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May the Other Live in Me

PLASMA 6 article

by Bella Spencer

Interview with Daria Parkhomenko, Laboratoria Moscow.

In 1990, a 5 year old girl visited her father’s laboratory in Russia and stared in amazement at the machinery that loomed over her. Unbeknownst to her, this moment would spark a life-long interest in the beauty and wonder of science. That young girl was Daria Parkhomenko, the founder and director of Laboratoria, a non-for-profit research and exhibition centre in Moscow, which promotes interdisciplinary partnerships between contemporary art and science. I spoke with Daria about how Laboratoria came about, the value of collaboration and future of the foundation.

Bella: How did your interest in Science and Art beging?

DP: Everything starts from childhood. As a child I was inspired a lot by my Father who is a physicist and my Mom who is a journalist. When I was 5 years old I was actually quarantined from kindergarten and as both my parents worked intensively, the only option was to go to work with them. My father was researching semiconductors and new materials. His laboratory was really spectacular with a lot of equipment of usuals forms and gigantic machines, it was so exciting.

When I was 18, and thinking about what I wanted to do in life, these memories came back to me and I think they unconciously influenced my decisions. Uniting art and science is fundamental to building a holistic universal worldview, which is what I’m trying to achieve through my baby project, Laboratoria.

Saša Spačal (Slovenia), Inspiration, Biotechnological installation, Projekt Atol Institute,
2018

Bella: What led you to open Laboratoria?

DP: My formula was a big idea plus a lot of motivation plus a bunch of luck and a special moment that brought all these factors together.

It was 2008 and I was a young and emerging curator. I had finished my second degree in the Arts. My diploma focused on the problems and perspectives of science-art. There are a lot of difficulties in this field. For artists to work with scientists, they really need curators and moderators to provide an infrastructure to support the collaboration; to help communication between the two different technological languages, to find sponsors, grants and beyond. My diploma was like a small methodological book of how to create an institution that can foster science-art partnerships.

I decided I would try to utilise what I had learnt to establish an art-science institute. However, there were no museums in Russia that were willing and ready to give a young curator the chance and the space to develop such an innovative and ambitious project. One day around that time, I found a scientific institution with an empty space. It was a coincidence, a bit of good luck that brought everything together. The result was that on July 3rd 2008, I opened the foundation Laboratoria, the first and still the only institution in science-art in Russia.

Agnes Meyer-Brandis (Germay), Biocemical installation, 2019

Bella: Laboratoria commissions collaborative partnerships between Russian scientists and international artists. How do scientists benefit from these collaborations?

DP: There are a lot of ways. One unintended benefit is an element of popularisation. But for me, the most exciting benefit is that collaborations enable scientists to see the problems they are researching from an unusual and new perspective. Scientists can actually gain more freedom to improvise and experiment. Within a cultural setting they can conduct new experiments that break the strict rules of scientific experimentation. These experiments can help scientists to test unusual hypotheses. That’s why art is important.

Where Dogs Run (Russia), Oracul, interactive neurolinguistic installation, Sirius
&Laboratoria Art&Science Foundation, 2019-2020

Bella: And, how do the artists benefit?

DP: New artistic languages emerge as artists have an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of technology and work with a new set of tools such as machine learning or robotic technologies. We have developed our own set of methodologies for facilitating collaboration. The three stage approach that we call “infusion, transposition and third order observation” has become a key feature of our institution.

One of my dreams is that Laboratoria will contribute towards a culture shift and lead to a society where science-art interactions became a new norm.

Bella: Whats next for Laboratoria?

DP: We are opening a new permanent space in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow that will be host to around four exhibitions a year, as well as educational and production programmmes.

The first exhibition; May the Other Live in Me, will explore human to non-human communications. An area that is becoming increasingly relevant. Through collaborations with botanists, soil scientists, deep learning researchers and more, artists will develop new strategies to help to overcome the interspecies barriers. Visitors will be invited to enter into hybrid communities that involve people, plants, animals, bacteria, and semiotic engineering systems that take part as translators and mediators between them.

full article in PLASMA 6

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