[-empyre-] the media lab environment

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Sat Aug 30 02:03:51 EST 2008

Hi Anna, and all:

to answer your question, briefly:

The exchange I mentioned was instigated in 2006:  i moderated an artist panel for  “This Secret Location,”  during In-Between Time Festival, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, 
and heard that some of the invited artists  (e.g.  Lynette Wallworth, George Poonkhin Khut, etc) were part of an exchange between Helen Cole at Arnolfini and Oz  (I believe Syndney's Performance  Space,directed by  Fiona Winning.  I can;'t find info on the Arnolfini website, so please check with the Performance Space.

thanks for your kind response to my short story about Interaktionslabor.  yes, we try to document everything and there are quite a few small films, showing how we operate,
and i have been showing these already at some occasions when i get invited to talk about alterntive media lab infrastructures and self-organisations; as you noted, we don;t get paid and so the work is a labor of love and also time consuming as we have no "admin staff' but are both participating artists and admin. 

Another issue, which i didn't address (and now that you mention SenseLab or Hexagram or other larger institutional venues one might consider, ZKM, or even ars electronica or also the kind of independent forum created by Jim Ruxton and his "Subtle Technologies"  event in Toronto) ..... is the relationshop of alternative media labs or "centers" and the universities.  I have a feeling Bill Simon, for example, thinks quite positively about the developments and tends to be upbeat about the potentials (and the benefits to younger reseaerchers who are involved in practice based research).... yet i am a bit more skeptical and we founded the Interaktionslabor in a small region  amonst our black mountains (slag heaps) (dreaming of becoming a little Banff although I admit i don't even know what Banff is like) and far away from any universities or art schools precisely because we wanted to work outside of academia and the restraints that exist there or the sometimes false (rhetorical) mergers arranged there like arranged marriages *(between arts and science). 
One of the composers who has participated in the Interaktionslabor recently wrote me:

>>One of the most interesting things I found on the foundation of the 
Interaktionslabor (2003) was the interaction between art, technique 
and science. I believe this is the most challenging issue we face on 
the artistic creation today. Even the university doesn't offer a 
structure for bringing artists, engineers and scientists to work 
together. What I observe is either a low level of technical knowledge 
(which is the case for some of the work developed at the 
Interaktionslabor) or a low level of artistic knowledge (which is 
case at most of the universities that have a program on arts and 

That last point could be contested, of course, but my desire was directed much more at the social, experiential and
spiritual side of the interaction that you responded to, a process of creation or investigation  n o t  driven by university research degree or
funding imperatives or audit targetings. 

The curatorial side of art/research is another point in question, and I am tempted to draw your attention to a case where (as so often) i think the
cart is put in front of the horse (how do you say it?")..... the upcoming :

The Art of Research: Research Narratives

Practice-led doctoral / post-doctoral exhibition and symposium
Chelsea College of Art and Design, London
28-30 October, 2008

One might ask, remembering the postings Marc has offered, what is the relationship between a gallery or independent organisation such as Furtherfield and, say, the Culture Lab up at Newcastle (part of the university) or the MIT Media lab or othe university-based labs  (Is SenseLab inside the university?).  How do galleries or labs that offer residencies and exhibition opportunities for emerging artists relate to, or negotiate, the discursive and research activities at universities (where,..... the "research narratives" often get written). Where do we read the research narratives of the independents?   Could a group such as Transmute (for a review of the book published after their successful work, see http://www.realtimearts.net/article/85/9037)  have completed their ambitious "Intimate Transactions" telepresence installation without the funding and logistics support of several universities down under? 

Other curartorial debates over the past months concerned the selection and programming of videodance, for example,  and prior to the  "screendance conference" at ADF (American Dance festival)  this summer Doug Rosenberg had solicited this debate on the MEDIA-ARTS-AND-DANCE at JISCMAIL.AC.UK list;  many responded in a spirited exchange of opinions on "Elitism in Media Arts and V_D Production."

Another effort I remember now (having attended a workshop at Chisenhale in London) was launched by a group of independent artists in 2005 with a focus on "Architecture of Interaction", trying through collective participating in a series of workshop to develop a kind of "toolkit" that can be useful to describe and compare the processes and effects of interactive work. (www.architectureofinteraction.net).  The last i heard was that AOI has now also published a book on the findings.

with regards
Johannes Birringer

-----Original Message-----
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au on behalf of Anna Munster
Sent: Fri 8/29/2008 12:22 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-]  the media lab environment
Hi Johannes and Marc and others - thanks very much for the great post  
about the work of your interaction media lab. I think what this really  
brings to the foreground are the questions of temporality and  
complexity and its relation to media/new media art and production. As  
you say, what you are doing is about interaction not interactivity as  
such (although this might be one interface).

The focus on technology per se ( interactivity, for example), feeds  
into a form of temporality which is immanent to contemporary techno- 
capitalism and its old historical roots in military research and the  
command-communications-control model- 'click-response' - which Paul  
Edwards has written so well about. Following that kind of trajectory -  
whether it is in terms of making an 'interactive artwork' or whether  
it is educating students/future artists/ workshop participants with a  
skill set for the 'industry' - always ends up locking one into a 'just- 
in-time' mode of producing, acting, consuming.

But as you have suggested 'interaction' is something entirely  
different...involving a complexity of elements -social, technical,  
local, regional, size etc. Dealing with this complex of elements, each  
with its own set of potentials and constraints, and then what the  
interactions of these bring to each other, is really time consuming!  
So I admire the fact that you have pursued such a project over a  
period of time and that each iteration you try to do something  
different and to take account of the differences and problems you  
encounter. It sounds really interesting and I hope that you eventually  
produce not only a manifesto but a kind of process documentation where  
we see these iterations emerge over time.

I think this kind of thinking and working is now moving through a  
number of different areas/labs etc that are not just confined to media  
art but often incorporate aspects of it. I am thinking here of the  
events that have been ongoing formations of the The Senselab (http://senselab.erinmanning.lunarpages.net/web-content/ 
), which is initiated by Brian Massumi, Erin Manning and others in  
Montreal. A kind of performance-media-thought space and event now  
going over a number of years that tries to do a kind of 'lab' thought  
experiment. Another place I believe this kind of process and thinking  
about the complexity of interaction takes place is at SIAL in  
Melbourne Australia (http://www.sial.rmit.edu.au/) where projects are  
iterated and allowed to emerge through difference and repetition.  
Actually I think this question of temporality feeds directly into the  
problem of sustainability...it might be that these kind of projects,  
labs, interactions end up being more sustainable (what do we mean by  
that? sustaining what? for me it's about sustaining the 'life' of  
thought, art, care, sociability) because they take the time to  

Johannes - could I ask you to give me a link for the Arnolfino project  
done in conjunction with Oz media centres? I wasn't aware of that.

The other thing you mention was a site that traces and links media  
labs/festivals etc . I am not aware of this outside people's blogs.  
But what a great idea! I may be working on a project next year that  
lends itself to doing something like that so I will let people know of  
its progress.


> net/empyre

Dr.Anna Munster
Senior Lecturer
School of Art History and Theory
College of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 259
NSW 2021
612 9385 0741 (tel)
612 9385 0615(fax)
a.munster at unsw.edu.au

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

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