The LACMA Launches a New Art and Technology Incubator

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

LACMAIt’s been said that true innovation happens at the intersection of two disciplines coming together to solve a problem or accomplish a task. In a pioneering exhibit almost fifty years ago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) launched its “Art and Technology” program. They’ve recently announced that they’re reviving the program in an exciting new format that’s sure to yield interesting collaborations.

The original 1966 “Art and Technology” program was created in response to early technology companies flourishing around LA. It was the brainchild of curator Maurice Tuchman and was highly influential. It paired some of the most brilliant minds in art and science to develop a deeper understanding of human perception.James Turrell and Robert Irwin's collaboration for the 1966 exhibit was groundbreakingAs the 50th anniversary approaches, the program is being relaunched as both an exhibit and as an incubator. The updated project features support and partnership from companies like Google, Accenture, and SpaceX.

The modern-day “Art and Technology” project will make its home at the Los Angeles County Museum’s newly upgraded Balch Research Library. For the duration of the program, the renovated library will be transformed into a unique lab-like setting designed to inspire innovation and collaboration among the artist and scientist teams. The space will be large enough for 15 teams to work together comfortably.Artists and scientists from the original 1966 projectPerhaps the most fascinating element of this project is its unpredictability. The artists and scientists will be spending their time brainstorming ideas from their respective disciplines and combining them in interesting ways, but the project goals and agenda are not set in stone. The free-flowing, unrestrictive nature of the program will serve as an incubator for potentially groundbreaking concepts. Open-ended collaboration is one of the unique elements that make the project interesting to watch. Both the general public and the museum staff are excited about what’s to come.Art & Technology lab at LACMAMichael Govan, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum recently commented on the program’s unique lack of structure, “The good thing about this project is that we don’t know where it’s going to go. Artists are always using technology as tools — you couldn’t have made a lot of Jeff Koons’s work in 1967. The interest on both sides is constantly bubbling and the question is whether a museum can serve as a forum for pulling it all together more formally. That’s what we’re going to find out.”

What guidelines have been provided suggest that the end projects will be both striking and relevant to our modern technological context. LACMA has stated that ideal projects for the laboratory will have a strong artistic component and integrate an emerging technology, such as digital arts, artificial intelligence, or mobile devices.James Turrell and Robert Irwin worked with the Garrett Corporation for the 1966 projectThe idea of creating space for collaboration across disciplines isn’t new. But doing so within the context of a museum is an interesting choice. Despite the corporate support, being housed within a museum gives the project an exploratory focus rather than a commercial one. Art and Technology will create the space for innovation to happen, and then the LACMA will exhibit it in a way that allows a broad audience to appreciate the impact of those collaborations. We’re excited to see the results of this bold experiment in organic entertainment design.

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