Le Laboratoire

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Le Laboratoire website

Le Laboratoire - Paris

Le Laboratoire is a contemporary art and design center in central Paris, where artists and designers experiment at frontiers of science. Exhibition of works-in-progress from these experiments are frequently first steps toward larger scale cultural humanitarian and commercial works of art and design.

WA|HH BY S+ARCK+EDWARDS exhibition at Le Laboratoire (2012).

ArtScience Labs represents an exciting international network of labs founded by Harvard professor David Edwards that aims to promote socially beneficial innovations through cultural experimentation at the frontiers of science. ArtScience Labs performs around fifty experiments annually to engage the creative minds of hundreds of students, artists, designers and scientists around the world, with innovative outcomes in education, industry, culture and society.

Aside from its innovative programs between artists and scientists, its mission has also a strong pedagogical component. The goal of a Laboratory is to experiment, to test, to innovate and to show the result of its researches. Le Laboratoire, takes this educational mission to heart, and allows students to immerge themselves in the heart of research and to become actor of innovation.
The experiences taking place at Le Laboratoire lead to a curatorial team based of students. Mediation is essential to the creation process of Le Laboratoire. The students are the interface between the artists, the scientists and the visitors who can learn about the creative concept of the space. The students are led to invest themselves into a project but also, with a public to whom they will present the project. This educational approach allows for a very motivated group of young people, able to share, transmit and explain the vision of the artists and the scientists.
In parallel, each summer Le Laboratoire hosts the Summer Innovation Workshops, which brings university and high school students from all horizons together. It is an important time for young artists or scientists to get the opportunity to think, develop and experiment their personal projects. This workshop, originally started with young high school and university students from Harvard University in Cambridge, USA and the Cloud Foundation in Boston, USA, has been grown tremendously, now to European schools, such as Strate College, ERG in Brussels , Centrale Paris, Paritech...
The students are actors of their own project. During the week, they experiment and test out their ideas in front of professionals, from the scientific, industrial, cultural and design world, while directed by Le Laboratoire and LaboGroup team.

The ArtScience Prize, already launched in Boston and Oklahoma in the United States, is also starting in Paris in the fall of 2010. Created thanks to the Orange France Telecom partnership, five teams of students from Engineering and Design schools will during one or two semesters, work and develop new ideas based on the theme of water. The Paris Tech Telecom schools, Paris Tech Mines, Centrale from Paris and Strate College, will – next to Orange Labs – work together during the 2010-2011 year, while orchestrated by Le Laboratoire and ArtScience Labs, which will culminate with a workshop in the summer of 2011 at Le Laboratoire. One project, selected by a jury will then travel and exhibited at Harvard University in the fall of 2011.
Other financial partners aside from Orange will allow the ArtScience Prize to develop its second edition in 2011-2012.


By David Edwards, founder of Le Laboratoire, Paris. Harvard University, Cambridge

"Labs are places of experience. We enter to explore. Each minute in a functioning lab is like a page of a smart novel that loses meaning without reference to what came before and is about to follow.
Art, like science, is such an experience, and, yet, we encounter art and science in our museums more frequently as outcome, as product – dug up, carved down, highly edited – that follows a mysterious process of creative thought and engagement.
Process, of course, is hard to define, to classify or to curate. It can seem beside the point. Sometimes, however, it is not. Occasionally, processes of exploration, discovery and innovation matter more than any result these processes ever produce. This seems increasingly the case in culture as in industry and society generally speaking. The pace of change in the “post-Google world” imparts transience to works of art, industry, research and social enterprise to the degree that results or products, as in the canonical research lab, appear mere points along a long and intriguingly winding curve. This curve, the engaging drama, has replaced the dots that make up the curve, the words and the clever sentences, as the predominant reference of value, and anything discrete and definitive seems increasingly suspect.
What is this creative process? As I argue elsewhere,[1] idea development in culture, industry, education and society can be conceived as a kind of experimentation, where the catalyst for change, for movement – for innovation – is a fusion of those creative processes we conventionally think of as art and as science. This fused process, what I call ‘artscience,’ is the basis of a new kind of culture center we have opened in central Paris.
Le Laboratoire, located in Paris’s first arrondissement, invites the public to experience the creative process that drives innovation and value in culture as in industry, society, and education as a fusion of art and of science producing tangible – if transient – art and design outcomes. These outcomes or “works-in-progress” result from experiments conceived of and led by leading international artists in collaboration with leading international scientists. Le Lab is a kind of off-Broadway, or pre-museum, aiming to catalyze change in culture, industry, society and education with partners who invest in the exploration process more decidedly than in the guarantee of any outcome this process might produce.
Works of art and design resulting from a confrontation with science, or at least with technology, fill art and science museums today. The works of art and design that result from experiments at a culture lab possess a narrower definition. At Le Laboratoire particularly we look for novel ideas of art and design that cannot be properly formulated without a sustained encounter with a pioneering edge of science. We then help broker encounters between artists and scientists that permit concrete idea formulation. Once ideas are formulated, we invest in development of the experimental projects that result. In this way, artscience, the process of creative thought that synthesizes esthetic and analytical methods, becomes a catalyst for innovation and the basis for partnership.
Innovation can occur in cultural, industrial, and humanitarian contexts. In a first culture experiment at Le Laboratoire, the French plastic artist Fabrice Hyber worked with the MIT scientist Robert Langer to explore the possibility of sharing the experience of being a stem cell that produces a neuron. Hyber came up with the idea that falling through a giant hourglass might produce an experience reflective of cellular division, the central process in neuronal production. He created several large inflatable hourglass objects, one through which the public could fall, with a mattress underneath. There were barrels of fermenting grapes and apples, which produced another sensory experience of cellular transformation, and a giant bubble-gum axon, which you could touch. The French designer Mathieu Lehanneur collaborated with me to design an object that would make plants ‘smarter.’ An air filter emerged, more efficient than anything tried with plants before, and later traveled to MOMA in New York for the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibit. In the spring of 2008 Popular Science selected Lehanneur’s filter as an “Invention of the Year.” The photographer James Nachtwey collaborated with the scientist Anne Goldfeld, co-founder of a major AIDS and TB clinic in Cambodia, and other medical scientists around the developing world. This led to a powerful photography exhibit within which 70 scientists from around the world gathered with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore a new collaborative pharmaceutical model for addressing the healthcare crisis in impoverished countries. The Michelin starred chef Thierry Marx collaborated with the colloid physicist Jerome Bibette to invent a new form of flavor encapsulation, while art and science students at Harvard University worked with me to invent a way of eating by aerosol.
In all this art, like science, was process, and outcome – whether contemporary art installation or industrial design object – remained unpredictable until the end. The outcome was not entirely beside the point, but it was less meaningful without reference to the experimental process that brought it about. It’s this experimental process I explore in the “Séguier Novels,” published with Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Beaux Arts de Paris, including Niche (2007) and the forthcoming Whiff (2008).


Image: WA|HH BY S+ARCK+EDWARDS exhibition at Le Laboratoire (2012). Credit: Nicolas Buisson