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Flow of Mobile Ideas with Public Art Lab

This article was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports, Republic of South Korea for the Hub City of Asian Culture project.

Mobile Studios in Belgrade. Photo Copyright: Public Art Lab

The development of sustainable mobile exhibition formats for cooperation, exchange and networking has been at the forefront of Public Art Lab’s (PAL) agenda as an independent and open platform for artists, curators, producers, architects, scientists, art historians and multi-media producers. Susa Pop, the founding director of PAL, has kept her focus in the conception of networking and community building art projects. As an artist and cultural project, Pop leads PAL in generating ideas that create and catalyse artistic processes and public awareness in temporarily possessed urban settings.

With the question of mobility constantly attached to an amalgam of issues on accessibility, network, resources, opportunities, cultural background, etc., in the process of setting-up international collaborations and projects, PAL continuously works towards its goal of creating nomadic communication platforms that act as ‘Ideas’ Circus’ and deliver a neutral ground for discussions and debates. After all, ideas are perhaps the most mobile entity that exists in the process of creation.

Established in Berlin in 2002 together with artist Hans Wiegner, PAL has since realised international nomadic projects like Mobile Museums (2002-2004) in Berlin, Vienna and Barcelona and Mobile Studios (2004-2006) in Belgrade, Bratislava, Budapest and Sofia – including a Mobile Webcast Studio in Gdansk. These public production-laboratories provided temporary experimentation field for artists and invite audiences to participate and experience their daily environment from a different perspective.

Depending on the art projects PAL collaborates with different specialists and institutions. For instance for Mobile Museums (, architects Gruber + Popp played a key in the construction process of the artists’ museums. In the case of Mobile Studios ( Ela Kagel, David Farine and Stephanie Boisset were responsible for the conception and realisation of the interactive media and website.  It likewise works in close cooperation with institutions and foundations. As it is runs independently, PAL draws its biggest asset and resource from the commitment of artists and producers developing mobile cooperation work.  And of course, the funding support secured for each of its projects.

An advisory board consist of so called ‘project angels’ like Mirjam Struppek, urban researcher and initiator of Urban Screens; Stefan Heidenreich, media philosopher; and author, Viola Vahrson, art historian and guest professor at the University of Fine Arts in Braunschweig and at the Humboldt University in Berlin are accompanying the projects scientifically. Through the various initiatives of PAL, the wheel of mobility for creativity is constantly being invented and re-invented.

Mobile Museums was the first mobile art project of Public Art Lab, which was travelling from Berlin to Vienna and Barcelona in 2002. It explored the issue on the function and role of museums today and developed the artistic approach of a ‘travelling artists’ museum’.

Mobile Museums invited artists to build their individual museum space out of a modular structure. The exhibition space measured to a maximum of 10 square meters. The artists developed walk-in space sculptures as ‘enclosed perception cells’, whereby the viewer could actually move into the structure and experience the artist’s own, self conceived museum. Upon its construction, three Artists’ Museums accompanied the Mobile Museum Studio with a changing programme in each city.

Mobile Museums focussed on the fact that increased mobility of collections would be key to cross national boundaries if international audiences were to share and enjoy cultural goods and heritage. On this basis, the Mobile Museums were conceived as a model for a travelling artists’ museum. After the completion of the project Public Art Lab challenged the team on the next step for the evolution of the aforementioned mobile art project. Upon thorough evaluation of the experiences gained from implanting the idea of Mobile Museums in Eastern Europe, PAL put an emphasis on weaving networks while moving around. During the tour of the Mobile Studios, PAL established a connected community through exchange programmes, artistic collaboration projects and wireless conferences among others.

By 2006, PAL launched the follow-up project of Mobile Studios, which was touring as an internationally networked production laboratory for young artists and cultural operators through Belgrade, Bratislava, Budapest and Sofia. This nomadic community temporarily settled down in the public space of these cities and engaged the audience into an interactive dialogue.

This project travelled like a nomadic community through different landscapes. The currency, frontier, goods, habits including the welcome message on the cell phone were indicative of the experience economic, political, cultural, social and digital layers. Upon arrival in the city, the mobile structure provided the possibility to be installed in different urban settings.

The Artists’ Museums from the 2004 project were recycled and reconstructed into open exhibition modules: Mobile Studios, consisted of three exhibition units:  1) Live Studio for urban interventions; 2) Talk Studio for public debates and discussions with cultural players from the local scenes, including virtual partners participating through web-conferences; and 3) Editorial Studio, which documented and sent out the daily content to media partners.  A Mobile Webcast Studio in Gdansk accompanied the tour, and acted like a theme satellite through regular contributions to the Mobile Studios’ programme via the internet.

In countries that lacked functioning art structures, Mobile Studios provided a temporary communication platform for testing new forms of art exhibitions and for providing a neutral ground for dialogue between different local institutions.

PAL curated Mobile Studios as a form of socio-cultural as well as political tool. Considering its nomadic nature, Mobile Studios temporarily possessed varying public spaces that gave statements towards the specific environment. They functioned as an experimentation field and/or playground, temporarily available for open processes.  They represented a platform in the creation of dialogue not only with the general public but also with government officials/institutions.  Some primary examples were the experiences with the Ministry of Culture (Bratislava), which pushed for a discussion on cultural policy development, and lobbying efforts for a New Museum for Contemporary Arts (Novi Sad).

Mobile Studios in Belgrade. Photo Copyright: Public Art Lab

Like a no man’s land, Mobile Studios settled in public spaces and delivered a neutral ground for discussions and debates on local, national political and cultural issues. The urban interventions created an interactive dialogue with the visitors.

The corresponding exhibition modules of Live-, Talk and Editorial Studio provided the structure of a production laboratory. Urban interventions (Live Studio) were discussed publicly (Talk Studio), documented in different media formats and distributed to international media partners (Editorial Studio).

The Editorial Studio was the communication and distribution tool: the relais between the public and virtual space: the connection between the countries. Artists sent, received and collaborated beyond the borders simultaneously and successively. The journey of Mobile Studios left traces in the archive. All artistic contributions were documented like a virtual collection for future researches.

Beyond the mobility of structures and artists, PAL continues to promote opportunities for the mobility of ideas that can offer an avenue for continued exchanges.  This year, at its home base, Berlin, PAL presented an interdisciplinary collaborative creative exchange called ZENSORS between Japanese and Europe artists that took place in different cultural spaces in the city. Thereby, gathering varied audiences from diverse range.

In October and November 2008, PAL will also host the Media Facades Festival Berlin 2008, an action research project, engaging a wide range of stakeholders with distinctive interests in the public space. The event will promote a multi-disciplinary approach to technology, architecture and media art in modern cities through a program of round tables, a workshop, panel sessions, lectures, urban screenings and an exhibition.

This exhibition will explore the integration of moving images into the building facade as a communicative element, and its effect on Urban Space. A selection of innovative projects that have been realised in various cities will demonstrate possible connections between architecture and screens and highlight different artistic and architectural strategies. Practical technical information will give architects a deeper insight into the challenges and possibilities of utilizing new media in architecture.

PAL aspires to sustain the flow of mobility of ideas through its projects with different people, artists, situations, circumstances and environment.

*This article was written with the help of Susa Pop, Artistic Director and Founder of Public Art Lab

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