Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Black Lab Week Nine

Present: Andy Abbott, Yvonne Carmichael, Dave Ronalds, Bryony Pritchard, Martha Jurksaitis, Mick Welbourn, Rob Quirk, Terry Slater, David Thomas, Stuart Bannister.

We began by discussing the time we have left in the space and some of the activity planned. It looks like we’ll be in there until our original agreement ends which would be 2 weeks into May but the space could be altered in that time with partitions so better to bring any events forward into the last week of April. The calendar is looking that way anyhow.

We wondered how strongly the Green Sands building had affected the activity that happened there? We haven’t used the walls but we have been able to have open access and leave stuff set up. Has the short time-scale and the nature of the room instilled a sense of responsibility to do something there? We began to talk about how we might continue afterwards – in other spaces or perhaps just as we were previously in pubs and people’s houses.

Also, it has taken a while to get responses from some of the artists and speakers we originally had in mind to visit the Lab, many of which have been positive. This might partly be to do with the fact that as the blog has developed it articulates the project a little better to those not directly involved. We need to continue to meet, then, and find appropriate places for these talks and activities to happen. To date we have planned visits from Dan Simpkins and Penny Whitehead, a Skype appearance by Dave Beech, and interest from Simon Critchley and Ganghut, that would all fall outside of our time in Green Sands. We discussed a few alternatives in the Holbeck area.

Yvonne showed a collection of artist and self-produced publications she had brought along so we might begin to talk about the idea of a collectively produced magazine/publication again. Andy asked whether the ‘horizon’ of the Black Lab project – to engage in, open up and demystify that which constitutes critical debate on art – is still relevant to the group and, if it were, is it still a useful frame for the publication? It was agreed that it would be and that it might mean that the publication do more than simply document the discussions, presentations and activity in Black Lab – although this would also be a useful function of the publication.

We talked again about how the Black Lab project is documented, archived and disseminated – how people find out about it and how we reflect on it. Are we in a position to make a collective statement about how we have done things? Would it be against our ethos to come across as telling others how they ought to do a similar project? Although we want to share our experiences, and what we might consider knowledge, this will have to be tackled with tact. Bryony also reminded us that it would be unfortunate for discussions about the legacy of the project to undermine the project itself.

Also, Rob suggested we think about a publication as a punctuation mark, not a finality. This brought us to talk about how we might produce something with less preciousness than most critical art debate or, as Amelia crouch has written, art writing as the right to wonder. It seems that the perceived elitism or closedness of most critical writing/debate on art is that it pertains to well-informed truth. How might we exercise the right to opinioned and, potentially, contradictory reflection on art? Dave asked how might we do this without making a series of throwaway statements. Stu also reminded us that we had talked about the publication being more than just writing, or even paper based. Will including samples of work help ‘educate’ people in previously impenetrable art forms just as writing about them would achieve? It would also be a nice way of documenting and sharing some of the ‘produce’ of the lab. We discussed multimedia elements like DVDs with videos and web-links to material we have come across in the lab. It would be good to include these but without losing the tactile and immersive qualities of a ‘proper’ publication. Aspen came up again as a good example of a multimedia magazine/archive/object.

Andy and Stu talked about the Badiou/Critchley lecture from last week. Stu said that it was a good experience and that he got a lot more from the Critchley section of the lecture than the Badiou; to do with the quality of the recording, the differeing styles of delivery and the material. Stu was most interested in the ‘passive nihilism’ and ‘active nihilism’ categories that Critchley outlines; where passive nihilism is a retreat from the world as it is (through yoga, intentional communities, alternative cultural activity etc) and active nihilism is the desire to destroy the present world in order to start a new one (a la avant-garde art tactics like Situtaionist International and terrorist networks like Al Qaeda). The ‘third way’ outside of these two nihilist tactics is a ‘within and against’ strategy of finding critical distance or cracks within the world as it is to bring about change. This is an unending and infinite process. Andy also added that Critchley sees political action as born of a disappointment or lack in the world and also sees an important role for critical distance through laughing at oneself. This tactic might seem a little too close to postmodern life through an ‘ironic’ lens however, and also the ‘within and against’ tactic always sounds easier than it is (see Black Dogs Tower Works projects and upcoming activity at the Tate). It was agreed that it’d be great to get chance to talk more about these issues with critchley if he were able to make a visit in Autumn.

The whole idea of ‘critically distanced’ activity as art is also something we have been discussing within the Lab and outside of it. Andy mentioned a conversation he’d had the night previous with Harry Meadley and David Steans about what implications this definition of art might have for any activity that wholly identifies with the market-led Artworld. Can we call such activity art under this definition? Similarly what implications does it have for any productive or creative activity that doesn’t involve critical reflection? How can this critical distance be incorporated into activity without it dictating or consuming the activity?

Last we talked about some of the activity booked in for the end of April and how we would make this open. We are wary of advertising the events as something for people to come and be spectators of (for some of this activity that would be problematic) but we would like to let people come and see the space and get a sense of what has been going on there. We agreed that we could advertise the Alvin Lucier, 24-hour music jam and performance workshops (if Michael Burkitt wants to) as something people are welcome to drop in and see – almost as works in progress or open studio / open lab. How we will phrase this will have to be decided fairly quick as the activity is fast approaching.

Stu also mentioned that Lucy had been asked by Culture Vulture to cover stuff about the Bradford Playhouse (we should make a visit to The Playhouse to watch a film on Detroit) and that she might write about next week’s Lab activity. We wondered whether there might be a more collective way of documenting or reflecting on the events next week and agreed to talk to Lucy about it.

Then we went to the pub.


All to contribute something to the publication; text, image, DVD, CD etc that might document or reflect on individual or collective activity in the Lab or go someway towards ‘opening up debate on critical art’.

All to carry on inviting artists and visitors to the Black Lab.

Stu, David Thomas and Michael Burkitt to think about how to phrase public announcements of next weeks activity.

Next general meeting Tues 20th April at 6pm. Activity in lab until then includes La Jette screening at 6pm on Thursday (although we might play the film later as it might not be dark enough).


  1. Hi All

    Sorry to have missed another Tuesday meeting. My passive nihilist streak keeps making me stay at home to do my yoga ;-)

    Just to add a bit more about the things I asked Stu to bring to the meeting for me. The screening of 'Requiem for Detroit?' - I will speak to Eleanor again about sorting this out and see if I can help her set it up. I have found it in 6 parts on you tube, unless anyone knows how to get it off the BBC?

    Culture Vulture blog - I have been asked to be a regular blogger for CV and in that role I wondered about reporting from the upcoming weekend at Black Lab as so much is going on. This wasn't supposed to be a comprehensive/collaborative document, just me as a blogger and an interested participant reporting on the activity. However, I wasn't sure how everyone would feel about me doing that, so I am happy not to. I don't get paid, just write about what I'm interested in/get asked to cover. I have 2 upcoming blogs - one on the Bradford Playhouse and Jean McEwan's PS I Love You week and one on Extra-Ordinary at Theatre in the Mill. Stu mentioned Black Dogs had been asked to contribute to CV so it's no problem at all for me not to write about Black Lab.

    Hope to make it along next week!


  2. Mick mentioned that he might be able to get the off-air recording of Requiem for Detroit, from the college library i'm guessing,


  3. Hey Lucy,

    regarding the Culture Vulture blog I think it'd be good to have something about the Black Lab on there at some point - and it certainly doesn't have to (and probably shouldn't) come from Black Dogs so don't feel like you can't write on it if you want to! I guess we just thought perhaps it'd be good to have something on there that reflects the project as a whole at some point. I know Emma Bearman is interested in what Black Dogs do (and I guess by extension what's going off at Black Lab) but also that it would take some careful articulation to make sense to the readers of Culture Vulture.

    Anyhow, will be good to talk it over at some point before next week!

  4. Yep, that makes sense, and in 500 words it'd be tricky to convey. Lets talk in person. Cheers Andy.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.