Artists in labs, tech industries, or science agencies

The Art and Technology exhibition began as a “brave experiment.” The show, on view at LACMA from May 16 to August 29, 1971, was almost a by-product, and not the initial goal, of the project developed by the museum’s staff beginning in 1967, when senior curator of modern art Maurice Tuchman posed these questions: What if artists had access to the materials, expertise, and manufacturing processes of the day’s most advanced technologies? What if they were free to experiment with these materials and processes, and what if they could collaborate with the engineers and corporations who had developed them? –Kathy Talley-Jones on the Art & Technology program at LACMA

Based on my previous entry, I’m assembling a chronological list of artist-in-residence, or placement programs that invited artists to develop their work in partnership with labs, tech industries, or science agencies. Unlike permanent staff or consultants, in these instances artists were granted temporary access to a non-art field or were paired with a non-art professional, with varying goals– from bridging the two cultures of art and science to inspiring innovation through cross-disciplinary inquiry (or simply to illustrate and popularize science or technology, as in the case of NASA Art Program). This is a work-in-progress, and I welcome your shout outs.

Chronology of Artists in labs, tech industries, or science agencies (in progress)


• NASA Art Program: The NASA Art Program was established in 1962 by the United States to commission artists, including Norman Rockwell and Robert Rauschenberg, for the purpose of recording history of space exploration through the eyes of artists. Using artist of different mediums and genres serves the purpose of educating different audiences about NASA and space exploration. The collection now includes 2,500 works by more than 350 artists. (Wikipedia)


• Bell Laboratories: Bell Laboratories started an informal artist in residence program that evolved into the greatest art in technology programs in the country. It started with the beginnings of computer graphics, such as Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon’s Computer-generated “Nude” that processed a canned photograph by Max Mathews into a series of gray levels represented by mathematical and electronic symbols. Because of the incredible freedom at Bell Labs at the time, researchers were able to invite artists to collaborate and work with this new computerized imaging. Jerry Spivack, a pioneer in interactive graphics says, “We were in the privileged position back in the ’60s of being considered a national resource and an untouched monopoly. We had a freedom that few places had.” In 1963 Knowlton developed the Beflix (Bell Flicks) animation system, which was used to produce dozens of animated films with artists like Stan VanDerBeek and Lillian Schwartz. From www.bostoncyberarts.com


• Artist Placement Group (APG): Founded in London by John Latham and Barbara Steveni, the APG “pioneered the concept of art in the social context. From the outset their notion of ‘placement’ acknowledged the marginalised position of the artist and sought to improve the situation. By enabling artists to engage actively in non-art environments, the APG shifted the function of art towards ‘decision-making’.” From www.tate.org.uk

• Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.): “Founded in 1966 [in New York] by Billy Klüver, Fred Waldhauer, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman, E.A.T. was a non-profit group active primarily from the 1960s to the 1980s. Its aim: to mobilize the arts, industry and science around projects that involved participants from each field. E.A.T. promoted interdisciplinary collaborations through a program pairing artists and engineers.” From www.fondation-langlois.org


James Turrell & Robert Irwin were in residence at Garrett Corporation as part of LACMA's Art & Technology program

James Turrell & Robert Irwin were in residence with Garrett Corporation as part of LACMA's Art & Technology program

• Art and Technology: “In 1966, Maurice Tuchman, curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, California, introduced the Art and Technology (A&T) program. The mandate of this project, which was peripheral to the museum’s activities, was to promote an exchange between artists and the corporate world. Tuchman selected California companies capable of supporting art projects, either by contributing financially to the museum or by providing technical expertise, and in 1967 the museum’s corporate partnership proposal was officially launched to 250 companies.” From www.fondation-langlois.org

• IBM: John Whitney becomes IBM’s first artist-in-residence.


• Arts/INDUSTRY – John Michael Kohler Arts Center
The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is notable for its arts/industry program, the primary component of which is a residency program at Kohler Company. Artists have the opportunity to spend two to six months creating works of art utilizing industrial materials and equipment. (Wikipedia)


• ANAT: Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT) supports artists and creative practitioners engaging with science and technology, within Australia and beyond, including immersive residencies.


Interval Research Corporation: Founded in 1992 by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., and David Liddle, a computer industry veteran with deep roots in research, Interval was a research setting “seeking to define the issues, map out the concepts and create the technology that will be important in the future.”  Intervals “think tank” included filmmakers, designers, musicians, cognitive psychologists, artists, computer scientists, journalists, entrepreneurs, engineers and software developers. The company also collaborates with other research groups and university laboratories, including the Royal College of Art, the MIT Media Lab, the Santa Fe Institute and Stanford University and many others.


• XEROX PARC Artist-in-residence program: Established by Xerox PARC leader John Seely Brown and run by Rich Gold, a former Mattel toy designer, the PAIR program paired new media artists with Xerox engineers.


• Factory Direct: New Haven: Factory Direct: New Haven was organized by Denise Markonish and paired 10 artists with manufacturing companies for 3 to 12 weeks, and exhibited the results at Artspace in New Haven, CT.


• Artists in Labs (AIL): Artists in Labs is a Swiss partnership between the Zurich University of the Arts, the Institute of Cultural Studies (ICS) and the Bundesamt für Kultur BAK. The AIL programme aims to promote knowledge transfer between artists and scientists, reflecting on the implications of technological developments towards the society, encourage Swiss artists to acquire technical and scientific expertise and to mediate art and science into the public domain.

    3 Responses to “Artists in labs, tech industries, or science agencies”

    1. gordon knox says:

      Fantastic list! Keep me posted on your work ..

      Also 2007 Montalvo Art Center’s pairing of artist with Silicon Valley corporations, including the Golden Nica Award wining Park View Hotel project. Short blurb on the series by Forbes here: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2008/0407/052.html

    2. Andrea says:

      Thanks, Gordon!

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