Last august, we invited the founder of Le Laboratorie in Paris, David Edwards, to our workhop on ‘Biomedicine and Aesthetics in a Museum Context’. His presentation was short and (and at least to me) not very clear, so last time I was in Paris I took the opportunity to see his new art and science meeting spot.
Le Laboratoire is placed in a former film studio close to the Louvre in the heart of Paris. The exterior is non-assuming; you have to look for it to find it.
Inside/downstairs is a big room with a raw, industrial look. Texts explain this is a “center of experimentation in art and design based on the notion of art and science as process toward a creative end”. It is emphatically not a museum (it eludes “classical curatorial care”) but is about innovation—to “facilitate discipline crossing” and “catalyzing innovation” by means of “artscience, this ability to appreciate and develop an aesthetic and scientific sensibility”:
We work with highy creative artists and designers and seek dreams of idea translation that cannot be formulated without the participation of a leading scientist
When I visited in April, the current show (by colloid scientist Jerome Bibette and renown chéf Thierry Marx) was about colloid chemistry and molecular gastronomy.
In one end of the room two girls made coffee—served, not with a cookie, but with a small plastic inhaler tube, le whif, through which you could take a sniff of chocolate colloid particles:
Pictures of colloids were projected on screens and tables scattered around the room, and billboards explained aspects of taste and molecular cuisine.
There should have been some other tasting activities as well, but these were cancelled for reasons I didn’t quite understand (my French is rusty).
The room and the lighting was great, but the whole experience somewhat enigmatic. I wasn’t really sure about what the place is supposed to do. So I bought Edwards’s recent book Artscience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation (Harvard University Press, 2008; cf. yesterday’s post) to learn more about the background for the project.