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Bozar invites artists and innovators to shape the future together

Sep 10, 2017
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The cultural centre’s new Bozar Lab is bringing together experts from the creative industries and technology in an attempt to solve some of the challenges the world is facing, and to show it’s about a lot more than just fine art

One of Brussels’ best-known arts centre is looking for creative types and the scientifically minded to work on a new project that unites two communities who don’t often get the chance to collaborate.

Being launched this month, Bozar Lab is a new department that will bring together ideas from the arts, music, theatre and literature and combine them with new thinking in technology. It will do this by partnering creatives, cultural institutions and its own staff with start-ups, experts and researchers in the field of technology and innovation.

The aim is twofold. Firstly, the Lab will allow the museum’s staff to learn about ways in which new technology can benefit the centre, an institution with a formidable reputation but one that is associated with fine art.

Secondly, and more boldly, the initiative is seeking to create a dialogue between different sectors as a means of solving some of the modern world’s problems. “I hope the Lab will stimulate a creative reflection, to see where the future will lead us,” says Christophe De Jaeger, one of the co-ordinators behind the project. “We’re looking to solve creative problems.”

Creative reflection

As part of the Lab, Bozar has launched a residency programme with two open calls a year. Organisations can send proposals for projects, and successful submissions will be able to use the museum’s media lab to learn to use new technology and try out their experiments.

Some themes for the Bozar Lab to cover are already in the works and include the future of the media and smart cities. But the organisers will not be too prescriptive with the brief, De Jaeger insists. Although he cites books, debates and games as possible outcomes of the collaboration, he is hoping the scheme will attract ideas that are as innovative as possible.

As well as this programme, the Lab will host an exhibition space, welcoming works from specialised institutions around Belgium and Europe. This platform, the venue says, will “keenly focus on the role of arts as a catalyst for scientific and technological knowledge”.

It will also present artistic works that influence or change the way the public have looked at technology or the results of successful collaborative practices between researchers, the industry and the world of art and culture.

The Lab will open to the public on 14 September with a day-long line-up of debates and conversations that spans programmable cities, art-triggered start-ups and collaborative practice in the modern age.

Partially supported by European Union funds, Bozar Lab is fully in keeping with a new initiative launched last year by the European Commission’s digital arm, the Starts programme – science, technology and the arts. This programme highlights the creativity of artists as a major driver for innovation in the world of research and industry.

It’s part of a growing trend across Europe to focus on collaboration between the worlds of arts and technology.

Electric avenues

De Jaeger says the decision to create the department was inspired by a long line of illustrious institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Paris’ Centre Pompidou, which have also looked to broaden their visions to support technological innovations.

The opening of the Lab coincides with Bozar’s annual Electronic Arts Festival. Founded in 2011, the festival was the centre’s tentative first step in moving away from being solely a fine arts institution. “It’s since broadened its scope to include digital culture,” De Jaeger says.

Now in its sixth year, the festival, which has picked up plaudits along the way – last year it won tourism agency Visit Brussels’ “Evening Experience of the Year” award – will include the formal opening of Bozar Lab.

This year, the festival will welcome Oscar nominee Jóhann Jóhannsson, who recently composed the score for Blade Runner 2049, as its big-name musical guest. There will also be a tribute to David Bowie from American composer William Basinski and a performance by Japanese avant-garde artist Phew.

The festival will also welcome six female Belgian artists whose work is inspired by science and technology as part of the Tendencies exhibition, while the winners of this year’s Starts prize – connected to the EU initiative of the same name – will reveal their installations.

And it will of course also host the results of some of the interactions at Bozar Lab. De Jaeger says he sees the Lab as an extension of the creative and scientific fusion that the festival has always encouraged.

“It’s basically about allowing young people, hackers, researchers and artists to develop new projects together.”

Electronic Arts Festival, 14-30 September, Bozar, Rue Ravenstein 23, Brussels. Photo: In November, Bozar will display the results of the Generation Z challenge for young innovators, part of the new Bozar Lab

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