Please introduce yourselves for our Korean readers.

LAb[au], laboratory for architecture and urbanism, is a studio based in Brussels, Belgium, which has been founded in 1997. The studio name - LAb[au] - merges a phonetic and a written meaning; that of the French pronunciation 'labo' and that of the German word 'bau'. This refers to its experimental and theoretical approach - the one of a lab - and the one of construction - bau - of projects. Further, our name inhabits a reference to the 1920's Bauhaus movement which plays an important role in our own artistic approach and understanding. The Bauhaus stands for a place examining the influence of the industrial revolution in the forms, methods and content of art. We nowadays face similar questions according to an information revolution. With this preoccupation in mind, we realize our installations, sculptures and artworks are all located in the crossing between architecture, light and kinetics. The projects of LAb[au] deal with processes and systems based on different rules. The setting of these rules becomes the major artistic act that defines the content and message of the artwork. It's the conception of art as a system; it's systems art.


We understand that you wish to use technology creatively in order to make new meanings. Can you explain the philosophy behind LAb[au]?

The architectural background of the three members of LAb[au] is present in our artistic work. Our projects relay a strong architectural thinking. Even if the question of space is a central one in architecture, it's not its exclusivity, but involves all artistic fields in the exploration of how we perceive and conceive space. We qualify this relation as: from sense (perception) to sense (cognition). This notion is a central topic in the studio's discourse; mostly when looking from a technological perspective considering the changes, technologies operate on questions of representation as on aesthetic issues such as 'the sensual'. In this manner we approach art as a media comparable to the 'art concrete' movement, which deals with the specificities of a medium, its parameters, codes, perception modalities and places them right into the centre of the artistic investigation.

Besides this general positioning of our work, our approach is grounded on a highly conceptual and methodological thinking, which can best be described as systems art. Our projects are characterised by the setting of processes and systems in the elaboration, realisation and in its final state of a project; consequently their inherent rules - the setting - become an important part of our artistic quest. Our projects thus can be understood by the systems such as generative, reactive, interactive ... and its 'rules' they are based upon.

Another reading of our projects is the one of 'concepts'. The 'concepts' are ideas which appear currently in our projects and they reflect a more personal interest. For example, a project like 'binary waves' is based on the measurement of the electromagnetic fields of its surroundings. The captured data drives the kinetic behaviour of the installation as much as it influences its illumination. In this manner, the reactive system mirrors the activity of its surroundings and reveals an existing invisible layer of our contemporary urban space. This relation between urban flows (FLUX) and a kinetic light (LUX) installation is based upon on a concept which we call 'fLUX'. For us it is important to mention that the installation is not a visualisation of the captured data, but uses this data like matter to construct its own kinetic-luminous space.

Our work can also be read by 'subjects'; they focus on elementary questions of art and aesthetics such as colour, form and light. These 'subjects' cross the entire history of art and the way artists deal with these topics allow us to discover the preoccupation of an era.. This formalistic and conceptual thinking about art follows the tradition of systems and 'concrete' art. This allows us to better understand the way we think about the relation between art and technology; our work is not grounded in the development of technology, but in contrary shows that technology allows us to conceptualise these 'subjects' today. For example, smart materials transform our understanding of the relationship between matter and form just as algorithmic morphogenesis and digital fabrication does. The main question here is: how we can give these technologies and the possibilities they offer a deeper meaning?


Where do you find your inspiration?

There are two major sources of inspiration: the first one derives directly from our work methodology and the other is our reading of the 20's century avant-garde.

Our methodology is defined by the crossing of three major conceptual axes: by systems, by concepts and by subjects. They not only form a grid which structures our ideas, but also allow us to conceive new projects. For example, what would be a reactive project which is based on the concept of fLUX and uses color? Voila. A frame of a new project is set.

Now the question is: how do we constitute the different elements of the grid? The first step was to analyze the role of technology in the conception, production and actual state of the project. This analysis resulted in our evaluation of our projects by systems, consequently we don't think in terms of digital, multi or mixed media/technology; we think in terms of processes and systems. This allows us to conceptualize rather the project than the technology. From a practical point of view, we develop and realize everything in-house, since we want to better understand technology - not because it's technology - but because we want to master it in a creative and controlled manner.

The two other conceptual axes we cross in our methodology 'concepts' and 'subjects' are directly derive from our reflections about art and architecture. Throughout this approach we try to situate our work in an artistic discourse. For example the concept of fLUX is the result of our architectural and urban projects dealing with questions of congestion. Cities always have been built in close relation with the notion of flows, whether it is natural flows of water, economic, cultural or infrastructural ones, they all shape our living environment. Nowadays information and communication flows transform our cities in the same way that trains and cars transformed the mediaeval city maze. This general reflection about flows and the city motivated the project 'binary waves' and led to the concept fLUX, which now is one of our 10 concepts we recurrently are working on.


What is the most necessary element or issue for making technology move your audience?

The power of art is that it establishes its own modality of perception; it can't be described by words or be understood through discourse alone. It has to move us on a deeper, 'sens-ual' level; to stimulate us as much on a perceptive as on a meaningful level. To be able doing so art must mirror and express its time not only because it uses the means and tools available, but because art gives them a deeper meaning and signification beyond their function. I think art mainly acts on this semantic and esthetic level, this meta-level fills the gap that technology very often places between us and the world.


What are your thoughts on the development of technology and art?

Art always has been closely related to the technological developments of its time, whether it is on a philosophical, aesthetic, social, political, scientific... level. Triggered by technological advances, new codes (semantics) and methods (practice) appear to be revealed by the term that is used to qualify them. For example, the word 'design' surfaced during the industrial revolution. The emergence of the concept of 'design' around the Bauhaus, and in particular El Lissitzky, had the intended purpose of qualifying artistic concerns in relation to the technological and social changes in order to reintroduce them in the concept of art itself.

"...the meaning of all media is the experience of using these extensions of yourself. Meaning is not 'content' but an active relationship" (1971 Marshall McLuhan)

'Meaning' not only indicates the significance of something to us, but also our intention toward it. In the case of the Bauhaus, this widens the understanding of the aims pursued in the definition of new concepts and methods in relation to the ongoing social and cultural processes. From this point of view you can understand our view on the relation between art and technology. It is the artist who can give a deeper meaning, or in other words and related to the example of the Bauhaus, its members shaped the 20th century's and this not only on an esthetic and artistic level.


And lastly, for those that are creating art through the use of technology here in Korea, any suggestions or concerns?

From our point of view artists should think about art, they are not scientists and developers who create new technologies and also they are not test dummies. Art should reflect its time and our time is evidently grounded on technology so one might have to think, conceptualize and use technology in a creative and meaningful manner, in order to create signs of its time.


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