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Leonardo/ISAST "Arts Lab" Report Released
for Community Discussion and Debate

A study released today proposes innovative new approaches and models for art and technology institutions. The study, sponsored by Leonardo/ISAST and funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, assesses the current international landscape, lessons learned from recent programs, and new opportunities that would allow art and technology development in a viable and sustainable way.

"Arts Lab," proposes a unique hybrid art center and research lab designed to be "fast, competitive, market-savvy, and not-for-profit." Its goal is to be financially sustainable with little compromise of artistic or research values. "Can it work?" asks the Arts Lab website, where researchers and students have been accumulating data since last September.

"Almost" answers project director Michael Naimark. "Several unique opportunities exist for supporting tech-based art, such as commercializing invention and tapping a new generation of sponsors and collectors," Naimark explains. "But having art and research 100% dependent on the commercial marketplace misses even larger opportunities. There are examples in Europe, Japan and Canada where a dose of public or not-for-profit support leverages more ambitious things to happen, both culturally and commercially. Almost nothing like these exist for tech-based art in the US."

Naimark, who spent 7 months last year in Japan, has since visited eight European cities plus several in Canada and the US to visit art centers with an interest in technology and research labs with an interest in art. "They come from different pasts and have different cultures," he said. "Also, these are particularly challenging times in terms of the economy. Everyone seems excited about the future but uncertain about the present."

"We've decided to make Naimark's report available online immediately," says Leonardo Executive Editor Roger Malina. "It's very timely, and we feel this is the time to rethink what works and what doesn¬&Mac185;t. This report will encourage healthy discussion and debate. Naimark has written it from the perspective of an artist and researcher who has worked within several of the key institutions in the field. His conclusions are based on this experience."

"This isn't what I normally do. I'm a trenches guy," admits Naimark.

"Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Money: Technology-Based Art and the Dynamics of Sustainability," a 40 page report, is now available at http://www.artslab.net.

Leonardo/ISAST promotes the work of artists involved in contemporary science and technology and seeks to stimulate innovative work between artists, scientists and engineers. Leonardo Publications are published in partnership with MIT Press. For further information, please see http://leonardo.info.


PRESS RELEASE 15 July 2002

Leonardo/ISAST Investigates Sustainable
Art and Technology Research Lab

Leonardo/ISAST, the foremost international organization for art, science and technology, announced today that it has received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to study the feasibility of a hybrid art center and research lab structured to be financially sustainable.

The project, called "Arts Lab," is an attempt to build a bridge between the creative community exploring new technologies and the marketplace. Arts Lab would be structured as a not-for-profit corporation and managed with the discipline of a commercial enterprise. The goal is to be sustainable with little compromise of artistic or research values.

"Artists working with science and new technologies are often required to innovate and invent," notes Leonardo/ISAST Executive Director Roger Malina. "Their choice is too often limited to the under-funded world of non-profit institutions or the for-profit world with its short term and profit focus. Yet scientists have learned successfully how to couple their work in Academia with involvement in the commercial world. We think there is a niche for artists also that straddles the non-profit/for-profit worlds. This will require innovative strategic alliances and hybrid environments. This study hopes to learn from the recent experiments in art/technology labs to propose new models."

Arts Lab will be directed by veteran media artist and researcher Michael Naimark, says Malina. "Michael has had over two decades of experience seamlessly moving between the not-for-profit arts world and the corporate research world. He speaks both languages."

Naimark's specialty is what he calls "place representation and its consequences." His art projects, often involving unconventional field cinematography, interactivity, and immersive projection, have been exhibited internationally.

Naimark was also on the original design team of the MIT Media Lab in 1980. Since then he was a founding member of the Atari Research Lab, the Apple Multimedia Lab, Lucasfilm Interactive (now Lucas Learning), and Interval Research Corporation.

Interval Research, which began in 1992 with $100 million investment from billionaire Paul Allen, was a Silicon Valley research lab known for its long-term view, its well-funded projects, and an emphasis on a diverse creative research community. At the close of Interval in 2000, over 140 patents had been filed, whose value, many believe, at least approximate his investment.

"It was the Interval Research experience that compelled me to 'go meta' and look at the bigger picture of how high tech art fits into the world at large," says Naimark.

"It's tempting to speculate," continues Naimark, "that many people in the creative community may embrace a connection to the marketplace if they knew the motivation was deeper than simply maximizing profit."

The Arts Lab project officially begins in September 2002 with the Rockefeller-supported feasibility study. The study will appear in Leonardo journal, a branch of Leonardo/ISAST published by MIT Press, in late 2003. The report will also study potential sites for the Arts Lab, including an evaluation of San Francisco's Presidio, the former U.S. Army base turned national park, which is under government charter to be financially self-sufficient by 2013. The Arts Lab itself is expected to open by 2004.

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Updated 19 September 2006

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