Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Black Lab Week Eight

Present: Stuart Bannister, Mick Welbourn, David Thomas, Michael Burkitt, Yvonne Carmichael, Richard Ormrod, Dan Robinson, Dave Ronalds, Andy Abbott, Steven Allbutt.

We began by discussing the afternoon’s sound workshop thing that had mostly been participated in by Stu, David Thomas and Mick. They had been experimenting with close miking and contact miking found objects such as stools adorned with rubber bands and scrapyard chimes, bicycles and wine glasses. David Thomas had brought part of his analogue synth set up. Andy joined in for the last hour and a half using loop pedals, singing bowl, effects pedals and binaural microphones. The quartet repeatedly improvised a soundtrack to a video Andy had made from footage shot in Shipley Swimming pool which helped refine some of the sounds made that day. Samples and snippets were played back to the group. We discussed why the Lab was a good place for such activity; all four participants agreed they hadn’t done anything similar before and that the space was a comfortable one in which to experiment. Perhaps we should try and get another session in at some point?

Within the frame of it being likely that our time in Green sands will end in mid-May we talked about some of the other planned activity in the Lab – the music week in particular. Are we going to make these public access? It sounds like the right thing to do for the Alvin Lucier, 24 hour jam and performance day. We also reviewed the invites that had gone to visiting speakers. Andy has heard back from Jayne Bradley who is happy to do the Flux-feast/food event either Sunday 25th April or May 4th and Dan Simpkins and Penny Whitehead who would like to join us on May 18th.

Dan suggested that we should perhaps reflect on the apparently organic structure that the Lab has taken (general meetings on Tuesdays which are chaired by the same person – Andy – and include a time for the discussion of individual’s interests via 10 minute presentations with events and activity happening on other days). Are there other mechanisms that we could try – as examples; having the general meetings less structured or more open, inviting other people, putting some of the events together or, on the other hand, allowing them to splinter off more. Perhaps it is time to get some distance from what the project has become and think about its original intentions as a ‘free art school’? Is that what it is or has it become something else? Dave agreed and suggested that it is difficult to attend all the elements/events/meetings that one would like to and that as such it might be hard to pick up on the narrative of the project. Richard asked about how people were invited along. Are we seeing this as a ‘pilot’ for how a free art school might work? If so how do we ‘disseminate our ‘findings’’ without sounding like we think we know what is the right way for others to do it? It was agreed that the publication we have discussed working on would be a good space for this and individual reflections at the end of the period in Green Sands foundry which is fast approaching.

After a break Yvonne showed a couple of clips from Ghost World that portray the conventional art school crit in an uncompromising light and that everyone found funny. The ridiculousness of the situation is that the tutor is the final arbiter of taste who shapes the opinions of all the students through her (lack of) valorisation by means of seemingly whimsical decisions. Andy was reminded of a text that Derek Horton had written and sent him about similar hierarchies and unquestioned conventions in art school education.

Steve then talked about Spurn point via a slideshow of old and new photographs and postcards. Spurn Point is (according to Wikipedia) ‘a narrow sand spit on the tip of the coast of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England that reaches into the North Sea and forms the north bank of the mouth of the Humber estuary. It is over 3 miles (4.8 km) long, almost half the width of the estuary at that point, and as little as 50 yards (46 m) wide in places. The southernmost tip is known as Spurn Head or Spurn Point and is the home to an RNLI lifeboat station and disused lighthouse.’ Steve has been going there for the last 15 years and has seen how the residents have to respond to the changes in the sea and the landscape. He recommended that everyone visit there as the local community welcome creatives. Steve is in the final stages of completing a residency there.

Mick showed a slideshow of images of empty houses in Detroit (the subject of Steve’s presentation a fortnight ago). We talked as a group about what we each understood and had heard about the situation there. It is an interesting case study because it seems to represent the finality of the ‘cycles’ of recession and migration of capitalism. David Thomas pointed out that such huge shifts have occurred before but perhaps not in our lifetime. We talked about economics and how art can be used as a tool to facilitate the shift in subjectivity and the redefinitions of wealth and value that would constitute a ‘new paradigm’ needed in the face of the ‘triple crunch’ of peak-oil, financial collapse and environmental crisis. There were differing opinions in the room but it was agreed that it would be an interesting conversation or thread to explore in more detail. Perhaps through James Hill’s redux of Das Kapital or David Harvey’s online reading group of the same book?

We spent the remainder of the evening talking about two interlinked forthcoming projects for Black Dogs; their invite to participate in No Soul For Sale and another offer to organise a party for local residents who are friends of the Tate on the Sunday of that weekend. We talked about the ideas to date and our worries and anxieties about the contradictions within those. Stu, David Thomas and Dan commented that it seems like a difficult project for Black Dogs as there are lots of uncertainties about how it will reflect on the group. However, our main concern was that we will do something for No Soul For Sale that isn’t enjoyable for us. It was agreed that our own response to the problem we have posed ‘How Not to Sell Your Soul at No Soul for Sale’ would be ‘to make sure we have a good time’. Therefore we discussed transforming the space into a pub-like installation in which we could display the cards provided by people but also play games, chat, eat and drink. We talked about the invite to organise the resident’s party and how that seemed like a much more suitable and appropriate scenario for Black Dogs both from inside and outside the group.


All to book in additional activity in the Lab.

All to continue to invite artists/speakers/visitors to the Lab with knowledge of NAN bursary and confidence that even if it falls outside our time in Green Sands we will find a space to hold a meeting in.

All to think about the joint publication and make some contributions to this.

Next general meeting Tues 13th April at 6pm. Check calendar and blog for activity in the Lab in the interim. Next event is the second Alain Badiou listening group tonight at 6pm.

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