[International Space Station] Serpentine Galleries’s Arts Technologies——The R&D Platform


Championing new ideas in contemporary art since 1970, the Serpentine has presented pioneering exhibitions for half a century from a wide range of emerging practitioners to the most internationally recognised artists of our time. Across two sites only 5 minutes apart, in London’s Kensington Gardens, the Serpentine Galleries present a year-round, free programme of exhibitions, education, live events and technological innovation, in the park and beyond.

2020 marks the galleries’ 50th anniversary, which looks to the future with a programme responding to the urgent issues of today. Key themes include ecology and the climate emergency, equality and education, architecture and the impact of digital and new technologies.

The Arts Technologies programme at the Serpentine Galleries proposes critical and interdisciplinary perspectives on advanced technologies through artistic interventions.

Challenging and reshaping the role that technologies can play in culture and society is part of the Serpentine’s commitment to supporting new artistic experiments at what has now become a historical intersection. The programme initiates and supports artists in developing ambitious artworks that deploy advanced technologies as a medium, tool or topic, often operating beyond gallery walls.


Future Art Ecosystems

The foundation of the Arts Technologies programme is located in an evolving R&D Platform that supports the development of infrastructures for ongoing artistic exploration and interrogation of advanced and emerging technologies.

The Serpentine’s Research and Development Platform is a space where the institution’s ‘back-end’ (operations, protocols, in-built values) and ‘front-end’ (what it produces) are brought into experimental realignments. In today’s environment of hyper-production and accelerated change, arts organisations are in need of a reflexive space that allows for thoughtful and conscious advancement.

Historically, art has frequently taken the form of social risk-taking and thus an undercover engine of ‘innovation’, — presenting a distinctly different paradigm for innovation to the fields of science and technology. Meanwhile, the importance of arts organisations as scalable sites for dedicated artist-led research and development is only now becoming apparent.

The R&D Platform at the Serpentine grows organically from the organisation’s long-standing commitment to advancing new forms of cultural production. The R&D Platform is built on inter-operable modules that manifest themselves in capacity-building workshops for the wider sector, round-tables and summits bringing experts from different fields to develop an art-field specific view on innovation, and precedent-setting artworks that challenge conceptions of what art is and where the boundaries of art’s impact lie.

As a critical module for in-depth engagement with these questions, the R&D Labs provide infrastructural support for collaborative research, targeting specific questions and devising operational propositions. Current labs include Legal Lab, led by Alana Kushnir, Director of Guest Work Agency, Blockchain Lab, led by Ruth Catlow, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Furtherfield and DECAL DeCentralised Arts Lab; Creative AI Interfaces Lab, led by Mercedes Bunz, Senior Lecturer in Digital Societies at King’s College.

Although emerging from the Serpentine, the R&D Platform is a constantly growing community of individuals and organisations without whom it would not be a reality.

Project UNArt 2020 #3: Infrastructural Plays 2020.12.22-2021.01.31
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