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Re: <nettime> closure of Media Lab Europe
daniel perlin on Sat, 22 Jan 2005 15:59:28 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> closure of Media Lab Europe


Although I am inclined to agree with many of the observations below, as they
are of course self-evident, I think that Jonah Brucker-Cohen has clearly
defined the major problem of media labs in general: isolation from local
production.

I have witnessed the dissolution of various programs and labs over the years
(STG at Brown was a personal example) and I have to confess that they all
seem to carry one thing in common: a difficulty in promoting their inclusion
within local communities, as well as a struggle with interdisciplinarity
within academic environments. This speaks to Ned Rossiter's desire for
self-sustainable operations based on relations between systems/modes of
production, but I also think it could speak to the invasion of private
capital into the academic/experimental environments (ala Eric Miller's
observations).

However, speaking from a position of privilege within an academic
environment steeped with corporate support (NYU, ITP), I can comfortably
claim that I feel little or no pressure to succumb to the monsters that feed
the machine within which I produce work. To the contrary, I feel a certain
pleasure at knowing that they (the Intels, Mattels etc.) feed artistic and
experimental production of ideas and media practices. ITP's survival, I
believe, is due in part to its location within a large community of
practicing artists and designers both within academia as well as, though not
limited to, 'outside' practicing communities. Its unique position as an
institution located in New York should not make it an exception to the norm,
as I believe that the model for a lab or program is one that consciously and
enthusiastically attempts to integrate itself into its local environment.

Media artists and theorists need to 'put themselves out there,' as this will
help assure funding as well as encourage local attendance and participation.
As Brucker-Cohen observes:

>In the end, MLE probably lost out more because of its failure to integrate
>more closely with local institutions, rather than any poor quality of
>research, etc...

At the risk of sounding redundant, I believe that a trojan horse strategy is
still possible if a grassroots base is established at a local level.
Corporations want to believe that they are disseminating their brand on the
local sphere, and what better way than through local forms of representation
being supported by the once hermetically sealed LAB. WHAT gets made can
certainly be a 'wolf in sheep's clothing' if done with local support, and
with the capital of a large institution, perhaps even a more effective
attack can be waged than a small scale intervention.

I realize that this carries with it naivete and a certain dated utopianism,
but the lab, I believe, should not fall the way of the '90's' as someone
mentioned, but needs to be refigured to hold itself responsible for the
communities within which it physically operates.

--daniel perlin


On 1/19/05 11:52 AM, "E. Miller" <subscriptionbox {AT} squishymedia.com> wrote:

> this is a great question.  and not just for tactical media; look at,
> say, the pharmaceutical industry (no hissing, please) where one could
> argue that the decades-long erosion of institutional support for
> longer-term research and the focus on short-term profits has resulted
> in a dysfunctional R&D environment -- profitable in the short term,
> but with a lack of new viable drugs in the pipeline.
 <...>


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