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Lab for Emerging Arts and Performance (2011- 2014)

Art Hack Day @ LEAP (2013)

LEAP (Lab for Electronic Arts and Performance) an interdisciplinary non Profit Project for Electronic, Digital media Art and performance was founded in March 2011. In short LEAP is one of the most progressive art platform in Berlin and, according to some media even Europe. Of primary interest is the international dialogue between art, science and technology. LEAP’s central concept is based on experimental research in digital technologies and media, which fundamentally shape and change our present and future society. The human being (or body) is thus in performative interaction with these technologies and their impact on society and culture.

In 2013 LEAP was awarded with the Prize for Fine Art Project Spaces and Initiatives in by the Secretary of State for Cultural Affairs. Most recently LEAP  co-curated the main exhibition of the 2014 transmediale festival: “Art Hack Day Berlin – Afterglow” (29 January-2 February 2014) with 100 participating artists.

In just under 3 years LEAP has presented more than 65 exhibitions, performances and concerts by national and international artists. To date LEAP has had over 35,000 visitors.


LEAP is a non-profit interdisciplinary project for electronic, digital media arts and performance that aims to initiate the dialogue between art, science and technology. LEAP’s central concept is based on experimental research in digital technologies and media, which shape and change our present and future society and stimulate new discourses, discussions and questions. The human being (or body) is thus in constant performative interaction with these technologies, it diffuses with its environment and challenges the borders between its inside and outside. With its exhibitions and projects, LEAP is interested in this direct involvement of the urban environment outside the gallery, incorporating this relationship into its experimental context and in exploring the progressive fusion of real and virtual space. In the future, the promotion of artistic and cultural exchange is to be extended to cooperation with institutes, universities, foundations and festivals in Germany and abroad.

In current discussions on the digital, new aesthetics and technoogy, such as Rosa Menkman’s The Glitch Moment(um) (2011), the apparent diffusion between the machine and nature becomes obvious. Proposing a context of a certain “glitch-art-phenomenology” (Menkman 2011: 33-44), she states that as the digital increasingly structures the contemporary world and at the same time fades, in a way withdraws its materiality, it becomes even harder to focus upon digital aesthetic, as it is being embedded, hidden, off-shored or merely forgotten (i.b.: 39). Part of the challenge in the context of a “state of computation”, as referred to various blog-discussions upon “computationality” (e.g. stunlaw, furtherfield et. al.), which are based on David M. Barry’s The Philosophy of Software: Code and Mediation in the Digital Age (2011) and The World of Computationality: Flickering Objects and Streaming-beings (2011), is thus to bring the digital (code/software) back into visibility and put it up for explorative research and cultural critique. Patterns may be recognised in data sets, textual archives, data points, distributions, non-visual sensors, physical movements or gestures, haptic forces, etc. Indeed, this points to the importance of information-visualisation as part of an abduction-aesthetic aiming to externalise hidden motives and their causalities in sets of data (D. M. Berry 2012: Understanding Digital Humanities). Here, the focus is not upon what can be seen, but on how it can be seen.

Thus, it is much more an interdisciplinary approach towards digital aesthetics, which visualises interdependencies instead of objects and explores the relations in between, putting the digital within an experimental discourse-field. In The Critical Engineering Manifesto (Berlin 2011), Gordan Savičić and Danja Vasiliev describe a certain urgency-state in terms of exploring new technologies. They frame this in aspects such as raising awareness “that with each technological advance our techno-political literacy is challenged”, that the machine is being expanded in order to “describe interrelationships encompassing devices, bodies, agents, forces and networks.”. A “critical engineer”, as they define it, has to consider these “as both a challenge and a threat, the greater the dependence on a technology the greater the need to study and expose its inner working, regardless of ownership or legal provision.”.

A further aspect of this debate, found in Alexander Galloway’s Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization (2004), is focused on the deep materiality of the digital, which crystallises particular social forms and values, but also generates new mentalities in combination with economic forms and social relations, such as irruptions of the digital into the real, turning economics into “culture” as the neoliberal economy is not just driven by software as a kind of symbolic machine but instead is made of software. Reflexive and reflecting media work – be it video games as Galloway discusses them in Social Realism (2003) or electronic performative art – has indeed supplemented the debate whether digital art offers a realistic image of the world in a context of representation. Instead, the “game theorist” – as Galloway names the critic of the digital in his reflecting position – and the “critical engineer” of Savičić/Vasiliev should call this a problematic of correspondences (and not of representation).

What LEAP is based upon, is this reflexive media artwork, both artistic and curatorial. The terms performance or performance art are thus not necessarily seen in a classical context of having a performer and his/her separate artwork. Instead, we look for performative art, installations or objects, which perform themselves, which change, transform, morph, even breathe; which are technical and physical at the same time, kinetic and static, but always in an attempt to visualise patterns, structures and relations. In the context of apparatus-theory discussed with Jean-Louis Comolli, this type of research combines aesthetical and cognitive aspects of the interaction and correspondence between the technology and the recipient. As Comolli states in Machinen des Sichtbaren (2003), technology is thereby being challenged upon its socio-cultural functions and not merely as an “instrument” or an aesthetic expression.

This leads to a concept of a certain “social correspondence” of performative electronic and digital media -art, explored upon their technical visibilities, as it would be defined by LEAP. The current debate upon such a scientific research by means of artistic approach is centred on the aesthetic of art-production (and not art itself) – a combinatory perspective in which art, science and philosophy correlate, an “artistic research”, which is still mostly based on science. Hence, the great potential of an open research-field based on electronic art and performance instead, is yet to be explored!

LEAP focuses on such research methods as hacking, glitch, bio-hacking, computationality as an onto-theology, sound- an sonic-art, expanded animation, visualising change-graphics, digital landscapes and new nature, as the varied notion of what constitutes the natural is shaped by technology and all the things in the world are not merely inert matter, but random forces that play an important role in events, concentrated in an Object Orientated Ontology.

How do they use interactions between things to creatively catalyse innovative design solutions and novel artistic experiences? And can a better appreciation of thing power lead to possible scenarios for a more sustainable future? – in exploring these and other questions, the LEAP-network sees itself as a nonlinear structure, which instead of focusing on a specific artist figure, initiates an open lab-context. The arrangement in groups therefore plays a leading role in the synthesis of arts and science in the form of workshops and lectures as part of modular Residency Programmes, in which both invited artists and the public may participate.

© 2021 Daniel Franke

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