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The Lab

The Lab: Creativity and Culture

David Edwards
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Lab
    Book Description:

    The Lab explains the idea of the “culture lab,” Edwards’ concept for experimental art and design centers like those he recently founded in Paris and at Harvard. He presents the lab as a new kind of educational art studio based on a contemporary science lab model, and he shows how students learn by translating ideas alongside experienced creators by exhibiting risky experimental processes in gallery settings.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-05846-0
    Subjects: General Science, Art & Art History, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. 1 DREAMS
    (pp. 1-18)

    Dreaming compels the passion of children and visionaries alike. It is what allows us, at a young age, to imagine the long years of schooling and apprenticeship that lie ahead, without abandoning the optimism and curiosity of childhood. It is also what allows us to pursue ideas that no one else dares imagine, in the face of convention, institutional rigidity, and doubt.

    To dream is to believe in the possibility of experimentation. If we dream about swimming a great distance, we are not perfectly certain we can swim so far, not sure what obstacles we will face or how we...

    (pp. 19-46)

    A few years ago, Sian Ede announced in her wise bookArt & Sciencea phenomenon that was turning up in the mathematical, biological, physical, chemical, applied, and social sciences. Artists were exploring the meaning of scientific frontiers—sometimes working with scientists, sometimes working alone, and sometimes even looking like scientists themselves. More recently, Stephen Wilson’s bookArt & Science Now,with its catalog of contemporary artwork inspired by science and technology, has illustrated more visually where artists in the field have been going.

    What these artists do, and sometimes say, is enlivening the debate around creative process, even while...

    (pp. 47-76)

    The educational artscience lab engages high school and university students in experiential learning through the pursuit of innovative dreams. We call this organization the “idea translation lab.” As the broadest entry-point to the idea funnel, the idea translation lab helps students “learn to learn” in real-world settings while pursuing dreams at frontiers of knowledge. Student projects begin as “seed ideas” proposed by artists, designers, scientists, and entrepreneurs and evolve from there through student initiative and creativity into collaborative ventures in art or design, and often some form of lasting implementation in society.

    Learning by idea translation may appear to be...

  6. 4 CULTURE
    (pp. 77-104)

    In the cultural exhibition programs of the artscience labs in Dublin, London, and Paris, art is inseparable from the creative process. Works-in-progress exhibited in these and other contemporary art and design galleries may originate in educational projects and, later on, lead to commercial or humanitarian innovations. But the core value of cultural exhibition resides in the dialog it inspires around the creative process itself, whatever its origin and wherever it might lead. This proves equally attractive to experimental artists, such as those described in this chapter, and to visitors seeking more intimate and participatory cultural exchanges than are possible in...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 105-130)

    Following exhibition in Paris, works of art or design often spark further experimentation, reaching progressively larger publics through shows in galleries and museums around the world. Design exhibitions occasionally reveal commercial promise, too. And when they do, novel works of design may emerge through rapid prototyping, evolving through experimental development and early-stage sales in our translational change lab, the LaboGroup.

    The oddness of these pre-commercial ideas, their surprising associations with new ways of living, make them less bets on what is relevant today than guesses of what will be relevant tomorrow, and therefore fascinating grounds for experimental in quiry. The...

    (pp. 131-150)

    Self-interest can be a surprisingly social embrace. Even a miser, who worries about his money but knows that most of it will never serve him, is contemplating interests other than his own when he makes designs for his fortune long after he’s dead. We speak of “our” neighborhood, “our” city, “our” country, “our” culture, “our” world—and in speaking this way we map out a set of interests that reach well beyond our own.

    As Charles Sanders Peirce, the early twentieth-century logician, argues in hisChance, Love and Logic,logic anchors individual interest in a vast sea. We translate ideas...

    (pp. 151-176)

    We create best, and longest, when working with others who challenge, encourage, and generally help us better articulate and develop ideas. Dreaming with others, creators are less conscious of risk and freer to pursue avenues of in quiry that lead to surprising out comes.

    Creative bands are about as integral to the innovation model of artscience labs as they are to the design company Ideo, or to media organizations such as Google, the MIT Media Lab, and Ars Electronica Futurelab. All of these innovation organizations count on creative bands to accelerate the movement of ideas from conception to realization. In...

    (pp. 177-198)

    Drawn by the mystery and intellectual dynamism at the frontiers of science, artists and designers are expanding the innovation boundaries of the traditional science lab. Through experimentation, they merge artistic and sci en tific pro cesses in the same way that, in our own creative lives, we mix hypothesis with analysis, dreams with experimentation, when we translate any idea into an innovation.

    The artscience lab curates this richly unpredictable process and guides it along, ultimately achieving sustainability through the occasional spinoff of cultural, humanitarian, and commercial products or startup companies. By facilitating innovations and then handing them off when the...

  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 199-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-208)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)