session the presenter changed tables also taking the map of the lab with them (the border area stays on the table). In each session, items could be removed or added to the map. The moderator gave instructions. In the first session, participants started to map the different aspects (people, infrastructural elements) on the map and prioritise the different items in a zone. The group could then decide which items on the map had to be secured, as a new group in the second session would adapt the map. The members of this second group start bombing things on the map that they were confronted with and then continued to work on it. During the third session the map moved again. The mapping methodology is used to visualise a process in space and time. Mapping stimulates people to engage in a participatory design process. Social Spaces created a low-tech mapping system: an open and extendible set of icons allowing participants to make their thoughts explicit in a visual way in the form of a map. The semantic space created during a participatory design event is not just visual, but also linguistic, tactile and emotional. The visual aspect of the mapping was combined with a verbal notation of the conversations triggered by the icons.

What discussions were going on in the groups? Group 1: see the text Mapping the Future by Nik Gaffney, page 75. Group 2 saw art production as a central issue. They did have doubts if art production should be called artistic research or R&D (Research and Development). In any case they wanted to provide a critical space, rather than a space filled with tools. Artefacts would be constructed in the lab and disseminated outside of the space by a mediator. The group found it difficult to decide what the role or the name of this mediator should be: a curator or a facilitator or‌ 72

The Future of the Lab

Group 3 built quite a big lab where visionary, “nerdy” and artistic people meet. To reach the public, a disseminator would do a signi­ ficant amount of work. The other groups thought this disseminator should rather be called a collaborator. According to the other groups, the lab that group 3 constructed was too big and had too many specialised spaces, which made the lab inflexible. This led the discussion to the issue that the bigger a lab gets, the more difficult it becomes to organise it. Would you do everything in the lab or would you share practices with other labs? Is more collaboration among the media labs necessary? Can you spread functions internationally? The lab coordinators agreed it was possible and even beneficial to spread functions, but also saw the difficulties for labs to invest in working on the network, since their work in the lab is already quite intense. Extra funding could maybe invested in maintaining the network. Group 4 positioned society, sharing, network, public engagement and awareness centrally in their lab. They discussed the tension between two models: 1. The division of roles and tasks (technical, curatorial, community) in a hierarchical way, aided by an advisory board; 2 ­ . A grass­roots model where the artist is developer and vice versa. This second model was preferred by the group. The artistdeveloper may be a person, a team or just a vision that is shared with others in non-hierarchical ways. The goal is to convince traditionalists to leave behind the idea of the audience in that traditional sense. The audience should be in the centre of the space and become participants via systems of collaboration and coproduction facilitated by the lab. Sustainable means of sharing is a core issue: knowledge, expertise, practice, tools and resources. The participatory mapping session was developed by the research group Social Space (Media & Design Academy, Genk, Belgium). Social Space focuses on the social and participatory uses of media in the daily spaces of people. The group researches how alternative media interfaces and/or participatory design practices can be of an aid in the construction of human relationships in our current networked society. The ease of creating connections in a networked world provokes changes in many layers of society. They explore the social character of media and design in a networked Map Lab


world in a variety of domains. The group is coordinated by Liesbeth Huybrechts and an interdisciplinary team of researchers, among others Priscilla Machils, Thomas Laureyssens and Jon Stam.

TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 13:05 (DETAIL)

TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 13:15 (DETAIL)


The Future of the Lab


The Lab evokes the smell of ozone, the excitement of experiment, the chaotically direct activity of ants, the energy of shared purpose and promise of adventures into the unknown. It exists as a sort of proto- or para- institution, slightly out of sync with the institutions around it. Whether part of commercial R&D, academic laboratory, startup-friendly research institute, secret government facility or independent design incubator, many labs share a certain displacement that allows them to flourish. In looking at The Future of the Lab, Group 11 discussed examples of what had worked well for each of us, what we saw as the successes of other labs. More generally, we also identified what we suspected would improve our own labs and provide fresh insight into our methods of working, creating and sharing. fluidity, awareness and process are central to this vision of the lab. We see labs as places where structured research can coexist with unstructured tinkering and exploration. Open enough to encourage serendipity, while retaining the rigor necessary to access, develop and spread knowledge. We emphasise the need for face-to-face work alongside online collaboration for successful research. Important techniques include scenario building, prototyping, tinkering, playing, telling stories, hosting workshops, editing Wikis and working with technology. These methods can be used to bring stories into and out of the lab, providing an interface with the wider world. Nonhierarchical structures are seen as important for maintaining open and transparent methodologies. Mapping the Future


Technology is a necessary part of a flexible infrastructure but we feel that it shouldn’t prescribe research policy. Appropriate techno­logy should be light and inexpensive, able to be taken in and out of the lab as required. It should invite hacking, exploration and reuse. An awareness of history, a living archive and experiments drawing upon that history should form the preconditions providing flexible access to knowledge. Trust is the glue that holds these labs together. The map we used has been annotated with a set of features and roles. The following descriptions provide some guidelines for improving existing labs or creating new labs.


Yves Bernard – iMAL Annet Dekker – Netherlands Media Art Institute/Virtueel Platform Gisle Froysland – Piksel Nik Gaffney – FoAM Ignacio Nieto – LaMe Angela Plohman – BALTAN Clare Reddington – iShed


The Future of the Lab

TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 13:26 (DETAIL)

Mapping the Future



The Future of the Lab

Michel van Dartel and Boris Debackere, V2_Lab

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab


On Closing a Loop



The Future of the Lab

OPENNESS AND ITS CLOSED SIDE In the second half of the 20th century there has been much talk about openness. During WWII, Karl Popper developed his concept of the ‘Open Society’, describing the mechanism of free exchanges of opinion a society needs in order to make maximum development possible of the talents of the individuals in it. A few years later, theoretical biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy coined the term ‘Open System’: a system being a whole that is defined by the organisation of its parts, it can be called open if matter and energy flow through it. In again a very different field, Umberto Eco formulated the idea of the ‘Open Work’, a work of art that is in some explicit way not finished until it is complemented by choices made by the viewer. And, finally, Dutch composer and philosopher Dick Raaijmakers coined the term ‘Open Form’ for a method of collaborative composing. Even though these concepts come from very different fields and are difficult to compare, one can say that they were all formulated against opponents that were perceived as being closed in some way or another. The adversaries in these examples were totalitarian regimes, classical physics, the traditional artwork or the hiera­ rchical pecking order of composer, musicians and audience. These new concepts were seen as an act of “opening” an existing, closed situation and focus on aspects for which there had not been room until then. In some of these cases, opening what was previously closed was a destructive act, an attempt to at least partly destroy a tradition and make room for an emerging alternative. The idea of openness presupposes a shared space, and if there has been criticism of the ideas mentioned above, it has been mostly leveled at this point. The Athenian democracy did not apply to the many slaves in Athens and there are still large groups that do not take part in the open society advocated by Popper. An open society needs a level playing field. The Open Form and the Open Work need a fair bit of common ground shared by collaborators and audience in order to function. This common ground cannot be open and solid at the same time. On Closing a Loop


It is no coincidence that artists’ utopias in this period are very striking images of a similar openness in the form of a shared space. ‘New Babylon’ of Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys is a huge superstructure spanning the whole earth in which all mankind has become nomadic. Space belongs to nobody and permanent ties like family and tribe have been replaced by fleeting friendships. Yves Klein’s ‘Eden’ also covers the whole earth, this time with a roof of compressed air. The machinery to support this roof and all other basic functions are invisible in technical rooms underground. Mankind has been liberated of weather and other constraints, so we can play and wander around without clothes. In the utopian imagery of Superstudio, mankind is also nomadic, but this time on a huge grid. This grid delivers power and information and everybody can plug in anywhere. The common ideals of multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity also imply some kind of common ground. Projects can certainly be interesting if disciplines are enriched by the contact with other disciplines, but I would like to present two images that capture the down-to-earth reality of many of these projects. One image is that of the round table with a hole in the middle; representatives of various disciplines sit around this table, the hole remains empty and the disciplines themselves are not questioned. The second image has become very common: many organisations have an office for interdisciplinary affairs in the same corridor as the offices for the traditional disciplines. Just as in the other offices, a specialised language is spoken in the office for interdisciplinary affairs, which sets it apart from the rest.

CLOSURE AND AUTODISCIPLINARITY The closed underside of openness is perhaps most clearly visible in the case of the open system. The idea of an open system was a big step in differentiating self-sustaining organisations, like living organisms, from the closed systems studied in classical physics. The very use of the term “open” presupposes an outside view of such systems. Critics say that such a view, and the idea of 84

The Future of the Lab

“openness” in itself, does not explain or address those aspects of systems that make them self-sustainable. In 1909 the biologist Jacob von Uexkull was interested in describing the world of different animal species in their own terms. In order to achieve this, he developed several concepts, amongst which the idea of ‘Umwelt’. He defined the outer world of an animal by looking at the feedback loop consisting of the perceptions and actions of the animal in question. In his view, the perceptions of animals are triggers for its actions. The totality of possible triggers for actions constitutes the sensory world of the particular animal. In this way, he was the first to describe epistemology in terms of a feedback loop through mind, actions, world and perceptions. With this concept he could point out the huge differences between the worlds of different species and rejected the idea that our human world is somehow privileged. He was a precursor of cybernetics, biosemiotics, second-order cybernetics and especially the idea of autopoiesis formulated by Maturana and Varela in the early seventies. An autopoietic system is a system that sustains itself, which produces the components that it needs to keep functioning, and which defines its relations with its own world in the sense of von Uexküll. It survives by maintaining its own feedback loop, a concept that is associated with the term “closure”. Armed with this term, we can now see that the openness I discussed in the first half of this text is only possible on the basis of a shared closure of some sort. The term “closure” has been applied to many types of organisation, and it might be interesting to think about what loop a new type of research organisation needs to close in order to be sustainable. That question is beyond the scope of this essay and it might become an academic exercise to answer it by making such direct comparisons. I do think that the concept of “closure” sheds an interesting light on the question of interdisciplinarity. The biggest disadvantage of terms like multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity is that they try to describe something new as a special arrangement of the old. If we look at the appearance of On Closing a Loop


novelty, however, it rarely comes out of such combinatory activity. An example: for more than two thousand years, all of mathematics was based on the foundations that were first written down in Euclid’s Elements of Mathematics. In the nineteenth century it was discovered that alternatives to Euclid’s fifth postulate (about parallel lines) generated parallel geometries that were also consistent. The whole new universe of non-Euclidean mathematics was not opened by rearranging known parts, but by postulating alternative ones. With the term “autodisciplinarity” I would like to propose yet another disciplinary word that I hope helps to think about structures for new kinds of activity. It resembles all kinds of self-referential things that are commonly thought not to be possible, such as lifting oneself up by pulling ones own hair or pulling ones bootstraps. In a similar vein it can be thought that riding a bicycle is impossible: it is impossible to achieve speed without maintaining balance by steering, and it is impossible to steer without having speed. As seen from an armchair, riding a bike is clearly an impossible task.


The Future of the Lab

The Future of the Lab


TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 16:13


The Future of the Lab

Marcos GarcĂ­a, Medialab-Prado

The Future of the Lab


POSITION: 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 an alternative to the currently accepted notions of what art research is, and to challenge the parameters of the research paradigm itself.

PROFILE: Is the term ‘media lab’ still relevant today? Does the name validate the unique spaces we provide to pursue new forms of artistic research? Should we validate our influence through joint advocacy? How do we go about accessing new audiences/different audiences rather than merely preaching to the converted?


The Future of the Lab

POSITIONS, PROFILE, PASSING ON Report from an expert meeting work group

PASSING ON: Knowledge mobility, exchange and sharing is dependent on finished documentation of projects and processes, otherwise it is useless. Acknowledging the validity of short term, mobile or temporary projects that can form themselves to investigate specific knowledge/skills, rather than always upholding the fixed institutional model. How do we address/embrace anti-technology threat of the new arts and crafts movement?

Positions, Profile, Passing On



The Future of the Lab

Anne Nigten, The Patchingzone

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab


“Design Research” Makes Us* Cool...



The Future of the Lab

“The inability of human beings to control themselves in the presence of machines is shameful. ” [Dziga Vertov]

A brief cautionary tale

A few weeks ago I discussed a recent research project, a venture introducing neuroscience as experience design, with a colleague, head of a VR research lab in a renowned institute. At some point he uttered: “I think that your project is awesome. Really. I wish I could still be doing these sorts of things, but sadly the university wants me to do serious research now.”

The trivial tale leads to a not-so-trivial question: “Are we Relevant?”

Not yet. In a hypothetical meeting gathering the people most prominent to our wellbeing, we will not be around the table. Not because art as such is under-valued in human advancement, but because as researchers, as inter/cross/transdisciplinary as we may think we are (no pun intended to Vannevar Bush), we operate in a transparent bubble, with the occasional microscopic hole.

We* are currently irrelevant. Cool, interesting, innovative – absolutely. But irrelevant**. Despite popular conception, we are not acting as agents of change. In the grand scheme of things, we are hardly significant even within our own respective cultures or fields, be that the socalled new media, art, technology or design. We do not “discover”, we do not “revolutionise”, even most of our “explorations” are repetitive. As we stand now we are ephemeral, and need to think, organize and act differently in order to become truly meaningful.

“Design Research” Makes Us* Cool...


A step towards Relevancy: Design As Research We should apply design/art/media methodologies to conduct research that stands shoulder to shoulder with, and reacts to, scientific research. We should focus on creating methods, platforms, services, systems (as oppose to “projects”, “products”, “experiences”, all still important components in our toolkit) that contribute to new discoveries, new phenomena. We should find a way to standardise the invaluable equilibrium between the flow of “artistic thinking” and rigorousness of scientific exploration. Many of the media research labs collaborate regularly with the “Others” – the psychology labs, the space labs, the biomedical labs, the chemical labs, the material labs. I contend that our future is in engaging with them as agenda-setters, with valid methodologies, toolsets and a long-term vision. * **

The term “we” refers to the comprehensive congregation of The Future of Lab, regardless of organisation or expertise. Evidence to support this assertion are unfortunately outside of the scope of this document, but will be joyfully argued before any interested party.


Acclair was founded in 2004 as a company providing security clearance services to airports based on neurometric data.1 Acclair offers its members a quick, effective and pleasant pre-boarding security procedure as well as fiscal rewards. In exchange members agree to forfeit ownership of the neurometric information extracted from them during the security procedure. Acclair has evolved since and expanded its offering of applications to other market segments, the art market being one. The Acclair Art Valuation Service offers an alternative, more objective process of placing value on art.2 By recording and analy­sing art-viewer’s responses to distinct artworks, Acclair can help determine market value based on methodologies drawn from cognitive neuroscience. 98

The Future of the Lab

In contrast to the traditional scientific look at art focusing on the perceptual and affective effects of art, and complementary to the subjective trends in art valuation, Acclair offers a new way of calibrating the market valuation of art based on the quantifiable data gleaned from electroencephalographic measurements and analysis. This is, in essence, the Neurocapital™ model. Acclair’s core asset, applied to an array of markets and situations. With that stated, Acclair is fiction. So are the services it offers as well as the Neurocapital™ model. However, its components are completely real. Its unique brain-testing system exists, the scientific methodology is valid and the Neurocapital model is raising interest from government, financial and industrial entities worldwide. In its most recent showing in Eindhoven (October 2009), more than 200 visitors have taken the Art Valuation test under conditions of a live art exhibition, and their brain responses to the artworks have been recorded. This is, effectively, an ad-hoc scientific experiment; granted, rough and quasi-controlled, but highly engaging, ridiculously inexpensive, and with an enormous repetition value. It is design-turned-science-turned design.

Wrapping up We have the ability to partake in the formation of a new paradigm. We are, to an extent, doing so. Still undefined, this paradigm is composed of a fascinating mixture of DNA deciphering, stem-cell harvesting, open-sourcing, ubiquitous communication, space shuttling, nano-robotics and so on. But in order to truly participate, we need to mature into a discipline. And, as Kevin Kelly would have probably suggested, it needs to be done one simple building block at the time.3 FOOTNOTES 1 – 2 – 3 – Kelly, K. (1995) Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the

Economic World, Boston: Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co.

“Design Research” Makes Us* Cool...



The Future of the Lab

Melinda Rackham

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab

Levien Nordeman, SETUP (Medialab Utrecht)

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab


The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab

The future of the media art studio or media laboratory is up for debate, which doesn’t come as a surprise to those who operate within this field. Since their emergence, the future of these kinds of spaces has been under discussion, as initiators and organisers continue to squint their eyes in the direction of the next horizon. What are the essential characteristics and functions of the laboratory? And which laboratory are we talking about? There are many different labs. To group all labs together is difficult given their respective specific focuses. If there is to be any possibility of speaking about “The Lab” I must first answer question number one, and identify the criteria delineating media art labs and media labs. One of the main constituents of each organisation in this case is that they seek to analyse the synapses between art, technology and design. In addition, it is the lab’s task to offer access to the results of these analyses as well as mediate them. The methods of disseminating results vary highly from one organisation to another: be it embedded within their teaching, in regularly held conferences or festivals. All labs, however, make their results public in some way. The “prototypical laboratory” can therefore be seen as working alongside and inside different disciplines with the tasks of mediation and communication – acting as an interface between those disciplines and society. Within this framework the lab takes opportunities and risks with new technological possibilities, debates artistic positions and seeks ways to continuously develop something new. This is another objective I believe the lab has. The lab is not only seeking and enabling innovations, but looks to collaboratively discover alternative strategies within its own structures and the ways these innovations can be disseminated. Ultimately it is about integrating avant-garde – as yet “un-done” – ideas, into public discourse. This applies to all of the lab’s areas of activity: art, technology and design. The lab was the first to enable new forms of training and teaching, offering access to this kind of discourse in the public sphere. All these activities form the most important criterion of what the lab does: creating another view of a social future. This role is facilitated on many levels: in exchanging knowledge with each other and with the general public, and on the level of educational The Future of the Lab


communication. It was the lab that began the broad-based teaching of media competence. Van GoghTV is one example of a lab that anticipated and changed daily life. In the early 1990s, Van GoghTV began using interactive access to television – which was unknown until then – thus forcing a mass medium to reinvent itself. In 1996, another lab, Art+Com, created TerraVision: an outline and an idea of what Googlemaps could only execute as a beta version in 2005. With these and countless other projects, the lab contributed to and reinforced a large social movement: the industrial society’s transformation into the information and knowledge society. The digital revolution has triggered and accelerated, at first slowly then more and more rapidly, this change. The lab – with its fellow campaigners and artists – has been the key reflector of that rapid movement at a time when society was being confronted with drastic change, as services instead of products turned out to be the true bearers of value. These changes have affected media art in its theory and practice – it might be said that because of this, media art has even led by example here. With the growing primacy of the artistic process and the swan songs of the artistic persona, media art together with the lab as its place of production and mediation, have made massive contributions in making these changes comprehensible and acceptable. The lab was originally established as a provider of infrastructure for its team and for a new kind of artistic nomad: nomads who moved as Artists in Residence from one infrastructural oasis to another in search of new opportunities to implement their work. Today however, media art, media design, the creation of new media technologies – in short, media production – increasingly happens away from these oases, not because the lab is no longer an attractive place, but because the space in between the oases is now also paved with an appropriate infrastructure. Broadband connections with the resulting computing power of multiple mainframes; as well as the facilities for media processing and unlimited remote access to lab experts by means of elaborate communications tools – at last, are all common property. Our areas of life, our 108

The Future of the Lab

social, scientific and technologic fields are based on ubiquitous ICT (Information and Communications Technology) – making the space in between the oases “green”. We can no longer speak of ICT as key technologies that will shape our future without recognising that they have already become part of foundational technology in all areas. What could still be experienced as a revolution in the 1990s – the integration of “digital” into all areas of life – is now essentially a completed process. The further development of the ICT is so pervasive that the rapidly successive developmental cycles simply show evolutionary improvements. Our society’s future will however, continue to be marked by major changes that are first detected by “insiders” – just as in the time of the digital revolution. Nanotechnology, biotechnology, cognitive sciences, humanities and social sciences have become a new playground for art. Since 2004 this playground has been called ‘converging technologies’ and includes ICT.1 The next technological revolutions will take place in this field! In May 2010 Craig Venter “built” the first life with entirely synthetically produced DNA. ‘My God, it’s alive’ read the newspaper headlines around the world and yet only a small number of “nerds” of the synthetic biology scene have understood the potential of this leap. Media literacy? The Lab asks instead: what about knowledge, opinion formation and impact assessment in these technological environments? What about the social reflection on these events and the communication of their respective results? Art forms that mostly developed from media art, which since 2007 Ars Electronica has categorised as “Hybrid Art”, operate in this extended technological and scientific environment. However, this art – “Hybrid Art” – still seeks its oasis! Although university specialist scientific or technical laboratories open themselves up to artists and their work, this trend almost completely excludes “The Lab”, despite the fact that it is inscribed with the knowledge and handling of digital revolution technologies shaping social change. This is not because “The Lab’s” knowledge is regarded as useless, but certain skills, relevant in the future are still missing! So, will the shift in infrastructure from media technology to the The Future of the Lab


equipment of converging technologies determine the future of the lab? HybridLab instead of MediaLab? If the lab wants to continue to maintain its undeniably important function in society, it must open up. This is necessary on the one hand in order to facilitate future art forms, to continue to look ahead, to recognise public discourse and carry out the task of mediation. On the other hand, this openness avoids the risk of gathering dust. In view of the coming technological advances it is highly important to handle them in a playful and reflective manner – one of the lab’s domains – and to make these future areas available for as many experiments as possible. Access is needed in order to develop skills. Changing tools and infrastructures, expanding theoretical and practical knowledge in the non-established technologies and sciences alone will not suffice. The lab as an intermediary between art, technology and society, with its ability to attract creative potential, must risk going a step further. According to current predictions of sociology, just as in the lab’s founding days, another radical social change is coming up: the transition from the knowledge society to the conceptual society. This shift is caused by two fundamental changes in our business world. Firstly, the costs of knowledge-intensive routine activities are falling and secondly, the subjective experience of the product has become a pillar of value. The price decline of “knowledge-intensive routine activity”, i.e. software development, engineering works, translation work etc. is caused by the wide availability of these services and particularly, the tools that simplify them. The production industry reinforces this decline by outsourcing these activities into so-called low-wage countries (India, China, Brazil, Russia etc.). Socially this puts an enormous pressure on innovation – especially amongst the technological and economic elites of the developed world. Only non-routine knowledge-intensive activities can result in innovation. Innovation will therefore remain the basis for value creation. In all fields, including art, which is already being established in the fields of new technology and conceptual practice, this value creation will result in further pressure. 110

The Future of the Lab

The subjective experience becomes the object’s dominant component. That means that the individually experienced “lifestyle” becomes the principal basis for the purchasing decision. Our buying behaviour is shaped by our subjective attitude to life, and our general social wealth allows more and more people to make their purchasing decisions on “taste” or “conscience”. For example, Fairtrade items might be more expensive but they do not support child labour... this car might cost more, but it harms the environment less, etc. The additional costs that buyers are now willing to pay are slightly reminiscent of the selling of indulgences: a clear conscience suddenly has a price again. In contrast to the indulgence business we may reasonably assume that the money paid – at least in part – benefits the actual cause and that it directly results in something; that at least part of the costs are being reinvested in the development of environmentally sustainable and socially responsible products and processes – in fitting with the “lifestyle” we seek. The lab is not separate from this development. It is part of it. If it wants to continue to claim the right to shape part of our future, the lab will have to deal with the world around it. Global warming, the widening of the digital gap between urban spaces and rural areas, between developed and developing countries, are just a few scenarios that concern the lab. There is no time for navel-gazing. “It’s too late to be a pessimist,” says Yann Arthus-Bertrand in the production “HOME” (distributed via Youtube), pointing to the urgent need for action. The lab of the future must use its full creative potential through new technological means to drive forward sectors, such as edu­ cation and social welfare that influence culture. Early examples of this are the project EyeWriter and others from the OpenFramework Community. “Art is a tool of empowerment and social change, and I consider myself blessed to be able to create and use my work to promote health reform, bring awareness about ALS and help others,” said Tony Quan aka Tempt One on the EyeWriter project website.2

The Future of the Lab


The lab can no longer look at society in terms of the technological and economic elites, but also at projects that deal with people from outside these groups. After the lab’s expansion into public space, the next step must, and will be, integration into a global context. Until recently, it was people working in the “creative industries” who had a special relationship with the lab, but in future this will include people working in the fields of “social entrepreneurship” and “civil entrepreneurship”. Many ideas come to the lab from these fields, for instance design initiatives for “sustainable design”, energy solutions from recycling processes, exhibitions for blind people, communities for poverty reduction, solar-powered communication equipment and much more. The future of the lab is basically identical to its past: the lab is a place where projects that deal with our society’s current and future positions are being realised. The lab will point out, build up and teach skills that are considered necessary to meet the challenges of the present and what is to come. It will continue to be responsible for the creation and operation of prototypical environments in which artistic, technological and social innovations can be implemented. In turn, the lab will increasingly rely on these environments for developing and teaching new skills – constantly reclaiming its role as “builder of competence for the future”.


1 – Nordmann, A. (2004) ‘Converging Technologies – Shaping the Future of

European Societies’, In HLEG Foresighting the New Technology Wave, European Commission Research. 2 –


The Future of the Lab

TFotL - 01 - 12 - 09 _ 23:06

The Future of the Lab



The Future of the Lab


Dr. Andreas Broeckmann Dr. Andreas Broeckmann holds a PhD in Art History from the University of East Anglia, Norwich/UK (1995), and lives in Berlin/Germany. He lectures internationally about the history of modern art, media theory, machine aesthetics, and digital culture, and has curated exhibitions and festivals in major European venues. He is the Founding Director of the new Dortmunder U - Centre for Art and Creativity, and artistic director of ISEA2010 RUHR ­(, and is working on a study about 20th century machine art.

Eyal Fried Eyal Fried is an Interaction Designer and Social Researcher. Currently he is with the Interaction Design Lab (, Milano, Italy, and teaching at the Nueva Accademia di Belle Arti (NABA) in Milano. He is also a research fellow in Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, Ramat-Gan, Israel. Eyal’s interests as expressed in his research and art work hover over the exploration and design for “micro-situations” in everyday life, the design of innovative biometric applications, neuro-technologies in particular.

Nik Gaffney Nik Gaffney is a founding member and media+systems researcher at FoAM vzw in Brussels, Belgium ( Nik has previously worked as a graphic­ designer and programmer for Razorfish AG in Hamburg and Moniteurs in Berlin. His studies covered the fields of computer science, cognitive science and organic chemistry at Adelaide University. As one of the founders of the artists’ collective mindfluX, he worked on installation pieces, performances and the editing and distribution of the electronic magazine mindvirus. He has been an active collaborator in the performance group Heliograph and a prominent contributor to farmersmanual: a pan-european, net-based, multisensory disturbance conglomerate.

Contributors’ Bios


Horst Hรถrtner Horst Hรถrtner is a media artist and researcher. He is an expert in design of Human Computer Interaction and holds several patents in this field. Hรถrtner was a founding member of the Ars Electronica Futurelab in 1996 and since then is directing this atelier/laboratory ( He started to work in the field of media art in the 1980s and co-founded the media art group x-space in Graz (Austria) in 1990. Horst Hรถrtner is working in the nexus of art & science and giving lectures and talks at numerous international conferences and universities.

Angela Plohman Angela Plohman has worked for the last twelve years in the field of art and technology. From 1998-2001, she was program officer at the Daniel Langlois Foundation in Montreal. Since 2002, she is based in the Netherlands where she has worked as a writer, project manager and researcher for organisations such as the Blender Foundation, ISEA (Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts), V2_, the Van Abbemuseum and others. From 2005-2008, she was content developer at, a partner initiative of the European Cultural Foundation. She is currently the director of BALTAN Laboratories in Eindhoven (NL). (

Joost Rekveld Joost Rekveld has been making abstract films and light installations since 1991, originally starting out from the idea of a visual music for the eye. He has been making most of his animated films with optical and mechanical setups, using the computer as a controller and composition machine in order to orchestrate the precise movements of optical components. His installation making grew out of the tools he developed to make his films, often inspired by the lesser frequented by-ways in the history of science and technology. His work so far has dealt with various forms of scanning, or with concepts related to the early history of optics and perspective. His interest in the spatial aspects of light triggered a shift away from the screen, towards more architectural and theatrical forms of work. At the moment he is becoming increasingly implicated in activities that resemble cybernetics, artificial life and robotic architecture. His films have been shown worldwide at a broad range of festivals and venues for experimental, animated or otherwise short films. He has collaborated on many theatre projects and as a curator he has put together numerous programmes on the history of abstract animation and light art. Since 2008 he is the head of the ArtScience Interfaculty of the Royal Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. (


The Future of the Lab

Edward A. Shanken Edward A. Shanken writes and teaches about the entwinement of art, science, and technology with a focus on interdisciplinary practices involving new media. He is Universitair Docent in New Media, University of Amsterdam, and a member of the Media Art History faculty at the Donau University in Krems, Austria. He was formerly Executive Director of the Information Science + Information Studies program at Duke University and Professor of Art History and Media Theory at Savannah College of Art and Design. Recent and forthcoming publications include essays on art and technology in the 1960s, systems aesthetics, interactivity and agency, sound and perception, and the cultural implications of cybernetics, robotics, computer networking, and biotechnology. He edited and wrote the introduction to a collection of essays by Roy Ascott, Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology and Consciousness (University of California Press, 2003). His critically praised survey, was published by Phaidon Press in 2009. (

Social Spaces Social Spaces is a research group at the Media & Design Academy department (KHLim) and the Arts & Architecture department (PHL). Social Spaces is based on three pillars: public space, social design, social media. The aim of the cross-disciplinary social spaces group is to set an art, design and theoretical context for experimental research which might lead to imaginative, practical and participatory solutions for different (sometimes neglected) groups and spaces in society. The ease of creating connections in a networked world provokes changes in many layers of society. We explore the social character of art, (new) media and design in this networked world. Social Spaces also explores public and semi-public spaces and questions how alternative media interfaces, participatory art and design practices, methods and tools can be of an aid in the construction of human relationships in these spaces. (

Contributors’ Bios


THE FUTURE OF THE LAB EXPERT MEETING PARTNERS The Future of the Lab [2009] was made possible thanks to the Mondriaan Foundation

In collaboration with:

Virtueel Platform is the sector institute for e-culture in the Netherlands. E-culture refers to the ever-evolving relationship between information and communication technologies and the production and consumption of culture and the arts. New media act as catalysts for change in the ways we live, work, and entertain ourselves. Culture and the arts are a key source of innovation in these shifts. Virtueel Platform believes e-culture can, in turn, make an essential contribution to social and economic innovation. By informing, facilitating and organising activities that bring together people from different sectors, Virtueel Platform hopes to promote and inspire knowledge exchange. In particular they strive to stimulate the dialogue on new developments between e-culture producers and policy makers and between cultural organisations themselves. They are an independent foundation subsidised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the Netherlands.

BAM is the Flemish institute for visual, audiovisual and media art. It functions as an independent organisation that provides information, and encourages development and networking - both within the visual arts fields and crossing boundaries into other disciplines. BAM encourages collaboration and exchange between Flemish organisations and institutions abroad and tries to increase the interest in and knowledge of the Flemish art scene abroad through an international communication and by organising a visitors programme for foreign art professionals. BAM is funded by the Flemish Community and is based in Ghent, Belgium. 118

The Future of the Lab


In 2018, the Netherlands will provide the Cultural Capital of Europe. That means that the city chosen will, throughout the year, offer a cultural programme that will attract visitors from all over Europe. Breda, Eindhoven, Helmond, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Tilburg and the surroundings (the province) join “together” as the candidate, 2018Brabant. Gaining the title will prove an enormous stimulus for the region. 2018Brabant is: - constantly revitalising itself into a multifaceted metropolis - full of ordinary people capable of doing extraordinary things - the sum of exceptional forces - capable of collaborating so that new, surprising products arise - full of Brabanders who look farther than municipal boundaries. Follow our candidacy at:

The Future of the Lab publication was launched on the occasion of ISEA2010 RUHR and the E-CULTURE FAIR 2010 Future of the Lab Partners 119


Ars Electronica Futurelab (Linz, Austria) - Horst Hörtner Since its very inception, Ars Electronica’s focus has been on the tension and interplay at the nexus of art, technology and society. Formulating and implementing the future manifestations of this interaction is the chosen mission of the Ars Electronica Futurelab. The approach to content and to doing a job that has been developed by the Futurelab, Ars Electronica’s media art R&D lab, brings together these two concepts in a single workplace that combines the analytical and experimental aspects of a laboratory with the artistry and creativity of an atelier. The result is a space in which the tone is set by activities of transdisciplinary teams and which, depending on the demands of a particular assignment, is continually being reconfigured as a lab-atelier or atelier-lab. Here, these two opposites blend into a way of approaching projects that is most decidedly different from classical working models. The conceptual core can be found in an artistic-creative way of dealing with substantial possibilities of interlinking technologies and content. This is the result of the diversity of the team members involved in and contributing knowhow to the particular project, and this diversity, in turn, brings forth, above all, synergies issuing from highly specialized hybrid disciplines including those leading-edge fields that have not yet gotten established in academia. BALTAN LABORATORIES (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) - Angela Plohman, Artistic board: Gideon Kiers, Marc Maurer, Geert Mul and Lucas van der Velden BALTAN is a laboratory in-the-making that provides space, a critical framework and support for the research and development of technological art. A pilot initiative located in the SWA building at the former Philips industrial terrain Strijp-S in Eindhoven (NL), BALTAN actively pursues new collaborations between disciplines and acts as a point of intersection for artists working with technology in Eindhoven and beyond. The pilot phase is intended to develop a Blueprint for the Laboratory of the Future in relation to the current state of technological art and culture, and the total context of BALTAN Laboratories (including its local, national and international context, history and peers). We are developing the blueprint through: • specific research projects in the field of art and technology, such as BALTAN’s Poeme Numerique project; • the investigation, further development and promotion of the art and technology lab concept through practice, specifically through our research on The Future of the Lab; • open and transparent dissemination and discussion of developed research, tools and knowledge; • the provision of facilities in Eindhoven for local and international creative practitioners to interact and create. 120

The Future of the Lab

CONSTANT (BRUSSELS, BELGIUM) - Wendy Van Wynsberghe Constant is a non-profit association, an interdisciplinary arts-lab based and active in Brussels since 1997. Constant works in-between media and art and is interested in the culture and ethics of the World Wide Web. The artistic practice of Constant is inspired by the way that technological infrastructures, data-exchange and software determine our daily life. Free software, copyright alternatives and (cyber)feminism are important threads running through the activities of Constant. Constant organises workshops, printparties, walks and ‘Verbindingen/Jonctions’-meetings on a regular basis for a public that’s into experiments, discussions and all kinds of exchanges. Culture Lab, Newcastle University (Newcastle, UNITED KINGDOM) -Atau Tanaka Culture Lab opened in 2006 with capital investment from the UK’s Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF), the first cultural venue to be funded in this way. Culture Lab is: • A centre for creative inquiry in the broadest sense of the term • A world class research facility for experimentation in interactive media • A hub, hosting and incubating interdisciplinary projects in art and technology • An actor in the regional cultural sector Facilities at Culture Lab include audio and video production studios, a large performance space with concert PA wired for surround, High Definition cinema projection and Vicon motion capture system, open space laboratory spaces, and a digital prototyping workshop consisting of 3D printer, laser cutter, and CNC milling machine. From 2009-14, on a major grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Culture Lab will host the Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy (SIDE) project. Dortmunder U - Centre for Art and Creativity (Dortmund, Germany) Andreas Broeckmann The former high-rise storage building of the Dortmund Union Brewery, the “Dortmund U”, was converted into the Dortmunder U – Centre for Art and Creativity (opened in May, 2010 in the context of the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010). The programme of the new centre combines the presentation, investigation and preservation of visual and media art of the 20th and 21st centuries, with the production, mediation, and education in different areas of art and creativity. It develops innovative concepts for cultural education in the digital age, and seeks to initiate partnerships between art and science, as well as cooperate with private and public actors in the creative industries. As a centre of international scope in the West-German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the “U” is a partner in regional and international projects and cooperates with comparable interdisciplinary institutions in other parts of the world. Internationally, the “U” symbolises innovative approaches to the relationship of art, research, cultural education, and business. It aims to be a site of research and learning, of experience and exchange about art, media, and contemporary culture, for all age groups and a variety of different constituencies. Initial partners of the “U” are the Museum Ostwall, the media art association hArtware, the University of Applied Arts Dortmund, and the Technical University Dortmund. FOAM (BRUSSELS, BELGIUM) - Nik Gaffney FoAM is a transdisciplinary laboratory and a research group committed to developing a holistic culture, by actively propagating resilient cultural forms. FoAM’s members include artists, gardeners, cooks, technologists, designers, writers and scientists from all walks of life. FoAM’s activities arise from the gaps between traditional disciplines, to Participating Labs


uncover and strengthen links & interdependencies between them. They include creative research initiatives & residencies, participatory workshops & seminars, open access publications & archiving. Our topics of interest range from food systems to human-plant interactions, include permaculture, mixed reality and everything in between. FoAM is dedicated to developing and supporting a community of generalists, people who live and work in the interstitial spaces between professional & cultural boundaries, operating under the motto “grow your own worlds”. iMAL center for digital cultures and technologies (BRUSSELS, BELGIUM) Yves Bernard iMAL (interactive Media Art Laboratory) is a non-profit association created in Brussels in 1999. In 2007, iMAL opened a new venue, a Center for Digital Cultures and Technology for the meeting of artistic, scientific and industrial innovations, a place dedicated to the contemporary artistic and cultural practices emerging from the fusion of computer, network and media. iMAL is: (1) a laboratory involved in international research projects and a research,experimentation & production workplace for artists in residence (2) an education centre which organises workshops targeted to creative people (artists, designers,developers) under the direction of leading international artists (3) an art&culture centre producing exhibitions (e.g. “Infiltrations Digitales”/2004, “Art+Game”/2006, “Holy Fire, art of the digital age”/2008), concerts, performances, conferences in order to create critical, interdisciplinary encounters at the intersection of art, science, technology and society. iShed (Bristol, United Kingdom) - Clare Reddington iShed is a Watershed venture to enable and support innovation and collaboration between computing, communications and the creative industries.iShed facilitates partnerships between industry, artists and creative companies identifying funding opportunities and supporting new ideas. Through events, networking, consultancy and projects, iShed gives people and ideas the time and space to develop, be explored, debated and delivered. iShed’s principal project is Media Sandbox, an annual investment scheme which enables companies to research emerging possibilities in interactive, digital media, create new ideas and deliver innovation to the market. In 2009, six awards were made to research projects exploring innovative, interactive multi-platform content. iShed also runs the Pervasive Media Studio, a collaboration between Watershed, HP Labs and the University of the West of England. Opened in 2008, the studio brings together the IT, communication and creative industries to pioneer new forms of digital media in an inspiring research and project development space. LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre (Gijon, Spain) Benjamin Weil, Lucia Garcia LABoral Art and Industrial Creation Centre is an exhibition centre for art, science, technology and advanced visual industries. But it is also a venue for artistic and technological production, research and training; and for the dissemination of new forms of art and industrial creation. To fulfill these goals, LABoral will be a space for exchange between different art disciplines; a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary centre and a dynamic environment for creators/works/researchers/teachers/audiences. LABoral aims to become an international reference for art, science and new technologies by encouraging the creation of highly qualified productions; foster international dialogue 122

The Future of the Lab

between creators, scientists and experts from varied origins; discover new values in art and industrial creativity (emerging and experimentation); promote interaction with wide audiences as well as a knowledge and appreciation of new trends in art, science and technology; project industrial art creation in Asturias and encourage its knowledge and appreciation in international art circuits, thus contributing to the creation of a cuttingedge and innovative image for Asturias. Le Laboratoire (Paris, France) - Caroline Naphegyi Le Laboratoire is an experimental art and design center located in the heart of Paris. Since opening to the public in 2007, Le Laboratoire has received international acclaim for the development and exhibition of cutting-edge art and design ideas at the frontier of contemporary science. These exhibitions are the outcome of “experiments”, lasting up to two years, which are driven by internationally renowned artists in collaboration with leading scientists. The principal of Le Laboratoire as an artscience catalyst for innovation is described in founder David A. Edwards’ recent book Artscience: Creativity in the postGoogle Generation (Harvard 2008), which draws on the experience of many contemporary innovators around the globe. LaMe (Laboratorio Medial) (Santiago, Chile) - Ignacio Nieto As an artist/researcher established in the city of Santiago of Chile, Ignacio Nieto has driven and developed several initiatives in the field of the new media. These initiatives included: Compiling material through interviews with investigative artists and realising a series of readings that derived in several publications about the topic in electronic and printed media; a series of seminars, readings and exhibitions that ended up in a publication; making a technical study to understand the platform which contains the artistic pieces on this area. In this stage, new programming languages, circuits and management of sensors with micro-controllers were learned; building up an independent media lab, and introducing the Scratch programming platform developed by the Scratch Lifelong Kindergarten group. A physical space is available for cultural and artistic diffusion in Santiago, called Matucana 100. The laboratory will be working until March of 2010, at which point it will be evaluated for further development. This media lab, named LaMe (Laboratorio Medial), already has several activities planned, including workshops, electronic music gigs and the production of art pieces. Using the Scratch programming platform, they plan to organise several workshops to introduce this platform and the chance to set it as a teaching methodology on a private school with special integration, Altamira, created by Fernando Flores. Both lines of production seeks to consolidate the research done during the last 10 years. Locus Sonus (Aix-en-Provence, France) - Peter Sinclair Locus Sonus is a research group specialized in audio art. It is organised as a post graduate lab by the Art Schools of Aix en Provence (ESAA) and Nice (ENSA Villa Arson) in the south of France. Locus Sonus is concerned with the innovative and transdisciplinary nature of audio art forms, in the framework of networked sonic spaces, some of which are experimented and evaluated in a lab type context. An important factor is with the collective or multi-user aspects inherent to many emerging audio practices and which necessitate working as a group. Two main thematic define this research - audio in it’s relation to space and networked audio systems. Today our research is grouped under two main headings Field Spatialization and Networked Sonic Spaces. Participating Labs


MAD (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) - René Paré The Foundation MAD is a platform and workshop for Emergent Art: art that exists in the exiting world between cultural and cutting edge technological developments. MAD emergent art center is laboratory, platform and provider on the intersection of art, science and technology. MAD addresses artists, designers, scientists, public groups, institutions, governments and businesses. This on regional as well as national and international level. Internet, broadband webcasting, networks and other ICT offer the possibility to represent interactive research, development, presentation, production, distributions, and discussions that are accessible for public. Activities are being developed in three levels: MADlab: laboratory for technology and art MADnet: platform for artists, scientists en technologists MADpub: presentation of emergent art Medialab Prado (Madrid, Spain) - Marcos García Medialab-Prado is a program of the Department of Arts of the City Council of Madrid, aimed at the production, research, and dissemination of digital culture and of the area where art, science, technology, and society intersect. Our primary objective is to create a structure where both research and production are processes permeable to user participation. To that end, Medialab-Prado offers: · A permanent information, reception, and meeting space attended by cultural mediators. · Open calls for the presentation of proposals and participation in the collaborative development of projects. There are several on-going programmes, which are as follows: • Interactivos?: creative uses of electronics and programming • research and reflections on the network culture • Visualizar: data visualization tools and strategies • Laboratorio del Procomún: trans-disciplinary discussion on the Commons • AVLAB: audio-visual and sound creation NIMk (Netherlands Media Arts Institute) (AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS) Annet Dekker, Annette Wolfsberger The Artist in Residence (AiR) programme at the Netherlands Media Art Institute supports the exploration and development of new work in digital/interactive/network media and technology-based arts practice. The residency is practice-based, providing time and resources to artists in a supportive environment in order to facilitate the development of new work, produced from an open source perspective. NIMk encourages a cross-disciplinary and experimental approach, and offers an open environment with feedback and support in technical, conceptual and presentation issues. For 2010/11, NIMk – together with aan – explores the media lab as a tool and method for (inter)national collaboration, and strives to facilitate longer-lasting residencies to provide time and space for ideas and concepts to develop. aan will organise a minimum of three residencies at NIMk which are supported by an international network of media arts organisations. The PatchingZone (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - Anne Nigten The Patchingzone is a transdisciplinary laboratory for innovation where Master, doctor, post-doc students and professionals from different backgrounds create meaningful content. In our laboratories the students and researchers work together, supervised by experts, on commissions with creative use of high-tech materials, digital media and / or 124

The Future of the Lab

information technology. The Patchingzone brings together people who are interested in building a shared practice. The participants come from a range of educational programs such as art schools, design schools, social and computer sciences, technical programs, and industry. The Patchingzone applies the ‘Processpatching’ approach that is defined by its initiator’s (Anne Nigten) PhD thesis, as it’s main methodology for creative research and development, and builds on the knowledge and expertise from the V2_Lab, the research and development department of V2_. Furthermore, we build on shared expertise from the network of collaborators and experts from the field. PikseL (Bergen, Norway) - Gisle Frøysland Piksel is a festival and community for artists and developers working with Free/Libre and Open Source audiovisual software, hardware and art. Organised in Bergen, Norway, it involves participants from more than a dozen countries exchanging ideas, coding, presenting art and software projects, doing workshops, performances and discussions on the aesthetics and politics of free and open source software. The development, and therefore use, of digital technology today is mainly controlled by multinational corporations. Despite the prospects of technology expanding the means of artistic expression, the commercial demands of the software industries severely limit them instead. Piksel is focusing on the open source movement as a strategy for regaining artistic control of the technology, but also a means to bring attention to the close connections between art, politics, technology and economy. RMIT University (Adelaide, AUstralia) - Melinda Rackham Melinda Rackham has engaged with sculptural, performative, distributed, emergent and responsive media artforms as an artist, critic, curator, consultant and cultural producer for twenty-five years. Her extensive knowledge of the many fields of new arts practcies is drawn from participation in the major international media art exhibitions and festivals either as an exhibiting Artist, a Jury or Selection committee member or a Conference presenter. Dr Rackham’s perspectives on emerging art practices appear in diverse academic and arts industry publications online and in print. Melinda was the first Curator of Networked Media at he Australian Centre for Moving Image, and in 2002 she established -empyre-, one of the world’s leading online critical media art theory forums. As Director of Australian Network for Art and Technology from 2005 till 2009 Melinda forged significant industry partnerships and elevated public engagement and critique of research and practice in art, science and new technologies. Currently Adjunct Professor at RMIT University, Dr Rackham’s focus is curating and writing on the emerging art and cultures manifesting across networked, responsive, biological, wearable and distributed practices and environments which impact on our everyday lives. SETUP (Medialab Utrecht) (Utrecht, The Netherlands) Levien Nordeman, Tijmen Schep Medialab Utrecht is an initiative of the, and Born Digital foundations ( Medialab Utrecht was recently renamed as SETUP. SETUP is Utrecht’s new platform for creation and innovation in the field of digital media. They organise a variety of events including meetings, workshops, exhibitions and parties for an audience of Facebook fans to media professionals, marketeers to artists.

Participating Labs


Swiss Artists in Labs Program (Zurich, Switzerland) - Irene Hediger The Swiss artists in labs Program is a collaboration between the Zurich University of the Arts, Institute for Cultural Studies in the Arts ICS and the Bundesamt für Kultur BAK. Many artists currently explore the scientific, technological and cultural developments of the 21st century and they are engaged in critical and ethical debates. The intention of the ail program is to share common goals, to broaden the dialogue, generate ideas and raise awareness of the contributions both artists and scientists can make to the larger challenges of our time. Providing a research environment where these experiments can take place makes all the difference. The ail co-operation with Swiss Science laboratories is a conscious attempt to encourage the development of the primary creative forces shared by both disciplines: the quest for interpretations of nature, matter and human desire as well as the interest to comprehend, explore, reveal, sustain, create and build. TIMELAB (Gent, Belgium) - Eva De Groote timelab is a new platform in Gent, a workplace for art, technology and society. timelab consists of a fabLab, an artists-in-residence programme, social research and gettogethers when artists, experts and other interested parties can meet, exchange ideas and find inspiration. Make it! Build it! Gent boasts Belgium’s first real public fabLab. It is part of the timelab. Anyone and everyone can come along to the Friday Open labDays to realise their very own designs. timelab also initiates technical research leading to new machines and new tools. fabCases The fabCases examine the social relevance of technology and the fabLab/timelab. The fabCases are part of wider research into developing a methodology about the relationship between the fabLab and timelab and its environment. Artists-in-residence timelab invites artists from diverse backgrounds to take part in a residential programme. For some the link with technology is all-important; others prefer to start from a contemplative standpoint about, for example, man and society. It’s all about the people In addition to the numerous get-togethers in the fabLab and a series of workshops, there is an annual summer camp, an intensive ten-day programme in the city for 12 artists from home and abroad. Every month timelab hosts the international network meeting Dorkbot, “people doing strange things with electricity”, where makers explain the technical aspects of their creations or research to a group of interested people. Finally, every year in early spring the timelab OPEN assesses the state of play. timelab is: Eva De Groote, Evi Swinnen, Kurt Stockman and Kurt Van Houtte. V2_Lab (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - Boris Debackere, Michel van Dartel V2_ is an interdisciplinary art institute doing research at the interface of art, technology and society. V2_ presents, produces, archives and publishes about art made with new technologies and encourages the debate on these issues. V2_ offers a platform where artists, scientists, developers of software and hardware, researchers and theorists from various disciplines can share their findings. V2_Lab offers technical and production support to artists working with new technologies. It is a place for aRt&D: artistic research and development. V2_Lab does research into new tools and forms of expression, in V2_’s projects, artists, technicians and scientists work together to develop technology for specific artistic projects. An artist-in-residence program is one means of achieving this. V2_Lab 126

The Future of the Lab

also develops generic technical solutions that are relevant to the fields of art and culture. The result are published and made available under open-source licenses whenever possible. To find out more about our artist-in-residence programme, Open Lab-opportunities, events and research topics, please visit Every other month, V2_ organises a public Test_Lab event, at which new developments at V2_lab are presented, tested and discussed along with related artistic, technological and theoretical research. VIRTUEEL PLATFORM (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) Annet Dekker, Annette Wolfsberger See FUTURE OF THE LAB PARTNERS, page 118. Waag Society (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) - Lucas Evers Waag Society develops creative technology for social innovation. The foundation researches, develops concepts, pilots and prototypes and acts as an intermediate between the arts, science and the media. Waag Society cooperates with cultural, public and private parties. Waag Society is housed in two historic monuments in Amsterdam, de Waag and Pakhuis de Zwijger. Waag Society was founded in 1996 by Caroline Nevejan and Marleen Stikker. Stikker initiated the Digital City, the first internet community in The Netherlands. It has developed into an interdisciplinary medialab, where besides research and development there is room for experiment with new technology, art and culture. Waag Society divides its activities in five social domains: Healthcare, Culture, Society (public domain), Education and Sustainability. Waag Society has a strong focus to to let user groups participate in internet, new media and technology that otherwise have limited access. Examples are The Storytable, a multimedia table for elderly people to share stories and Pilotus, a tool for mentally impaired people to communicate. In 2006, the new cultural hotspot Pakhuis de Zwijger was opened, a renovated warehouse in the former Amsterdam Dock area that houses Media Guild, an incubator for creative start-ups, the Creative Learning Lab and Fablab Amsterdam. Many of the projects of Waag Society found national and internal acclaim and were awarded over the years. WORM (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) - Hajo Doorn, Walter Langelaar We organise concerts, film screenings, workshops, master classes, festivals, exchanges and other events. Besides all this, we have a film workshop, a sound studio, a shop and an ultra fast digital platform (WORM.station). We stimulate and support several productions and products such as Dutch programmes on Dutch festivals and abroad plus a variety of media publications. We are active on the borderline of highbrow and lowbrow, popular and classical, new and old, analogue and digital, rancid and civilized: from idea to presentation or publication.

Participating Labs



Design Eric de Haas Typography Body & Headings: Flama Footnotes: Minion Paper Caxton 90 grms Royal print satin 80 grms Bookcover 250 grms

Concept BALTAN Laboratories Editing Clare Butcher, Angela Plohman Contributors Andreas Broeckmann Michel van Dartel Boris Debackere Eyal Fried Marcos Garcia Eva De Groote Nik Gaffney Horst HĂśrtner Catherine Lenoble Marc Maurer Anne Nigten Ignacio Nieto Levien Nordeman Angela Plohman Melinda Rackham Clare Reddington Joost Rekveld Edward A. Shanken Social Spaces Research Group, Media & Design Academy, Genk Lucas van der Velden Peter Westenberg 128

Translation (German to English) Dina Koschorreck Images Boudewijn Bollmann, Lithography and printing Lecturis, Eindhoven Publisher BALTAN Laboratories Postbus 4042 5604 EA Eindhoven E: Š BALTAN Laboratories, the authors, 2010

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. ISBN/EAN: 978-90-815830-1-5 The Future of the Lab

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.