The End of the Media Lab as We Know It

Published on January 1st, 2011

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The production of artworks happens in different ways, from commissions, to workshops, to artist-in-residence programmes. In the past two decades we witnessed a change in the focus and structuring of the artist-in-residence model. Although artist-in-residence programmes vary from organisation to organisation, there is a general understanding that an artist-in-residence is provided with time and space, and sometimes funding, to work in the media lab.


by Annet Dekker
in: A Blueprint for a Lab of the Future, edited by Angela Plohman. Eindhoven: Baltan Laboratories, pp. 276-84.



This text is the result of several talks and discussions between producers and programmers of media labs in the Netherlands. Annet Dekker (coordinator of the artist in residence programme at the Netherlands Media Art Institute in Amsterdam,with Annette Wolfsberger) and Angela Plohman (director of Baltan Laboratories in Eindhoven) initiated these talks because while organising and experiencing the work in media labs over the years, they noticed a change in the functions of the lab, specifically in relation to the artist-in-residence programmes that most labs are running. The context in which they experienced this change was their own working field in the Netherlands.

They wanted to take a closer look at the artist-in-residence programme as a model, to see how this practice has changed and how it affects the roles of the media lab. The goal was not to follow one line of thinking or one person’s opinion, nor does this report exhaus- tively reflect the landscape of media labs out there and all of the different contexts in which they operate. Quite some research has been done regarding those topics. In other words, they are not aiming to present a generic methodology of media labs and their artist-in-residence programmes. What follows is foremost a reflection of a change that they witnessed in their own working field in the Netherlands.

This report would not have been possible without all of the managers of media labs that we know, experience, visit, engage,work and discuss with – in the past, the present and, hopefully, in the future. A large thank you goes to all who are setting up media labs and organising artist-in-residence programmes. Special thanks go to Floor van Spaendonck (now director Virtueel Platform and previously manager of De Waag Society lab) for providing space and drinks to discuss with others, Anne Nigten (now director of Patching Zone and previously manager of the V2_Lab), Robert van Heumen (musician and previously project manager of STEIM), Jonathan Reus (project manager, STEIM), Boris Debackere (current manager of V2_Lab), Lucas Evers (current manager of De Waag lab) for their feedback, and Annette Wolfsberger for her final comments.

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