The Pop-up Labs—an experimental venture conceived by the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative—is a space for ideation: to generate, nurture and communicate ideas. The Initiative’s goal is to create a lab-like environment to facilitate conversation between University-affiliated research faculty and other cultural thinkers and professionals. Each Pop-up Lab acts as a catalyst, bringing together people from a wide variety of disciplines and vocations, to engage in lively discussion on a particular topic. We believe an informal environment is best suited for promoting vibrant conversations on the scientific, technological, and cultural practices embedded in our daily life. In short, the Pop-up Labs represent the ethos of the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative, one of collaboration. 

Pop-Up Lab: What is Experimental?

February 2016

In 1967 the seminal program Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was founded by artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman and engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer. With the 50th anniversary approaching, the Arts, Science + Culture Initiative will host a series of events that bring together scholars in the humanities, sciences and social sciences and practitioners in the arts, to address the question What is Experimental?

Throughout the 60s and 70s, the word “experimental” was used in the art world to describe forms and practices characterized by indeterminate actions and ephemeral materials; radical movement and interactive sounds; kinetic sculpture and unusual “happenings.” In the sciences, “experimental” is understood as an approach or method: as a process of generating or replicating an interaction, or phenomena, under a specific set of controlled conditions to gain new insight from measurements performed as part of that test. In both the arts and the sciences, “experimental” methods enact an encounter with the unknown—but these encounters occur under radically divergent cultural conditions.

As “experimental art” becomes a historical legacy, and as computer-based simulations of the physical world emerge to make real-life experiments in the sciences potentially a thing of the past, what are the contemporary currents that qualify as truly “experimental”? As we increasingly adopt a “solutionist” mentality in the arts and sciences, does there remain a role for curiosity-driven “experimental” approaches? In the lab? In the studio? In the classroom? In the field? 

Pop-Up Lab: Eating at the Same Table, Culture & Ecology

February 3, 2015

For our fourth Pop-Up Lab, we are inviting a group of Chicago-based academic professionals and practitioners from the arts, sciences, and social sciences to the same table. We ask that they consider the food in front of them as a starting point—a catalyst—for discussing the divergent ways in which ecology and human culture become entangled via agricultural practices. Inspired by Laura Letinsky (Professor, Department of Visual Arts, UChicago) and Amber Ginsburg (Lecturer, Department of Visual Arts, UChicago) as they begin to develop a series of trans-disciplinary courses & events around this topic, the dinner table will provide a forum for participants to explore various models of growth and systems of growing through the lenses of biology, ecology, anthropology, landscape, film, art history, and visual arts.

Pop-up Lab: Digital Culture

April 9, 2014

In what ways are we influenced by the ubiquity of the information age and the changing conditions in which our work is produced, disseminated, and understood? Our next Pop-Up Lab will focus on the impact of digital culture on knowledge production within and outside the university space. It will convene a group of faculty and professionals/practitioners across disciplines to discuss, over dinner, the impact of digital media in various academic and professional disciplines.

Pop-up Lab: Pavilion as Laboratory

February 19, 2014

Our second Pop-Up Lab of the academic year, on February 19, generated ideas about a new investigative platform: the Pavilion/Laboratory. Blending elements from the freestanding, public, temporary pavilion and the longer-term exploration and testing of ideas in a laboratory, the Arts, Science & Culture Initiative envisions the Pavilion/Laboratory as a new hybrid platform: a reconfigurable environment erected for the investigation of emergent concepts in a broad range of fields. Our Pop-Up Lab convened a diverse group of arts and science faculty, urban planners, artists, and architects, who discussed the potential uses and manifestations of the Pavilion/Laboratory and strategized ways to bring scholars and practitioners together under its mantle.

Pop-Up Lab: Art and Death

October 9, 2013

On October 9, the first Pop-Up Lab of the 2013-2014 academic year drew together a diverse group of scholars and practitioners in fields including medicine, history, visual arts, and classics, to discuss questions brought to the table by artist and hematologist Jesse Soodalter. Revolving around her tentatively entitled “Living Mortal Project,” participants discussed approaches to and understandings of mortality, the meanings of death rituals, the role of philosophy, religion, and art in mediating death, and a host of related topics. The group’s lively debate stimulated new questions and lines of inquiry for Soodalter to pursue and enriched all participants’ conceptions of the human experience of mortality.


Julie Marie Lemon, Director and Curator