Studiolab is a joint initiative of Edinburgh College of Art (eca) and the University of Edinburgh (UoE). Within eca, it integrates several Schools in particular, Drawing & Painting, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Furniture and Interior Design. It has developed out of the international Future Academy research project, supported by eca since 2002. Within the University of Edinburgh, the Studiolab links groups in the College of Science and Engineering, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Studiolab is first and foremost an interdisciplinary experiment and therefore is structured around an initial programme intended to help identify highpoints and problem areas in this collaboration between art, architecture, and science. The pilot programme has a series of aims and objectives, which include the development of proposals for post-graduate courses between eca and the UoE; innovative research that links aesthetic practice to architecture, informatics, digital and sound design; and feedback on the future use of the InSpace exhibition and research site currently under construction on Crichton Street in Edinburgh (date of completion July 2007).
Key to the success of this project is the Studiolab Microteam that is built up from an unconventional grouping of 15-20 postgraduate participants whose specialisations include Art; Architecture; Sculpture; Performance; Furniture and Interior Design Landscape Architecture; Informatics; Computational Linguistics and Speech Technology; Robotics; Artificial intelligence; Design and Digital Media; and Sound Design. The Microteam will work within an experimental and interdisciplinary framework, developing complimentary perspectives on the different research thematics, and working together with the Postgraduate Coordinators from eca and UoE. The Microteam will also address the public understanding of informatics and art and set up joint projects that go beyond the walls of both institutions with activities that engage with different sites in Scotland and abroad (e.g. field visits to Ghana, USA, Japan, India, or Australia).
Dr Graham Steel: Postdoctoral researcher, School of Informatics
Colin Fraser: PhD student, School of Informatics
Julia Martin: Artist and Landscape Architect, Post-graduate Art, Space & Nature, eca
Dermott McMeel: PhD student from School of Art, Culture and Environment (TBC).
Dr Clementine Deliss: Curator and Director, Future Academy; eca
Dr Jon Oberlander: Prof of Epistemics, School of Informatics and InSpace Vision sub-group
Dr John Lee: Cognitive Scientist, School of Arts, Culture and Environment
Studiolab Advisory Group:
Michael Fourman (Head, School of Informatics); Ian Howard (Principal, eca); Karen Forbes-Visser (Head of School, Drawing & Painting, eca); Alan Johnston (Reader eca, Art, Space & Nature); Eelco Hooftman (Architect; Reader eca, Art, Space & Nature); Douglas Gordon (Artist, Visiting Professor, eca); Neil Gillespie (Reiach and Hall Architects); Tony Kettle (RMJM International); Richard Brown (Research Artist In Residence, School of Informatics); Murdo Macdonald (University of Dundee, Dept of Scottish Art History); Angus McDonald (Head of School of Arts, Culture and Environment).
Studiolab combines the approach to enquiry offered by a fine art/design or architecture studio with that of a science laboratory. It asks students involved in the project to make proposals about what types of working environment they will need in the future, how flexible these should be and how their research might benefit from a range of professional and public dialogues.
1. Appleton Tower HQ: The main Studiolab space will be on the 6th floor of Appleton Tower, Crichton Street, where the current location of the School of Informatics is based. Offering an interim working environment for the Microteam, the HQ will be used as a studio space and for regular seminars and talks.
2. Web Environment: A web environment will be developed with a type of ‘dictionary’ or guidebook for informatics and art (WIKI) to understand how common words have different first interpretations within different communities, e.g. ‘agent’, ‘space’, ‘mobility’, ‘synaesthesia’. This virtual Studiolab will enable information to be captured as well as provide access to Studiolab from further afield. Studiolab will set up a Publishing Portal for recordings from Seminar Sessions, texts written and information produced through this new initiative between eca and the University, including earlier Future Academy research materials.
3. Mobile unit: Whilst working from the Studiolab HQ in Appleton Tower, participants will prepare proposals for temporary and mobile structures intended to take Studiolab into the open and test possibilities of engaging with different public environments in Edinburgh and beyond. These mobile and temporary structures (studio-pods; info-tents; sound-labs) will focus on interaction with communities and younger audiences in other parts of Scotland.
In addition, they will address professional questions relating to mobile studios within a changing global context, and the possibility of creating instrumented situations that enable forms of survival, research and production to take place with variable degrees of visibility. The final result will be a built mobile laboratory that will be exhibited in Edinburgh making a powerful visual statement on the experimental and innovative approach heralded by InSpace. It may also be shipped to Nicosia (Manifesta, autumn 2006) and tested out in 2007 in other transcontinental locations. Consultations with leading architects from Edinburgh e.g. Neil Gillespie (Reiach and Hall) and Eelco Hooftman (Grossmax) as well as artists and architects from outside Scotland will ensure high-level development of this mobile unit. To complement this collective research, Keith Winter, Postgraduate student, Architecture (ECA) will be devising a mobile library/studio as part of the Future Academy Studiolab.
The focus of this collaboration will be based on conceptual and practical notions of mobility including three key areas within a spectrum of possible interpretations:
The mobility of the individual: including Personal Area Networking, ‘smart’ clothing; and other forms of single person communications, to tie into changing concepts of the role and identity of arts practitioners and scientists.
The mobility of a building: introducing concepts of mobility into static built environments, using interactives, modular and ‘pure data’ technology, sound design and open source systems to bring the outside world into fixed locations. Taking the InSpace site as a case study for the future, different methods for instrumenting and activating the building will be investigated. Likewise, the HQ in Appleton Tower will reflect this experiment.
The mobility of physical displacement: to include both ideas and developments for a transportable and itinerant Studio-Lab unit and a critical investigation of the movement of people today and its connection to new technology and surveillance.
Future Library; Augmented Reality Studio Project
A composite team of Post-Graduates from all participating colleges will investigate and develop ideas and solutions to the question of the future library, including archiving and digital curation. Whereas the earlier research thematic relates to structures and forms of mobility, this investigation looks at content and thematics within aesthetic practice and informatics. Ultimately both courses will conclude through a joint presentation of their research and the work produced.
With ‘Future Library’, the question of a prospective knowledge base for the arts and sciences in the shape of a library, or information hub will be investigated critically by students from the art college and the university. This will require defining neighbourhoods between art and informatics, and developing a framework for use that leads into a virtual environment. With the input of Digital and Design Media, it will be possible to make use of ‘Infrar.Ed’ (INterconnected FReeworks ARtifacts Edinburgh), java-based archiving systems and actually produce an experimental web project including an innovative construct for communication and dialogue. This activity will involve pooling source images, reading materials, in particular articles, catalogue entries, and analyses of experiments from both art and science in order to build an unusual, eclectic and stimulating set of research materials for researchers and students. The library should be heterogeneous in its approach and include popular culture alongside relevant new writings from cognitive science, linguistics, architecture, and the arts. If possible it should include a translation programme to enable foreign texts to be accessible in different languages.The development of this augmented reality library will feed into the development of Studiolab and activate its publishing portal.
Studiolab can require highly advanced hardware, or can operate with more modest inter-relational forms of dialogue and interaction with different communities. By definition it acts between institutions and highlights their transformation and symbiosis, in our case, the art college (studio) and the university (laboratory).
A field trip during the first Pilot Year will greatly enhance the global framework of Studiolab combining both interdisciplinary questions with a response to internationalism. The global question cannot be underestimated: both the art college and the university play host to a culturally diverse group of students. The development of different empirical contexts from which to build a joint perspective may become a central methodological tool. For example, a joint project might engage with a series of specific locations and situations in Leith (Scotland), Kumasi (Ghana), Yamaguchi (Japan), Chicago (eca, USA), Melbourne (Australia), or Bangalore (India) where both the perception of the art establishment and the approach to informatics is put to the test and elaborated upon.
Dates for the field trip will be assessed; they may fall within the 2nd Semester, Easter period or summer 2006.
As a student-centred, research-led experimental platform, Studiolab will invite leading artists and scientists to discuss their work and collaborations across disciplinary fields, investigating a series of unresolved questions that affect artists, architects and scientists respectively. Studiolab Conversations will held once a month and will be open to all students and staff members of the art college and the university. In some cases, Studiolab Conversations may become public events, in particular when leading artists, architects and scientists present new work. All the Conversations will be recorded digitally and transmited on mp3 for Podcast. It may also be possible to use instrumented locations in Appleton Tower or elsewhere to transmit and record the sessions. The recorded Conversations will form part of Studiolab Library and Publishing Portal.
As far as possible, the talks should relate to unresolved questions or current predicaments in art and science rather than responding to a pre-determined teaching programme, or a safe middle ground.
Each session will involve:
1. Presentation of a case study in the form of a lecture, film or video screening, practical experiment, web-relay, or performance, followed by:
2. Debate and analyses with students and respondents from the art college and the university respectively;
3. Drinks and informal discussion. These drinks will be funded by a ‘Conviviality Kitty’ that will be set up after the first Seminar meeting.
Suggested guest artists:
Suggested guest scientists:
Guest Scientists: Ina Blom (Associate Professor, Department of Hermenutics and Art History, Univ. of Oslo); Peter Buneman; Simon Kirby; Garnet Hertz; Philip Koehn; Rob Proctor; Kevin O’Regan; Steve Renals; Graham Steel (School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh); Robin Williams (Director of Research Centre of Social Sciences); Barbara Webb; Geraint Wiggins; Guest teacher from a Koranic School in Edinburgh;
Conversation topics that will be raised in the talks and question time:
On-line recommendation systems, like Amazon, help us find things we didn’t even know we wanted, because such systems can tell who we are like (even if they can’t tell who we are). How has recent legislation in areas such as copyright and counter-terrorism impacted on the need to maintain separate identities? Is there such a thing as covert research and who needs it? To what degree can one subvert surveillance and personalisation technology, and does it supply forms and methods for changing one’s identity for different purposes? What is the relationship between multiple identities and facets of mobility in a global context? Are artists and scientists so very different?
Informatics research products help people collaborate across time and space; but informatics also studies how relationships change and practices evolve. What is the time span of a professional relationship? How does technology affect our concepts of human contact does disembodiment erode societies or reinforce them? What is social informatics? How do we deal with the aftermath of events, exhibitions, conferences, and research collaborations? Are we looking at creating new interdisciplinary networks, ‘families’, and symbioses within art, architecture and science that require us to redefine temporal human relationships?
What is the relationship between translation and new ideas and production? Can translation between representations and systems of representation be automated, or is there always a vital spark of creativity, intentionality and subjectivity? Is imitation and transformation between disciplines and art forms always second-best, compared with learning and experimentation within a discipline or art form? Do new ideas and production in art need to be visual and visible in order to be recognised as art or is ‘creativity’ a ubiquitous process of translation? What distinguishes information processing that involves translation from that which does not?
The power of the human mind is hugely extended by our memory devices, from oral narratives to books to PDAs to the Web. What new effective mnemonic devices are emerging in art and science? What happens when ephemeral conversations are captured and made permanent and accessible? Are we too easily impressed by the apparent objectivity of recorded data, as opposed to the apparent subjectivity of an oral approach to memory? How can we build an archive for the future to include digital curation and new forms of knowledge production in a global context? What can a focus on spoken communication provide in a visually dominated context? How does architecture construct memories? How is memory distorted or extended through media?
What are the limits of sensory and cognitive perception as we understand them today? Going beyond the usual five human senses, should we add temperature, pain, kinaesthesia, proprioception, and more? New technologies augment our existing senses still further; the complexity of our “normal” sensory world seems to be increasing all the time. How do we cope with the senses, organise them, classify them, arrange them, and even create buildings for them? Then there are altered states of consciousness, such as delirium and feelings of immersion in virtual worlds. What defines today’s experience of ecstasy and delirium, and does art play a greater or a lesser role than science in exploring the limits of normal experience? How plastic is perception, and how do informatics and art respectively understand and exploit cross-modal perception?
Animals and living organisms—including humans—play a central role in the development of ideas and products in both art and science. Absolute distinctions no longer seem appropriate, whether between the human and the animal, between the cognitive and the emotional, or between human language and animal communication. Why do we always come back to the animal world, and how have artists engaged with animals? How important is understanding animal intelligence to the development human-like Artificial Intelligence? Why should linguists study birdsong? A dual presentation of the reference and implementation of animals, insects, and humans in art and in informatics, robotics, and neuro-modelling.
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