Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Black Lab Week Four

Present: Mick Welbourn, Liz Murphy, Amelia Crouch, Yvonne Carmichael, Will Rose, David Ronalds, Martha Jurksaitis, Terry Slater, Rob Eastwood, Zoe Sawyer, Jay Cover, Steve Allbutt, James Hill, Michael Burkitt, Dick and Jamie (?) from Play Theatre company, David Thomas, Lucy Bannister, Stu Bannister, Andy Abbott.

In the afternoon Stu had initiated a noise workshop/jam/muckabout/sandpit that was attended by Dave Ronalds, Dave Thomas, Martha, Rob and Stu. We began the evening's discussions with a quick overview by Stu of how the afternoon had gone. It sounded like it had bee a lot of fun for those involved – 'like art school should have been' Dave R said – and Stu will attempt to put some of the recordings from the afternoon on the blog or we can listen to them later. It was agreed that it could be a regular thing, or that at least it should happen again so other people within the group get a chance to attend. The idea of opening up the workshops to an audience outside of participants in the Black Lab was floated but it was agreed to be probably unnecessary and potentially obstructive in that having to articulate it to people outside of the group would put pressure on the session to find a premature 'form' (as a 'workshop', 'jam session' etc when actually it is none of these). There was also a discussion about whether similar sessions could take place in different disciplines/media. Martha keen to do a film 'workshop', Michael keen to do a Performance 'workshop'. Lucy contribute the word 'sandpit' as a potential phrase for describing these sessions. General consensus seemed to be that it was a silly word but one we didn't mind using.

We then recommenced last week's 'introductions'. Dick and Jamie from Play introduced who they were and gave a brief overview of the type of work they do. It was agreed that they would be welcome to return and demonstrate or test work in the Lab.

Andy showed a few books that he'd brought for the Black Lab Reading Corner including Wochenklausur's book, and The Interventionists exhibition catalogue. These were a way to introduce his interests in political, critical, activist and socially-transformative art. Andy showed a picture of (a recreation of) the work of Saltaire's dogshit circler (an unknown individual who draws circles in pastel-coloured chalk around dog turds on the street and leaves passive-aggressive messages to the perpetrator's imagined owner) as a means by which to talk about a tension he sees between descriptive or representational critical art that aims to unmask, highlight and bring to public attention certain political issues and those more pragmatic (and potentially reformist) artistic strategies that favour direct action (ala Wochenklausur). There followed a brief discussion about the differences and relative merits of those strategies but it was agreed it might be better not to try and 'solve' the questions they posed immediately.

Rob introduced No Fixed Abode's interests through two books; one of which was Superflex's 'Self-Organisation; counter-economic strategies' and the other which I can't remember. Rob and Terry both commented on how it was surprising given the importance of architecture in lived experience that it would appear there is less critical or radical discourse on the subject and in practice (or that at least this harder to unearth) than in other artistic fields. Rob and Terry in their own practice try to explore this and as a result are also interested in the role structures and physical spaces play in 'relational' or discursive practices which tend to favour immateriality and the ephemeral. Andy commented that this was also a concern for Black Dogs and that we perhaps see the Black Lab as a foray into that territory. Will mentioned Vito Acconci's architecture practice and Lucy also gave examples of a Dutch architecture duo's work.

Will Rose described a performance he had enacted in collaboration with an American filmmaker based on a set of instructions sent to Will as a letter. The performance took place at PSL and involved Will following spoken directives that were broadcast as audio in the space specific to operating two projectors. Stu and Amelia described their interpretation and emotive response to the performance (as they were present). They agreed there was a sense of shared anticipation as it was revealed Will didn't know what was coming next and as such was quite 'dangerous' feeling. There was a discussion about improvisation and instructional works and how these have been of interest in past Black Dogs work. We also talked about how the performance might be different if Will were to do it again and that maybe that could happen in the Black Lab.

We then had a break and on return Martha showed a film she had made by burying and editing some ruined film stock. A discussion followed about the revelation of the processes involved in making what can potentially be seen as non-narrative or wholly formalist work, which we related back to the discussion about Stu's field recordings. Is it more interesting for an audience to know where such work 'comes from'. Does it add a narrative layer? What is gained and lost in making the process transparent?

We then talked about more collective projects for the group as a whole and revisited last week's suggestion that we produce a collective fanzine as part of the Lab's activity. Stu had mentioned Aspen as an example of an expanded magazine format that might be appropriate to the Lab seeing as not all our work might be suited to A4 paper. We talked about the 'principle' or 'horizon' of the publication; that being one of 'opening up' that which constitutes valid artistic discussion and critique. There was some discussion about the problematic nature of these parameters – would it lead us to a simple 'dumbing down' of discourse on art? Who is the publication for? What does it mean to be 'inclusive' or to use 'inclusive language'? Another problem highlighted is the thin line between the inclusion of samples of work as a method by which to 'expose'/'educate' audiences to potentially unfamiliar work (which was agreed to be desirable) and the publication being used as a way to 'showcase' individual's work (less desirable). It was agreed that the best way to address this was by making and contributing pieces and pages and worrying about the editing later.

Finally we talked about the visiting lecture/artist programme. There have been great suggestions on the blog and it was agreed that if people want to bring someone over to talk then they should go ahead and organise it. Stu has shown that the Wayne's World ethos of 'book them and they will come' is an effective tactic in the Black Lab. The google calendar can be used to see if there is a free date and assuming that the artist/speaker's fee's are not extraordinary then it was agreed that we can assume the group as a whole will be happy to all chip in or that we will find the funds somehow. We also talked about the 'ghost lectures' (playing of pre-recorded lectures and presentations as audio or video in the space with a group discussion following) and agreed that this should begin in the same spirit; if anyone has a lecture or video they'd like to share with the group then put a date on the calendar and something on the blog and assume that people will turn up!

As we were wrapping up Lucy brought up a few practical issues. Who is supplying necessaries in the space like loo roll, tea and coffee etc, should we start a kitty? Do we want a computer/printer in the space? Can we get wi-fi? Andy suggested that we use March 18th as a watermark for occupying the space as the BBC are holding an event on that date and the space will need clearing out. Following that we can begin to use the space knowing it won't be interrupted until the end of the 3 month term (which will be mid-May).


All to begin to book in events, 'sandpits'/'workshops' etc on the calendar and organise them.

All to work up some contributions for the 'publication'.

Next meeting 6pm Tuesday 16th March. Check calendar and blog for any activities in the interim.


  1. Quick note to say i've claimed the Emac that lumen are giving away, we'll have it next tuesday if it's generally decided that we want it! Stu

  2. laughed out loud when I read about the Saltaire DOGSHIT CIRCLER. We seem to have one here in BASLOW!!! When I first saw his work I thought 'good for you, you tell him!' then I wondered if perhaps the local school (situated just yards from the putrid muck) had a part in it. Imagine my surprise when I checked out your blog re the Tate Modern, to find that my son has recognised dogshit circling as an artform. I never stop learning!! Delighted that BASLOW has an artistic social conscience throbbing in its chocolate-box picturesque beauty. I pass this work of art twice a day on my daily walk to and from Chatsworth Park and I will try to photograph the diminishing evidence before the rain washes it away completely. It had the desired effect though. The cirles are 'barren' ... just a telltale skid mark of offensive apathy. Begs the question though... has the dog owner taken responsibility or has the owner of the house felt shamed into clearing his pavement and so atone for an offense he didn't commit?
    Janis Abbott


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