The Serpentine’s Research and Development Platform is a space where the institution’s ‘back-end’ (operations, protocols, in-built values) and ‘front-end’ (what it produces) are brought into experimental realignments. In today’s environment of hyper-production and accelerated change, arts organisations are in need of a reflexive space that allows for thoughtful and conscious advancement.
Historically, art has frequently taken the form of social risk-taking and thus an undercover engine of ‘innovation’, — presenting a distinctly different paradigm for innovation to the fields of science and technology. Meanwhile, the importance of arts organisations as scalable sites for dedicated artist-led research and development is only now becoming apparent.
The R&D Platform at the Serpentine grows organically from the organisation’s long-standing commitment to advancing new forms of cultural production. The R&D Platform is built on inter-operable modules that manifest themselves in capacity-building workshops for the wider sector, round-tables and summits bringing experts from different fields to develop an art-field specific view on innovation, and precedent-setting artworks that challenge conceptions of what art is and where the boundaries of art’s impact lie.
Some of the questions guiding the development of the R&D Platform include:
- How can art institutions become better at identifying and harnessing their evolving capabilities?
- What will the core values of cultural production be in 2050?
- How can greater focus on infrastructural care and design help build a more resilient and socially significant cultural field?
- What can the full stack of contemporary artistic production (i.e. all stages of a project’s development) teach arts organisations and other fields about innovation?
- What new organisational processes would be required for the art field to develop more meaningful and long-term relationships with other fields invested in seeking answers to today’s most challenging questions?
- How does the art field claim an active position in shaping future technologies that yield significant impact on contemporary and future societies?
As a critical module for in-depth engagement with these questions, the R&D Labs provide infrastructural support for collaborative research, targeting specific questions and devising operational propositions. Current labs include Legal Lab, led by Alana Kushnir, Director of Guest Work Agency, Blockchain Lab, led by Ruth Catlow, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Furtherfield and DECAL DeCentralised Arts Lab; Creative AI Interfaces Lab, led by Mercedes Bunz, Senior Lecturer in Digital Societies at King’s College.
Although emerging from the Serpentine, the R&D Platform is a constantly growing community of individuals and organisations without whom it would not be a reality.