The SenseLab is a laboratory for thought in motion.
Based in Montreal, the SenseLab is an international network of artists and academics, writers and makers, from a wide diversity of fields, working together at the crossroads of philosophy, art, and activism.
Participants are held together by affinity rather than by any structure of membership or institutional hierarchy. The SenseLab's event-based projects are collectively self-organizing. Their aim is to experiment with creative techniques for thought in the act. The SenseLab's product is its process, which is meant to disseminate. The measure of success is the creative momentum that spins off into individual and group practices elsewhere, to seed new processes asserting their own autonomy. The SenseLab makes no claim to ownership, operating as much as possible on the principle of a gift economy.
Erin Manning founded the SenseLab in 2004 out of a desire to build a supportive environment conducive to new modes of encounter and expression. Her premise was that concepts are never pre-programmed. Rather, they are experimental effects of an on-going process which emerge in the doing, and merge with making. The concepts and techniques collectively arrived at over the first ten years of SenseLab actvities are explored in “Propositions for Thought in the Act" (in Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience, University of Minnesota Press, 2014).
The SenseLab has adopted the term "research-creation" to describe its activities, with the goal of fundamentally rethinking “theory” and “practice” in a way that overcomes the all-too-common antagonism between the two. What distinguishes the SenseLab's approach to research-creation is its emphasis on philosophy as a creative practice in its own right, and its sustained dedication to live experimentation with new forms of transdisciplinary collaboration. SenseLab projects engage in the process of thinking by doing, always with the understanding that concepts are made in and through the event. They practice philosophy as a catalyst to other modes of creative endeavour, never their judge or master.
SenseLab collaborations take the form of punctual research-creation events supplemented by ongoing, year-round activities. Anyone is a member who feels him- or herself to be one, and projects and activities may be initiated by any member. There is no formal decision-making process. Projects garner momentum, or fade away, depending on their own creative force and force of circumstance. Projects grow, rather than being directed. The idea, however, is not "anything goes." Core members (a perpetually emergent, ever-shifting group including energetic newcomers) exercise an orchestrating or orienting influence designed to ensure the continuation of the SenseLab's project in keeping with the ethos it has developed of affirmative creative exploration rigourously engaged in developing techniques for creative relation, uncontained by the disciplines between which it works and unsubdued by the institutional structures on which it draws. The SenseLab does not exist as an entity apart from the self-propelling process of its projects.
Ongoing activities include a long-standing reading group (recent discussions have centred around Whitehead, Arakawa and Gins, Deleuze, Guattari, and Nietzsche); bi-weekly Movement Experimentation Sessions; weekly Writing Activations; as well as two series of monthly public events, Knots of Thought and Movements of Thought (in collaboration with the transdisciplinary art centre Usine C). Remote participants regularly join Montreal-based activities by Skype.
The SenseLab has been hosting residencies since 2008. We welcome researchers and creators who seek to stretch their practice and thinking in new directions within a processually open and supportive collaborative environment. A recently awarded Partnership grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada has enabled the SenseLab to solidy its collaborative network, which formally extends to 12 universities and 20 community arts partners in North America, Europe, and Australia, as well as informally connecting to a constellation of other groupings.
The SenseLab produces an online multi-media journal entitled Inflexions: A Journal for Research-Creation (an Open Humanities Press journal). The goal of Inflexions is to experiment with new modes of the dissemination of knowledge that fully avail themselves of the potentials offered by the internet. We also have a book series at Open Humanities Press entitled Immediations which encourages explorations into collaborative process that push the concept of the book to its limit.
In its first ten years, the SenseLab hosted a series of international events under the rubric Technologies of Lived Abstraction. Our first event, Dancing the Virtual (2005), focused on the "movement of thought" as embodied relational movement. Housing the Body, Dressing the Environment (2007) was composed around "platforms for relation" activating constellations of thought in the in-between of the body and the built environment. Society of Molecules (2009) invited far-flung groupings in a number of countries to plan a remotely coordinated set of local art interventions germinating from "seeds of process" gifted between groups. Finally, Generating the Impossible (2011) explored the concepts of an "emergent attunement" out of chaos, and of the "transduction" of one process into another, moving between a remote forest location and the inner city. Since we ended the Technologies of Lived Abstraction event series, we have begun a new phase, broadly called Immediations, which explores techniques that create emergent collectivities. The events organized have included Into the Midst (2012), Three Mile Meal (2013) and Enter Bioscleave (2013).
Everyone is welcome.
We are located at Concordia University (Hexagram) in EV 10th floor, room 785.
For international visitors who would like to come to the SenseLab or participate virtually, please contact Erin.