Sunday, May 30, 2010

Factory v/s lab

In a recent interview on CNN channel,Anish Kapoor, one of the top living British artist insistently argued that he does not like his studio to be called as factory. He in fact called it as his Lab and went on to explains why he feels so. Another artist who has used a similar term for his studio is Olafur Eliasson, a Danish Icelandic artist who has his studio in Berlin and calls it as laboratory.
So why artists feel the need to define their studio practice in terms of a lab or factory?

Traditionally an artist's work-place has been known as studio and whatever he/she did within that space was considered it as his studio practice. With coming of Andy Warhol this definitions changed. Warhol who was was a product of Industrial design named his studio as 'factory'. By doing so Warhol wanted to challenge the notion of artistic production and bring it within the bounds of industrial product. Warhol's strategies definitely paved way for many later date artists and the concept of factory- made became an accepted norm of artistic production ;in the sense artist need no longer be accountable for the 'uniqueness' of their art work.

As far as work of art is concerned ,it hardly matters, whether it is made in factory or a lab or a studio. Because the merit of the work cannot be judged through the production process. And yet there seemed to be some resistance among some artist like Kapoor and Eliasson who prefer to call their artistic process as a lab work than a factory made product

Factory and Lab are two definitive 'collective' processes of creating ideas, and objects. when an artist chooses to use the specific term it implies certain hidden values within these processes.

The term factory made implies a systematic generation of a product for the specific target of 'consumers'. Once the product goes through a processes of R&D to arrive at a formula than it can be replicated in mass production. Aim of a factory is to generates a generic mass product thus cutting the cost of production and enhancing the profitability of such a venture. The aim of the factory is to build a popular 'brand' which can marketed masses to generate maximum profit. In a factory product human intervention is minimum so that 'standard' quality can be monitored and maintained. Finally to make the factory made product accessible to masses marketing and sales are an essential aspect of its production strategy. Advertising and publicity of the product is part and parcel of the process without which a product cannot be sustained in the market.

The term Lab implies experimentation of ideas to arrive at a creative idea. Many of the experiments can not be successfully implemented into a creative products. Thus a lab is more of an 'intellectual' proposition rather than 'product' oriented processes. A lab does not intent to replicate ideas in a mass product although it is the successful R&D in a lab that leads to formulaic factory product. In way a lab is a process that precedes a factory production. Lab is the site of innovation and experimentation that can pave ways to future ideas.

Whether to call one's studio practice as lab or factory is entirely an artist's prerogative. What defines such terms is the space within which artists operate. For instance both Kapoor and Eliasson are mostly engaged in public art projects that gives them the space to innovate a product that is not bound by commercial concern. Whereas Warhol and others were solely rooted in the commercial aspect of the art production. Factory, lab or studio it finally boils down to each artist's personality to define his/ her own studio practice.

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