Who are we?

Innovation as culture

David Edwards
Le Laboratoire, Paris
Harvard University, Cambridge

Labs are places of experience. We enter to explore. Each minute in a functioning lab is like a page of a smart novel that loses meaning without reference to what came before and is about to follow.

Art, like science, is such an experience, and, yet, we encounter art and science in our museums more frequently as outcome, as product – dug up, carved down, highly edited – that follows a mysterious process of creative thought and engagement.

Process, of course, is hard to define, to classify or to curate. It can seem beside the point. Sometimes, however, it is not. Occasionally, processes of exploration, discovery and innovation matter more than any result these processes ever produce. This seems increasingly the case in culture as in industry and society generally speaking. The pace of change in the “post-Google world” imparts transience to works of art, industry, research and social enterprise to the degree that results or products, as in the canonical research lab, appear mere points along a long and intriguingly winding curve. This curve, the engaging drama, has replaced the dots that make up the curve, the words and the clever sentences, as the predominant reference of value, and anything discrete and definitive seems increasingly suspect.

What is this creative process? As I argue elsewhere,[1] idea development in culture, industry, education and society can be conceived as a kind of experimentation, where the catalyst for change, for movement – for innovation – is a fusion of those creative processes we conventionally think of as art and as science. This fused process, what I call ‘artscience,’ is the basis of a new kind of culture center we have opened in central Paris.

Le Laboratoire, located in Paris’s first arrondissement, invites the public to experience the creative process that drives innovation and value in culture as in industry, society, and education as a fusion of art and of science producing tangible – if transient – art and design outcomes. These outcomes or “works-in-progress” result from experiments conceived of and led by leading international artists in collaboration with leading international scientists. Le Lab is a kind of off-Broadway, or pre-museum, aiming to catalyze change in culture, industry, society and education with partners who invest in the exploration process more decidedly than in the guarantee of any outcome this process might produce.