[International Space Station] A brief history of V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media

V2_,Lab for the Unstable Media

is an interdisciplinary center for art and media technology in Rotterdam (the Netherlands). V2_ presents, produces, archives and publishes research at the interface of art, technology and society. Founded in 1981, V2_ offers a platform for artists, designers, scientists, researchers, theorists, and developers of software and hardware from various disciplines to discuss their work and share their findings. In V2_'s view, art and design play an essential role in the social embedding of technological developments. V2_ creates a context in which issues regarding the social impact of technology are explored through critical dialogue, artistic reflection and practice-oriented research.

Do-it-Yourself: 1981-1986

V2_ was founded in 1981 as an artist collective. A squat in the Vughterstraat 234 (short: V2_) in 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, accommodated artists from various disciplines. The founding members, including Alex Adriaansens and Joke Brouwer, named it a multimedia center. The building gave room for concerts and performances and experiments with analogue media, like TVs, loudspeakers and Super-8 film. It also included an exhibition space for (wall) paintings, installations and machine art. Bands like Sonic Youth, Einstürzende Neubauten and Laibach performed at V2_ in the early days. It was a do-it-yourself period, where music, video, sound and visual arts were combined and the artists took the arts to the street.

Unstable Media: 1987-1993

The mid-eighties brought a turning point, not only for V2_, but for a lot of artists' initiatives in the Netherlands. At the time, V2_ began transforming itself from a multimedia organisation into a center for art and media technology. Because of dissatisfaction with the art practice of the day, the "Manifesto for Unstable Media" was issued by V2_ in 1987. It was intended to really ruffle the feathers of the visual arts. The Manifesto laid down the theoretical principles of V2_, also known since that time as the Institute for the Unstable Media. Though an historical document, most of what is in the Manifesto is still crucial for the work of the organisation. In the next years, V2_ organized a number of "Manifestations for the Unstable Media," which focused on the use of new technology and electronic media in the audiovisual arts. The festival showed interactive video and sound installations and experimented with robotics and the use of computers for generating electronic music and digital imagery. By organizing public events and publishing books, V2_ also stimulated the debate on art, theory, technology and society.

Network and Communications Media: 1994-1997

In 1994, V2_ moved to its current location in the center of Rotterdam, and since then concentrated on art in electronic networks and communications media, like the World Wide Web. Initially, artists only worked with text within the relatively small computer networks, but soon computer and telecommunication networks (ISDN) enabled them to work with sound and images. Artist began to explore the possibilities of computers as an artistic medium, using digital techniques, virtual reality and 3D projections to immerse users in cyberspace. During that time, V2_ developed itself into a professional organisation with an international network of contacts and Manifestation of the Unstable Media changed into the biannual Dutch Electronic Art Festival, where V2_'s network of artists, scientists and organisations from different disciplines could meet.

Art and Media Technology: 1998-2002

The opening of the V2_Lab, an international media laboratory, in May 1998 meant an extension of V2_'s practices towards art production, research and knowledge exchange. In V2_'s interdisciplinary workspace, national and international artists, scientists and technicians collaborated on electronic art projects and technical research projects, for example hardware or open source software development. The often long-term research projects focused on the use of new technical possibilities for artistic means, research on the cultural and social implications of these techniques and the development of technically innovative (web) applications. They resulted in software tools, but also in mixed media applications and interactive installations in public space. Apart from that, V2_ also organized workshops and expert meetings to exchange knowledge and experiences with other professionals.

Data Knitting and Immersive Environments: 2003–2007

V2_ continued to grow in the 21st century and expanded its international network. The Dutch Electronic Art Festivals (with editions in 2003, 2004, and 2007) functioned as important meeting places for artists and professionals in the world of electronic art and digital media. The events and publications of V2_ contributed to the discussion of the cultural, artistic and political impact of the technological changes in society. Among the focus points of the work of V2_ were the use of data and databases for the arts, and the development of immersive interactive installations. A large part of the history of V2_ was archived digitally, and a lot of effort was put into the development of new models for digital archiving. In all these cases V2_ was a forerunner, delving into issues and themes connected to digital media that only would register on the radar of other organisations much later.

Augmented Reality and Wearable Technology: 2008–2012

2008 marks V2_’s publication of Dick Raaijmakers Monograph, a book that brings together all the work of this pioneer of electronic music and multimedia artist. The world of digital media and electronic art having expanded enormously, V2_Lab decides to focus primarily on Augmented Reality and Wearable Technology. Many research projects follow, new works are being developed and presented, and several future stars in these fields passed through the V2_Lab and work with V2_’s dedicated software- and hardware developers. Also the use of biotechnology in the arts continues to pop up as a research interest. In 2009 V2_ initiates the Summer Sessions residencies. These short term residencies for emerging artists are organized with an international network of like-minded arts initiatives, and will become a mainstay of V2_’s program, next to the Test_Lab series which started in 2006.

Reorientation: 2013–2017

The severe cuts in government funding of the arts forced V2_ to reorganise drastically after 2012. V2_ had to let go of several dedicated employees who over the years had been instrumental in the realization of a number of seminal projects. The frequency of V2_events had to be reduced, and the Dutch Electronic Festival was organised for the last time in 2014. At the same time V2_ intensified its own critical approach to the use of new technologies and the creative industries, exemplified by exhibitions at V2_ and new publications. The Summer Sessions continued strongly, and the 3x3-series became a returning event, bringing live experiments in digital and internet art to V2_. The reorganisation also brought a reconnection to local networks in Rotterdam, and the organisation of many smaller scale community events brought V2_ to the attention of new and young audiences. To mark the changes V2_ changes its name from Institute for the Unstable Media to Lab for the Unstable Media.


As a Lab_for the Unstable Media V2_ is interested in the relationships and interactions between art, technology and society. It explores these connections by bringing together artists, makers, researchers  and civil organizations and by initiating interdisciplinary collaborations. V2_Lab organizes many events throughout the year, such as the Test_Labs, the 3x3-series, workshops, and many community events. These present new projects which reflect on current developments in art and technology, together with lectures, discussions and an exchange of knowledge. V2_ also publishes books and offers residencies to emerging artists a.o. through the Summer Sessions-network. The rich history of V2_ can be explored online by browsing through the online archive.





Text © V2_Lab for the Unstable Media, taken from Used with kind permission of V2_.

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