Laboratorium (art exhibition)

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Laboratorium was a contemporary art exhibition held at the former Provinciaal Fotografie Museum (now Fotomuseum Antwerp) in Antwerp, Belgium, from 27 June to 3 October 1999.


In 1998, preparations started for the 1999 celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Antoon van Dyck’s birth. In honour of this event, the curator Barbara Vanderlinden, Roomade Office for Contemporary Art, and Antwerpen Open,[1] set out to create a contemporary art program in Antwerpen. This was conceived of as a response to van Dyck’s studio, which functioned as a ‘school of production’, a system also used by Peter-Paul Rubens, again in Antwerp. It is this city’s role in the development of such studios that inspired ‘Laboratorium’. The creative aspect of the curatorial role led Barbara Vanderlinden[2] to propose an alternative to the traditional object-oriented art exhibition by creating an exhibition program that took the form of a year long, functioning artist’s studio. She fulfilled this aim by setting up a series of exceptional projects that were carried out in defunct office spaces throughout the city of Antwerp.[3] These culminated and merged in ‘Laboratorium’, a large-scale interdisciplinary exhibition-project “in which the scientific laboratory and the artist’s studio were explored on the basis of the various concepts and disciplines”.[4] It brought together the work of sixty-six artists and scientists devoted to research and experimentation and was co-curated by Barbara Vanderlinden and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

The exhibition staged relations between an urban network of scientists, artists, dancers and writers.[5] The curators’ interdisciplinary approach contributed to the wide-ranging nature of questions posed by the project.

The preparations for the exhibition started with “a method that is often used for historical exhibitions, but too rarely for contemporary ones”[6] the curators created think thank to develop ideas. This included artists and scientists such as the French sociologist Bruno Latour, the German-Belgian artist Carsten Höller, the American artist Matt Mullican, and the Belgian scientist Luc Steels. The organizer Bruno Verbergt was closely involved with the curators. “The discussion revolved around questions such as the following: How can we attempt to bridge the gap between the specialized vocabulary of science, art and the general interest of the audience, between the expertise of the skilled practitioner and the concerns and preconceptions of the interested audience? What is the meaning of the laboratories? What is the meaning of experiments? When do experiments become public and when does the result of an experiment reach public consensus? Is rendering public what happens inside the laboratory of scientist and the studio of the artist a contradiction in terms? These and other questions were the beginning of an interdisciplinary project starting from the ‘workplace’ where artists and scientist experiment and work freely."[7]

Artists exhibiting[edit]


  1. ^, ‘Laboratorium’ Antwerp, 2012. [Online] Available online at:
  2. ^ Obrist, Hans-Ulrich, 1998. “Brussels' sprout. Interview With curator Barbara Vanderlinden”. New York: Art Forum International. [Online] Available online at:'+sprout.-a021230366
  3. ^ The projects which preceded the exhibition ‘Laboratorium’ were: “Tommi Grönlund, Petteri Nisunen, Liro Auterinen, Matti Knaapi: Ambient City – Transient Radio 93.9 FM”, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, 1999; “Tomoko Takahashi: Office Work at Century Center”, Antwerp, 1999; and “Koo Jeong-a: On the Poetics of Small Things: Office Work at Century Center”, Antwerp, 1999.
  4. ^ Quote from the visitor’s brochure, reproduced in Obrist and Vanderlinden, 2001. ‘Laboratorium’. Köln: DuMont.
  5. ^ Quote from the visitor’s brochure, reproduced in Obrist and Vanderlinden, ‘Laboratorium’, DuMont (2001).
  6. ^ Quote from Obrist, Hans Ulrich and Asad Raza. 2014. “Laboratorium” in: ‘Ways of Curating. London: Penguin Books.
  7. ^ Quote from the visitor’s brochure, reproduced in Obrist and Vanderlinden, 2001. ‘Laboratorium’. Köln: DuMont.