Future Academy Studiolab

A new art and science initiative created by Future Academy at Edinburgh College of Art and the University of Edinburgh


Prepared by Dr Clementine Deliss, Future Academy, eca

September 2005/3

1. Introduction

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).

2. Studiolab Participants

Studiolab Microteam:

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).

Postgraduate Coordinators:

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).

Studiolab Directors:

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).

3. Studiolab Working Environments: research and interface

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.

4. Research Thematics


Autumn 2005:

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

Spring 2006:

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.

5. Developing international empirical contexts for Studiolab

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.

6.  Studiolab Conversations Series

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:

Conversation topics that will be raised in the talks and question time:

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