Artists Art Issues Exhibitions About Us Search

featured artist
Floating Lab Collective

interview transcript

Date of Interview: May 15, 2012
Location: USA
Topic: Interview with Floating Lab Collective
Interviewer: Raquel de Anda

LatinArt:  Edgar, how did your individual practice lead into the formation of the Floating Lab Collective?

Floating Lab Collective:  The Floating Lab Collective (FLC) emerged as a basic desire for association, the purest need for human relation. Forming the collective allowed us to create ties in a society which is overcome with superficial connections such as social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. I also have two children and realize that family ties are fundamental. So essentially, we had this desire to develop a creative family network.

It also had to do with resources. As a collective the more players you have the more talent you have access to. Ten people with high-level skill sets have more power to re-define the landscape than one. With each project we have new videographers, musicians, photographers, cultural workers and more merging their talents and transcending the limitations of one medium. Embedded in this is also the idea of abandoning the notion of el gran maestro (the great master or teacher) so that we can erase authorship and instead create a symbiotic eco-system with endless possibilities.

LatinArt:  Was there something particular about the landscape of Washington DC that inspired you?

Floating Lab Collective:  Upon my arrival I realized the conflicts within the capitol itself. I witnessed these high levels of poverty, violence and exclusion, while the city maintained itself as the symbol that defines our nation. The architecture of this city also appeared as a series of stages or theatrical scenes such as The White House, The Smithsonian, The Washington Memorial. So as we see it, if DC is a stage then there is a need for actors. We take this rich background, transform it and insert the ideas of Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnival. We wear and remove the masks of the city. When we wear them we’re democratic and when we take them off we critique.

LatinArt:  Great, so I’d like to speak about the ideas that inform your work and how you move from theory to practice. Can you speak to us about Usonia and other ideas your work is grounded in?

Floating Lab Collective:  Sure, Frank Lloyd Wrights idea of Usonia is an element that I’ve always found interesting. It’s a theoretical idea of creating an American identity and architecture - which is interesting to begin with because the United States cannot really call itself America. For me, Usonia asks what is American? How are we American? Are we American or are we Usonian?

The US is always in a state of migration, integrating new people from every country. So, within this impermanent state of constant migration The Floating Lab Collective wanted to create a form of architecture to investigate and come closer to understanding community. Personally, I see this development as a form of utopian America where we simultaneously question and create the architectural. I find it very interesting that the great architect of the US invented a form of architecture that has to do with the construction of an identity, of a community. I’m not sure if the theory has applied itself so directly, but it’s embedded in everything we do.

Jean-Luc Nancy’s ideas in The Inoperable Community are also central to understanding how the Floating Lab Collective works. Nancy speaks about the problem of a community where everyone agrees and follows the same principles; about a community where there is never any conflict. The problem here being that if people live without conflict we end up developing a form of nascism, or another form of fascism. So, with this idea in mind the collective sees a need to insert a sort of internal friction. I can also see a relationship here with Claire Bishop’s article on antagonism, in understanding that opposition can be seen as positive and allow us to progress.

LatinArt:  So, what is the connection between Provisions Research Library and the Floating Lab Collective?

Floating Lab Collective:  Provisions Library is central to the Floating Lab Collective and vice versa. We interact with each other on a regular basis. Provisions gives us a theoretical platform and a location where we can access knowledge and ideas and also provides us with a chance to exchange with people around the world. Don Russell is a central, intellectual component of the FLC. Having both a research library and an artistic collective allow us to exist as a new form of education, which is very much central to our work.

LatinArt:  Can you speak briefly about the work produced for 2011 Encuentro Internacional de Medellín (MDE11) in Colombia?

Floating Lab Collective:  The Collective White House or La Casa Blanda was an attempt to bring the background to the foreground and create an avenue of empowerment. Over 200 people were directly involved in the production of a new White House made of bed sheets. The recreation of this American icon by 200 people from Colombia is a remarkable gesture and led us to believe that it was a success even before the event began.

This was made even more apparent when people saw this magnificent structure in Moravia, an area that was once known as the city dump, now occupied by displaced community members due to the violence. People understood the intersection of the material and our approach as artists. They spoke freely about the meaning of having a powerhouse made of everyday objects used to shelter people’s body at night. Again, central to this process was Bakhtin’s philosophies - masking the power structure in order to critique it.

LatinArt:  I’d also like to hear your thoughts on The Re-Museum, a project developed for the 5x5 festival; DC Commission on the Art and Humanities’ new, temporary public art project. Can you speak about the process of developing this public intervention in Washington DC.

Floating Lab Collective:  Yes, I think this project was fantastic on many levels. Of course, our projects will always have flaws, but we were able to find an internal logic in DC by creating individual, personalized monuments that worked as a form of viral graffiti and intervened the daily landscape - objects that represented people’s lives, experiences and criticisms. Through the project we were able to articulate a new language of understanding how viral methods can be glorified as monuments in a city filled with monuments.

You see, the Floating Lab Collective is an open source organization. We are always trying to rethink the public sphere and I think we’ve found a way to create a platform that not only functions in the art domain itself, but as an educational component as well. I see this as something that is very important in the role of the artist. We are social responders, aware of the landscape and are attempting to create a much broader platform to understand the human condition.

back to artists