It’s possible that scientists and artists may have one side of their brain more dominant than the other, with the broadly opposite characteristics of logic and creativity, but the best innovations in both fields tend to come from using the whole mind. In an attempt to instigate such mental dialogues between science and art, a new exhibition and laboratory space called the Lab Cambridge is opening up in Kendall Square in in Cambridge, Massachusetts, next year.
“Every exhibition will have an artist and a scientist coming together,” said Carrie Fitzsimmons, executive director of ArtScience Labs and director of Lab Cambridge, over the phone. “Kendall Square is near such a big scientific community with MIT and Harvard and all the biotech firms, but mostly no one know what’s going on inside these laboratories, and what we’re trying to do is open up this space for an open dialogue.”
The communal space for collaboration will be a stateside iteration of Le Laboratoire in Paris, both of which are the brainchilds of David Edwards, a Harvard professor and active entrepreneur, who will teach his Harvard class in the Lab Cambridge space. Both are also part of the ArtScience Labs “experiments in culture,” and Lab Cambridge in particular evolved from the three year experiment Edwards did at Harvard called the Laboratory that embodied similar experimentation between art and science.
The Paris center “where artists and designers experiment at frontiers of science” has included such projects as “The Olfactive Project” where artists, scientists, and designers are working on the idea of “Virtual Coffee” to experiment with creating an “electronic coffee odor” that can be sent around the world, caffeinating the mind as it travels; “Figure Studies” where artist David Michalek used HD video to do Muybridge-like studies on movement; and Cira Najle’s “Cummulus” installation of clouds on the ideas of atmosphere and water in the air. “With all the exhibitions in Paris, David’s been able to curate with the artist and the scientist a match where there’s interests from both,” Fitzsimmons said.
What will be in store with the Lab Cambridge, which will be located in Kendall Square, is yet to be seen, but the building’s plans from French designer Mathieu Lehanneuer and architectural firm Born Fenollosa Architects are curious and promising, including a space for exhibitions and an auditorium, as well as a store with innovative design items and a “WikiBar” cafe. Edwards will likely continue his indefatigable work with merging science and art, which he’s already done in things like the cross-disciplinary focus of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard and through the ArtScience Prize for, as you could guess, designs that mix art and science in an inventive way. By taking science out of its secluded lab and art out of its white wall gallery, hopefully this new venue will inspire new ideas on both. “Everything we do is about making these creative lab spaces, and this goes on many levels, whether it is curating the exact space or trying to help the aritst or scientist figure out where they really want to play or explore,” Fitzsimmons said. “There are no preconceived notions of the outcomes.”