• Photo: Samuel Hanselmann
  • Photo: Samuel Hanselmann
  • Photo: Christian Knörr

What would critique do if it could be associated with more, not with less, with multiplication, not subtraction.

Bruno Latour

The Critical Media Lab is an integral part of the Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures (IXDM) at the Academy of Art and Design FHNW in Basel. With over 400 square meters of working space and an excellent technical equipment the lab is the hub of IXDM’s research activities. It serves both as a physical lab space and a conceptual vehicle to develop a contemporary notion of criticality towards design and media practices and their cultures.

The Critical Media Lab is a place of continuous questioning and criticism. In a time when we are realising that the former new media have not lived up to their oftentimes promising radical power, the laboratory is a place where the potentials and limitations of old and new media are used in service of critical questioning and experimental thinking. On a daily basis we try to achieve understanding, exchange what we know, and materialise commodities and values in media. Our media practice demands a conception of media that goes beyond its conventional definitions in context of communication technologies or mass media in order to include both emerging fields such as bio, nano or neuro media and other areas affected by media, which store, transmit and process information such as economy, society and politics. Changing media technologies do not merely demand new users, but create a need for renewed criticism.

The Critical Media Lab intertwines praxis-led research methodologies with profound theoretical-historical reflection. Central to these investigations is the use and reflection through media, and investigating not just the surface, but the infrastructures of media and technologies. We believe that technologies are imminently radical: They embody both interruption and implicitness that which forces reflection on the immediate, as well as revisiting what was there all along.

We aim for a playful and experimental proximity of practice and theory. We seek to entangle empirical and theoretical investigation in historical contexts and in regards to contemporary phenomena by combining and collaterally performing artistic research, designed speculation, ethnographic investigation and by constructing applications. It is our goal to develop and materialise different perspectives on what matters in design and media cultures. We consider networks and ecologies of media-techniques, in their design and aesthetic appearance, our accomplices in the understanding of their potential, pervasiveness, and fragility. These networks, in their complexity, are also crucial in understanding that we can never do more than seek to understand.

What is always critical is making products, artefacts and movements publicly available, within and without the institution. Critical practice intends a set of objects (physical and otherwise) more readily open to scrutiny, more available to thought. The use and reflection on the technological, the shaping of material complexes, ignites a potential for critique that is as fundamental and intrinsic as it is disruptive or incisive: the critical knowledge of a system, the critical moments of a process or critical state of a material; along with criticism of ideology or opaqueness in the world. And it provides a blank slate for a critical dialogue with the public about the very substance of criticism.

What is a Media Lab?

Read more about the Critical Media Lab in an interview with Claudia Mareis, director of IXDM, and senior researcher Jamie Allen.

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