DodoLab is the experimental creative practice of Lisa Hirmer and is focused on developing provocative approaches to working with the public and the nebulous reality of public opinion. Often modeled as a type of performative research, the work explores and responds to the public’s relationship with contemporary issues—meaning that it is never solely an idea in and of itself that is explored, but rather an idea in relation to the public’s (or more accurately a specific public, counter-public or community’s) understandings and beliefs about that idea.
This interest in popular ideas and beliefs arises from a conviction in creative production as a meaningful vehicle for discourse, as well as for resistance and change. DodoLab therefore works to create opportunities and mechanisms for meaningful conversation and exchange in the public sphere, drawing out a multitude of voices—from across cultures, generations, social spheres (and sometimes species)—and the diverse realities they reflect. By soliciting then working with this complex and often contradictory material, together with participants and other audiences, DodoLab aims to unravel dense ideas and unsettle the seemingly fixed or inevitable. DodoLab is particularly concerned with barriers that prevent adaptation and change within human ecologies. Through collecting, disseminating, critiquing, annotating, adapting and reconfiguring public ideas, the hope is to make work that not only explores these barriers but also begins disrupting them.
To this end, DodoLab employs a range of mediums and strategies—including exhibition, installation, public intervention, performance, art-based research, artist multiples, and experimental forms of publishing—and operates both within gallery and non-traditional settings—often exploring alternative strategies for bringing critical creative work to new publics and drawing the public into the animation of site-specific works. Projects frequently act as a dialogue between DodoLab, the public and other collaborators, with multiple voices being present in the work in rich, layered explorations of an idea. While at its core an artist practice, DodoLab is committed to navigating the sometimes-challenging space between more traditionally defined forms of art making and the realms of community-based and publically engaged arts, practice-based research and activist practices. As a practice that often centers on research, DodoLab also occasionally accepts creative public research commissions from like-minded partners.
ABOUT THE DODO
DodoLab uses the archetypal extinct species in its name and logo as a reminder both of the risks of narrow adaptation strategies and of the devastating (even when unintended) consequences human forces are unleashing on this planet. The dodo went extinct, not because it was slow or stupid, but because it was specifically adapted to the unique conditions of its home on Mauritius. When these conditions were altered by the arrival of European sailors, habits that made perfect sense on the isolated island left the dodo incredibly vulnerable and it quickly went extinct. In this fable, DodoLab simultaneously considers humans as creatures who, like the dodo, are caught in circumstances leading towards extinction, and as the perpetrators of that extinction.
THE HISTORY OF DODOLAB
DodoLab was founded in 2009 by artist/designer Lisa Hirmer and curator Andrew Hunter at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture in Cambridge, Canada. Beginning as a concept for a series of small commissions that focused on bringing creative work into public spaces and exploring the ways popular ideas and beliefs shape the world, DodoLab grew organically through the process of creating new work into a full and prolific art practice. In early 2013, Hirmer assumed DodoLab as the identity of her public-focused work. DodoLab frequently works collaboratively with curators and other artists as well as non-artist researchers, scientists, community programmers, etc., who have all made important contributions to the ongoing evolution of the practice.
DodoLab has created projects across Canada and internationally at public galleries, including Confederation Centre Art Gallery (Charlottetown), Harbourfront Centre (Toronto), University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, Kamloops Art Gallery, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Foreman Gallery (Lennoxville) and Peninsula Arts (Plymouth, U.K.); with service organizations, such as Trillium (Sudbury) and the Gosling Foundation (Guelph); municipalities, including Breckland Council (U.K.) and the City of Rijeka (Croatia); and academic groups, including The Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (University of Guelph), and the Centre for Community Based Research (Kitchener).
DodoLab gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.
DodoLab would also like to acknowledge the critical early support of Waterloo Architecture.