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FormLAB.Beijing. Still from video performance March 5, 2017. 2017 © FormLAB, ARS New York

About FormLAB 1997-present 

FormLAB (formlaboratory) is an artist-exploration project conceived by Les Joynes (US) in 1997 at Goldsmiths, London. Since its first conception as a methodology to expore the phenomena of art-making FormLAB has grown into a multi-city exhibition series that explores cultures through art-making. FormLAB is currently a Fulbright-Hays awarded project at Inside Out Art Museum Beijing (April, 2017) and CEC Artslink-St Petersburg, Russia (November, 2017).


FormLAB explores localized cultures through their found objects; these are collected, brought to improvised nomadic laboratories and reprocessed into new artifacts.

Creating sculptures on site with found objects: FormLAB installed at Brazilian Museum of Sculpture, 2012.  2012 © FormLAB, ARS New York

Merging new media with tradtional culture: As a Fulbright-Hays and CEC ArtsLink awarded project FormLAB-Mongolia exhibited (above) at the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Art, Ulaanbaatar where Joynes worked with Mongolian artists, traditional and contemporary electronic musicians and dancers creating a shared dialogue between different music forms, dance and sculpture installation in a traditional nomadic ger (above).

Appropriating notions of archeological excavation, observation and collecting, FormLAB mines found-objects from localized communities and activates them within an art space. It creates production systems: transforming materials on site into artworks; and archive systems for display within museums and galleries.


FormLAB is inspired by Cabaret Voltaire (1916) (Kandinsky, Klee, Tzara, Taeuber-Arp, de Chirico, and Ernst), the Cadavre Exquis experiments of Andre Breton (1918), and the Cut-up works of William Burroughs (1970) which result in a combination of performances, videos and cabinets of curiosity installed in museums. Identities are revealed though shared and collaborative processes, through the in-situ discovery of found objects, sounds, images and gestures.

These are then assembled into sculptures, captured in video, performance, drawings and photos. For FormLAB at the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture, São Paulo, (Museu Brasilero da Escultura) Joynes explored local ritual and sculpture-making with the leader of a Brazilian shamanic group, assembling sculptures made from objects possessing history, memory and magic. (Image left, Les Joynes creating assemblage sculptures in FormLAB at the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture, Sao Paulo, 2012).







Throughout the expedition in Russian-made jeeps (above) then on horseback FormLAB created Buryiat (2014) a video of a the matriarch of a nomadic herder family who now in her 70s connects with her own Mongolia and its borders through binoculars observing the land, the herds, horses, family, neighbours, and the vast Steppe landscape through her binoculars.


And throughout the journey through central Mongolia and Khovsgol Province visiting a nomadic Tsaatan reindeer herding group, FormLAB created videos connecting the artist to the landscape, its people, and its traditions.

In Korea for Seoul Art Space (2012) at the Seoul Foundation for Art and Culture Joynes (above) and FormLAB worked with local artists to create assemblage sculptures from thousands of plastic toys collected in the neighborhood of Geumcheon in Seoul - recombining these into installations and assemblages. Here he explores on a micro-level the power of disruption. (image above, Les Joynes performing at FormLAB, Seoul Foundation for Art & Culture, Korea 2012).

As an artist fellow with the Bauhaus Foundation Kolleg Program (Germany) Joynes created on-site performances in Berlin and Singapore (above) with contemporary and traditional dancers to create light sculptures (above). For Fundação Armando Álvares Penteado (FAAP) Residency 2013 Joynes exhibited video performance works created in São Paulo (Dancing in Mercadão, 2013, Touching Sao Paulo, 2013 and in Beijing, Pink Dress, Beijing, 2013). For an upcoming exhibition at Zanabazar Museum of Fine Art, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Joynes created work with local artists and Mongolian shamans to explore performance, assemblage and the use of ritualized objects.


Les and FormLAB have received Fulbright-Hays Award for Mongolia (2014) and China (2017); CEC-ArtsLink Award for Mongolia (funded, US National Endowment for the Arts) and support from The Mongolian Ministry of Culture; The Arts Council of Mongolia; The Brazilian Ministry of Culture. FormLAB is a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fiscally Sponsored project.


The dynamic exchange between artists and local members of a local community (artists and non-artists) is made visible by FormLAB; it creates different perspectives on the arts and the cultural context in which they are created. Hybridizing the arts with other disciplines (for example: sciences, music, local ethnic practices) produces not only unique forms of artwork but also novel channels of discourse and new ways of raising awareness in the arts.


FormLAB activates the way museum audiences experience art as object and as process. It shifts the way audiences see work from static to a “live” art-making process. The evolving and radical nature of the collaborative process leads to new and unexpected discoveries and can offer new was to perceive local culture vis-à-vis global culture..


Works from FormLAB and Joynes are in private and public collections including the Museu de Arte Brasileira, Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado, the City of Awaji, Japan and private collections in Switzerland, the US, UK, Belgium and Japan. An interview on FormLAB is published in Octopus, the Journal of Visual Studies at University of California, Riverside.




As Maurice Blanchot wrote “Interruptions having somehow the same meaning as that which does not cease. Both are affects of passivity. Where power does not reign – nor initiative, nor the cutting edge of a decision – there, dying is living. There dying is the passivity of life – of life escapes freed from itself and confounded with the disaster of a time without present which we endure without waiting, by awaiting a misfortune which is not still to come, but which has always already come upon us and which cannot be present.” Blanchot, Maurice, The Writing of the Disaster, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1986, p 21


The informe (or formless) is defined by Georges Bataille in Documents (1929) as “…not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world, generally requiring that each thing have its form. What it designates has no rights in any sense and gets itself squashed everywhere.” In Bataille, G (1929), Documents 1, Paris, p. 382 (translated by Allan Stoekl et al, Georges Bataille. Vision of Excess. Selected Writings, 1927-1939, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press “Formless”, p. 31).

1996-2017 © FormLAB,  Les Joynes Joynes LLC, ARS, New York. All Rights Reserved.