Sunday, 28 February 2010

Possible invitees

An idea from last Tuesday's conversations is a symposium on artist collectives following on from conversations around Black Dog's research into what it means to be an artist and what does it means to be a collective. As a starting point it would be great to invite Tether from Nottingham to come and talk about their recent research into artist-led organsiations. They toured the UK interviewing artist groups and artists-led spaces


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Some notes and suggestions

Hello All
I was delighted to get my first visit in at Black Lab last night, and had a great time. Particularly thanks to Alice and Yvonne for the wine I helped consume!

So I just thought I'd add a couple of notes from my recollection of the meeting before they disappear.

What I took from the meeting was that we need to have some kind of organisation - which could quite simply take the form of a calendar. Having a big version in the space would be great, but an online google cal (which I think Andy has already sorted) will allow people who can't attend the space regularly to keep in touch with what is going on and coming up.

There was some discussion about documentation, but I have to admit I don't quite know where that conversation ended up.

It looks like some events are ready to roll (or nearly) and should be added to the calendar. Other people with ideas should get their ideas into action as there is no need to mess about with umming and ahhing.

People at the meeting gave ideas of who they would like to invite to the space. The wish list was great and also helped to spark some ideas off of what could happen in the lab. I suggested David Harding which I don't think anyone else was familiar with so here is a link to his website:

I'd like to add to this with a group from Scotland called Ganghut I think they'd be really up for it, and it'd be interesting to propose some kind of weekend of collaborating with them. I'll explore this idea a bit further.

The important thing I took from the meeting is that we shouldn't just meet up and talk about what we're going to do each week but start to do things, talk about other things, have screenings etc.

I didn't write anything down so that's what comes to mind just now!
Black Lab

Apologies for not attending last nights meeting, I was occupied by a prior engagement. I'm looking forward to attending further meetings and would, if I may, like to invite Conway & Young to the next meeting.

Working closely with Zoe and being a practitioner myself - not long graduated, I'd like to make that we were referring to accessibility towards available spaces in Leeds, not there being a lack of - unless you have a specific discipline, which lends itself to contexts other than galleries and / or you have established a healthy network in the region. I'm not speaking on behalf of myself, I'm speaking on behalf of other practitioners I'm aware of have had encounters with, I'd consider myself to have had and made plenty of opportunities for myself and I'm satisfied with that. I'm interested in education and helping facilitate development of others practice as well as my own, on the terms of those interested in pursuing something. However, this isn't completely selfless, what I'm interested in developing is a sustained and expanding critical body within the region, encouraging others to get involved. To clarify a point I was trying to make, which I'm sure I didn't articulate very well in the first meeting, is what I'm personally interested in, is somewhere to facilitate conversation, without formality, without having to present something. Situations where unexpected encounters are able to occur. To my knowledge and in my experience the places that this generally happens is in a context where you have invited or advertised a certain event or happening where like minded individuals will attend.

I do personally feel it's important for activity to happen, activity that operates as a catalyst for conversation. I'm not an academic - so the majority of what I feel to be my arena for conversation and development is generally in a gallery / studio / event context. This is not to say that I think the space should facilitate or operate as any of these, because in truth, I don't. I'm interested in dialogue. As someone who is familiar with dialogue between a closed and small group of people, I'm aware of the unwitting benefits of sharing thoughts and ideas, this to my mind only helps when your perspective is outward looking or responsive.

Observing what others have suggested, I'd like to make note of the fact that most people are suggesting formalising things relating to their personal practice, which I think is a really good idea. I can't think of a better way of encouraging someone to invest in something, whilst creating a point of discussion.

I also would like to discuss other Leeds related projects and activities, as a point of conversation, with a view to developing knowledge about or responding to issues that could be resolved by a body of like minded people. Things like Art in Unsual places for example - something that's happening now which could be used as a satellite for Black Lab activity. I shared an interesting conversation over cigarettes with Dave & James, who talked about the importance of 'lack of space' in Leeds relating to art practice in Leeds. With hindsight I'd have like to have posed the thought that the only reason we'd gathered in the Round Foundry was because of an excess of space - I just thought I'd note that because I thought it was important.

I don't have much to propose at the moment unfortunately, but would like to extend the offer of getting involved helping others realise activity in the space. Drawing, designing things - whatever!

I think this is great,

see you all soon!


Black Lab Week Two

Week 2 in the Black Lab

My account of this week's Black Labness may be incomplete as I arrived roughly an hour and a half into the meeting but I have Yvonne's notes to help and hope that also some kind soul will correct me or fill in the gaps with their own minutes.

This week in attendance were Lucy Bannister, Dan Robinson, Stuart Bannister, David Thomas, Alice Bradshaw, Steven Allbutt, Martha Jurksaitis, James Hill, Phill Harding, Yvonne Carmichael and later on Dave Ronalds. It was suggested people bring food and drink and as such the fodder and the drink were piled high on a makeshift banqueting table made from wallpaper pasting table covered in a red table cloth that everyone was sat around.

Looking at the notes it appeared that the meeting began by discussing some of the activity that could happen in the space. MJ has suggested a film night for 27th March. Contents May Vary would like to host a quiz (no date confirmed).. AA has suggested using space for Placemaking action research meetings, as the hub for a pilot for a Time Bank for the creative community in Leeds and also to have his big shed in there. LB suggested getting a large calendar in the space (and online? - google calendar linked to blog?)

When I arrived the conversation around the table was about documenting activity in the space with concerns being raised around the fact that this can sometimes have a negative affect on the activity itself. How can we make sure that the activity and discussions that happen in the space both leave a trace and accumulate in the physical space itself (and also on a blog) so that people who haven't been able to attend every meeting can get a sense of what has gone on there, whilst ensuring that activity remains uninhibited and experimental?

We returned to Alice (and Liz)'s idea of exquisite corpse/consequences and also that one of the goals of the project would be to identify the common points in divergent activity by individuals as had seemingly happened with the Black Dogs house-presentations that prompted the start of this project. Also the idea of starting an archive of catalogues, flyers etc relating to (art) activity we are interested in.

JH suggested there be a library/reading corner where people can leave books and print-outs or photocopies of essays for other people to read. AA proposed some protocol for writing notes or keeping a log or comments book about what has been read. Some form of collectively annotating the texts. Perhaps the big shed from the Festival of Pastimes could act as the reading room?

Suggestions that emails and conversations get printed out large-scale and used to adorn the walls so we get a sense of the accumulated conversation.

What resources would we like in the space? A PA system so there can be musical experiments and maybe even performances (let's not use the word gig because of its carpet-staining connotations). A library in a shed. An oven. A fridge (LB offered one from Axis). A projector and DVD player (projector already in place). Anything else? A photocopier or printer?

What would we like to see happen there? Things already discussed like screenings but how about the use of the space for sharing of info, place for critical debate, workshops etc. Would be great if you could just drop in and there would always be people to talk about work with and show it to. Suggested that we say Tuesdays and Saturdays are these times. Critical drop-ins.

What kind of presentations could happen? Who wants to do one. JH to do his intro to Marx's Capital (18th March?). AA keen to do one about Badiou and Hardt and Negri in next couple of weeks. Dan Robinson also keen.

What about people we might bring in as visiting speakers? A round-the-table wishlist ensued with the following individuals and groups mentioned as people we'd like to see present and have a discussion with in the space. YC to put in a grant application for travel relating to this.

Initial wishlist for visitors includes:

Dave Beech
Eleanor from Bradford Playhouse
Red Wire
Wolsten Holme
Emily Speed
Lombard Method
Gavin Wade
Empty Shop
Book Works
Terry Atkinson
Alvin Lucier
Bill Drummond
Jonathon Mead
David Harding
Suzanne Lacy
Daniel Thompson
Temporary Services
Paul Bailey
James Belling
What, How and for Whom
Time Etchells

What about next week's activity. Dan Robinson suggested that people bring something with them that might help introduce their interests (not necessarily a formal powerpoint presentation or CV but more something that reflects there interests and could be shown to the group informally in five minutes). MJ, for instance, has suggested a film by Sector Sixteen we could watch. PH and SB keen to recreate some Alvin Lucier pieces in the space and perhaps do some La Monte Young recitals too.

Then everyone went to the pub.


AA to bring shed to space, also to pick up fridge from Axis and kolintangs from Holy Trinity Church.

SB to look into sourcing a PA

AA to set up google calendars

YC to complete travel bursary application

All to forward articles, essays etc to James Hill for printing.

All to bring something to show (briefly) to next meeting as a way of introducing interests.

All to bring books they want in the Lab Shed Library.

All to put forward suggestions for visiting speakers.

All to continue to suggest activity for space and add to calendar.

NEXT MEETING TUES 2nd March 6pm.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Black Lab Week One

Minutes/meeting summary for Tues 17th Feb by Michael Burkitt

In’t Lab this week, Islington Art Academy presented an account of self-initiated activity and information exchange. Recognising the disillusionment amongst art graduates leaving the art schools or universities they were identifiable with, three foundation students set up their own institution in an old cotton Mill in Manchester.

Seemingly slicing into the nuts and guts of something perhaps very often overlooked in art education, the academy investigated the question what does it mean to be an artist? Sharing resources and discussion the self-directed students of Islington invited artist’s come to their school to talk about, reflect on and expose their methods. Open to anyone wishing to enrol the academy dissolved the usual hierarchy of information, resources and experience with the attitude and commitment to the idea that there should always be a mutually beneficial exchange with the people they worked with.

After this very interesting account from Morris, Maria, Amy and Michael attention turned towards the large warm space we were so comfortably seated in, a ‘space for debate’, the Lab. Andy and Dave from Black Dogs then questioned how people who had been invited might see the function of Lab. It seemed to me it would be a place for honest discussion, a place to initiate critical debate, experiment with anomalies, probe new resources and evaluate practice. Dave asked people to perhaps begin to think about taking ownership of the space and respond via email within this initial framing.

Thus far Liz from Contents May Vary, who attended has suggested pooling catalogues from shows we don’t read anymore, bits of essays from critical journeys from past years, books from charity shops into a temporary library of all the art bumpf we all pick up at shows from around the country. In addition she thought a series of talks by artists around the place would be a grand agenda.

Liz didn’t think at this time it would be helpful trying to work towards an exhibition, She thinks that it would end up focusing too much on the show and any discussion would always have that in mind somewhere. Believing residencies would be more useful within the timescale.

Martha, International Film Festival, Exp 24 and Ma student in World Cinema at Leeds Uni wants to do 1 whole day of films, 5 feature films, lasting a total of about 10 hours. Everyone coming will be asked to bring some food or fruit or drink contribute, so people can eat together as well, and a sleeping bag or pillow if they think they might want to stay for the whole thing and have a kip. People can come at any time to watch the films, which will start every 2 hours from midday.

Stu, Lumen, sound artist and musician (Quack Quack) has given us a head’s up about a Toshimaru Nakamura Gig. The ace 'no-input' mixing desk wizard is in Manchester Next Wednesday but thinks a Leeds gig on the Tuesday would be splendid?

Please respond to these ideas and send your own. In fact Andy suggested that each person,who was there on Tuesday add their own personal minute to these minutes. In order to collectively remember or comment on proceedings.



Audio recordings from the evening can be downloaded from here.

Suggestions by Email from Stu Bannister

Here are my thoughts regarding the Green Sands space and ideas relating to the 'free art school' idea.

As I said, I'm really keen on the critique/conversation aspect, I'd like my work to be less private and to explore it in an open situation. The idea of conversation around anyone's work appeals of course, i'd consider it all valuable and beneficial.

Also, the laboratory idea appeals - somewhere to try things out, construct things, and test things with some kind of audience present. Sharing skills too, the practical side, would be a good use of that space and i'd be keen on that too.

I'm optimistic i could 'attend' at least once a week, Tuesdays are generally good. It'd generally be evenings but my work is pretty flexible so other times of day could work on occasion too. I'd be up for coming along more than once a week for extra events, sessions etc. but don't think i could commit to this every week. There's always good old email to carry on conversations between sessions i suppose!

In terms of group size for a 'crit' session, i don't really know what would work. I imagine more than 10 people could be a bit much. The idea of dividing people up into 'disciplines' (mentioned briefly in the pub last tuesday) i.e. sound, film, watercolour painting, doesn't immediately appeal for 'crit' sessions, but could be good for 'lab' sessions. I'm not really for this idea, would have to see how well things worked. The opportunity to work 'cross discipline' is something else that appeals - or at least to hear people who work with film or pebbles or whatever speak about their work. Art is Art as far as i'm concerned! (though i don't really like watercolour paintings)

I should say here that i've mostly worked with sound thus far.

In terms of people to come and speak, my mind is a bit fuzzy. I know that Phill Harding does lecturing and workshop work and i'm intrigued to be on the receiving end that - i like his work a lot and think he'd be interesting.

Apart from that, the only name is Alvin Lucier, who i recently found out is still alive, but that could cost quite a bit.

I'll send this now and continue to think about this latter bit.

Hope this is helpful, thanks for the opportunity, see you soon,



Suggestions by Email from Will Rose

Dear Black-Dogs,

Not sure if you have a generic email but please send this to the others too. Thanks a lot for inviting me along last week. There's definitely something very interesting and necessary in the air.

The space you have is great but I don't agree with some of the comments made that places to do things in Leeds are few and far between and you should therefore open this opportunity up for as many people as possible. Personally, and you know this already from chats we've had, I'm more interested in being part of an active and discursive situation, and one which can accept and encourage experimentation and open dialogue.

The next three months is a bit mad for me. Making sure I get through my PhD upgrade, and becoming a dad again, but I want to be involved.

Some thoughts:

• For a while I've been looking for the right situation to try a few things out in my (curatorial I suppose) practice. I don't want to use people as guinea pigs but am interested in trying a few things to do with how film screening and lecture, artwork and text, might overlap, literally. It links with my PhD ultimately, and would help me loads to have a reason to invite a few people along to see whether it makes any sense.

• An idea I've had for a while is to setup a sort of film gathering. Films are expensive to get hold of sometimes and I like the idea that 2, 5, 10 people that have an interest in seeing a specific thing might commit to sharing the cost of it. Say rental and courier costs for a film are £40 and 5 people want to see it... £8 each. People watch, talk, watch again. Enjoy the opportunity to see something with others that want to see it. I'd been thinking of doing it at home but this feels like a good situation to get it going maybe.

• Just meeting up. It would be good for me just to meet and talk more to be honest. Perhaps just bringing people together is enough to begin with in some ways, and maybe from that a series of presentations and ideas could emerge. Ie interesting people to bring in and share the cost of, joint reading of texts etc...

Keep me posted. I can see you have a tricky job on your hands, figuring out what to do, how to justify not making it public. I will try to be as much help as possible so just keep me informed.

Best wishes and thanks,



Suggestions by Email from Alice Bradshaw

Thanks for inviting us to the event on Tuesday, I'm up for doing
something / being involved. For me the critical dialogue is
interesting/ important/ relevant and I'm also interested in linkages
with other like minded people (cross-disciplinary ) from other cities
too. I like the idea of inviting groups/collectives/ individuals to
present/perform/ discuss/socialis e/learn on a regular basis. Liz also
mentioned using the space for sleepovers and I think this could be
expanded to create a Home with a
Living Room (event performance presentation eating drinking
socialising) . It would be good to coincide with Leeds openings and
maybe do a long weekend each month or something.

Other thoughts are looking around structuring regular event based
meetings/gatherings to allow a degree of flexibility for a large group
of people to use as a platform for engagement but who may not be able
to make every meeting and also allowing for new people to be invited
eg Exquisite Corpse Events. This would involve the next person/group
to respond to the previous event so there is a connection between each
event but allowing for much variation and approaches to event based
activity. Whether the next person needs to attend the previous event
or whether documentation is enough to respond to I'm not sure..

I think it'd be great to document any process which is implemented,
both physically and online, and to use the physical documentation to
compile an end-of-residency type exhibition.

And I think I can speak on behalf of CMV to say we'd be up for doing
something; presentation/ discussion/ workshop/ quiz are the obvious
things to suggest without knowing what will be the structure/format if

Look forward to hearing/talking more

Alice x


Suggestions by Email from Martha

I have something I'd like to do.

A Movie Marathon!
They used to do these all the time in Iceland and it was brilliant! If totally illegal in "industry" terms.
1 whole day of films shown on DVD - so, 5 feature films, lasting a total of about 10 hours. Everyone coming will be asked to bring some food or fruit or drink contribute, so people can eat together as well, and a sleeping bag or pillow if they think they might want to stay for the whole thing and have a kip. People can come at any time to watch the films, which will start every 2 hours from midday. I'm thinking I'll have to only advertise on flyers because I won't be doing things above board with acquiring the rights etc. but it should be adequate. The films will be:

(discuss at meeting as shouldn't be published on internet)

Not necessarily in that order.

I'm thinking maybe Saturday 27th March.

x Martha


Suggestions by Email from Liz Murphy

With regards to the space, I think it would be a great oppertunity to share resources. Something that always strikes me when I speak to collectives/artists is how the majority of us struggle with resources, be that money...affording materials, books, catlogues, travel to go see shows or time off work to attend lectures or more the resources we were talking about last night, critical discussion about work/ideas.

I think the lab would be a great place to try and pool these resources, everyone has catalogues from shows they dont read anymore, bits of essays from critical journeys from past years, books from charity shops that might be relevent to theory, I know I do. I think it would be ideal to create some kind of temporary library of all the art bumpf we pick up at shows from around the country, the books we dont want (or do want...this has security implications though), the essays weve read hundreds of times, abit of a knowledge sharing excersize/swop shop!

Also perhaps a series of talks, we talked last night about inviting other artists groups to give a talk, Andy asked us and we suggested intercity mainline, and the royal standard. I was also thinking about suggesting a project I have been developing over here, Whitworth a gallery in manchester runs a series of talks every Tuesday organised by the Norths now favorite art son Pavel Buchler, which involve a great programme of international artists talking about there work, I have never been able to attend one as I worked full time, neither have any of my peers as they also walk the fine line between artists and full time employment, also none of the students can attend as they are in uni, but talks are designed with us in mind, so now I have desided to attend these talks on everyones behalf, and either deliver a 20 minute synopsis of this talk verbally or send them a brief written synopsis with links to furhur reading. I think the lab would be a great platform for something like this, an oppertunity again like the library above to share specialisms or resources that others dont get chance to access for one reason or another.

Again like we wrote on the wall last night, perhaps a series of linked events where the link is almost flippant but never the less visable. Like when you mentioned you all went to each others houses for a series of crits, every talk was different it was just the inital action was the same. Last night we were saying something like exquisite corpse, perhaps one person gives a talk and the next week the person takes the last statement from the previous weeks talk as a starting point and so on.

Most importantly I just think its a great oppertunity to have such a fantastic space to house artists that all want to do the same thing, to meet and chat and talk about work and ideas, I know all these things have to have a loose framework, but I am sure something will come together. I dont think at this time it would be helpful trying to work towards an exhibition, I think that it would end up focusing too much on the show and any dicussion would always have that in mind somewhere. Plus with time scales etc it would just be mega pressure. But perhaps something like a series of residencies would be productive though?

I was going to suggest perhaps setting up a forum or some way where we would keep the discussions we have going online so they could be accessed through the week?

Sorry if this is all abit garbled, I am aware it is coming out abit like thought free running! But I am away from tomorrow so wanted to get something to you all as quick as poss before nxt week,

Thanks again for the invite

Speak soon,

Liz x


Suggestions by Email from Dan Robinson

thanks for the invite to come along last week. was good to hear from Islington Art Academy as a prompt for discussing what/how we might do this.
I like the idea of talking and experimenting with different kinds of event between critical debate, presentation, screening, performance, spectacle, and eating and drinking. I like the open-ended started point. I am wondering a bit about how it might work - what scale / format / how many people it should be ...

some thoughts:

* for me the 3 month nice space is a useful prompt to get this going but the fact of having a space is just part of this. as a forum, club, lab thing it could also rove around.
* but having a space for bit longer could be good in terms of moving more kit in.
* some discussion was around questions of how open/public it might be. and different sizes/scales of groups for things. or how some of this might be focused around different concerns or approaches. Will mentioned a possible idea of clusters around different ideas which could be useful, but then what Stu says on the blog about being interested in everything and inviting unexpected connections between things is also good. And then what Alice on the blog says about one-off day/night events, or a changing set of people who pick up from threads from previous events is another version

and some more things:

* Privacy / Openness? private conversations and experiments Vs. documenting and making everything widely available. getting to know a handful of people with a regular dialogue Vs. events structured to allow changing sets of people.
* Informally / formally structured events. playing with this, different versions.

* How the act of documenting changes the way events/dialogues unfold
* trust / experimentation.
* Is continuity important?
* discussing-doing. doing both and some of each.
* performing. on/off-stage?

music instruments
recording equipment
foam on the chairs

also Andy and Dave mentioned some questions/burning issues that came up again and again at Black dogs presentations-about-stuff-in-each-other's-houses. I'm intrigued what the issues were?

For me at the moment i'm interested in playing with collapsing different event formats into each other a bit. and tensions between spectacle and dialogue. and music/art/event - seems there's a few people involved in cross-overs between formats here - and i'm particularly interested in that.

oh and maybe reading some stuff together could be good too.