Internship Report: Accidental Innovation


For three months I conducted ethnographic research in the Netherlands on work-, documentation-, and research-practices among artists, designers and institutions working on the cross-section of art, science, and technology. After finishing my research I was invited to visit Vienna and present the results at the Artistic Technology Research Lab.

At the time of writing this I am sitting inside a somewhat decayed baroque building surrounded by Bitcoin miners, DIY video cameras and various electronic parts such as, LED strips, Raspberry Pi’s and even a small modular-synthesizer. I am at the Artistic Technology Research lab at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and in the following paragraphs I will share some of the experiences I had during my internship and my trip to Vienna.
In March Mirko Tobias Schäfer posted an internship called ‘Accidental Innovation’. The job is part of his research fellowship at the Artistic Technology Research Lab for which he was asked to observe how the lab works, thereby putting the alternative research methods and forms of knowledge production within artistic practices into perspective. My task was to conduct ethnographic research into artistic practice within the Dutch field of media art, and other creative practicinors that work on the cross-section of art, science and technology. With my experience as organizer of audiovisual network festival FIBER and a previous internship at Virtueel Platform, where I organized How Do You Do, I already had a valuable network at hand and thus this internship had my name all over it.
During a period of approximately three months I visited media-labs, hackers-spaces, artschools and various conferences. I spoke to researchers, lab-managers, artists and makers; from pioneers who had to build everything from scratch, to the new generation of makers who successfully use the affordances of shared knowledge of online expert communities within their practice. Via these interviews I got more insight into artistic practice, workflows and documentation processes to ultimately discover at what point innovation occurs. Twenty interviews later I am in Austria to present the results and enjoy the summertime in Vienna for ten days!
I arrived on a Sunday night and met with Matthias Tarasiewiecz, the director of the lab, we went to a bar to drink a couple of local drafts and get acquainted. Matthias is an organizer, a curator and a coder, he organized more than 100 events and a couple of festivals in Vienna.  With the lab and his other organization Artistic Bokeh, which is located in the Museumquartier, he has an interesting position within the Viennese cultural scene, which is highly governed by politics copared to the Dutch cultural sector. As such it was already a very interesting and inspiring talk and a great start of my visit.
The next day I met the other people working at the lab; DIY camera-builder, operator and editor Max Gurresch, scripter/coder Simon Repp and Astrid Exner who handles communication among other things. During my stay Mirko, Matthias and artist-in-residence Andrew Newman were busy finishing a proposal for an open access journal on alternative research cultures. Meanwhile I was helping building a database of mailinglists in the field of media art and assisted Max in documenting the Faceless; The exhibition in quartier21 was dedicated to the strategies of media users to become ‘faceless’ in the (virtual) world, with Addie Wagenknecht’s chandelier as its central piece, in my opinion.
On the final day I presented the results of my research which was received well. I discerned various diverging practices and a generational gap between more traditional media artists and the new generation of makers. On a policy level it was very interesting discussing the differences between cultural policy. This mainly concerned the Dutch take on the role of media art within the creative industries compared to Austria's policy. In the end the visit to Vienna was the cherry on top. I already had done most of the hard work at home, so I had enough time to meet interesting people, visit awesome museums, and enjoy beers and Käsekrainers at night.