Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Lab With No Name Week One

Present: Andy Abbott, Michael Burkitt, Rob Quirk, Terry Slater, Lucy Bannister, Stuart Bannister, Yvonne Carmichael, Gill Park, James Hill, Dan Simpkins, Penny Whitehead

Dan and Penny joined us from Liverpool and gave a presentation that reflected what they thought of as the theoretical and political framework for the Black Lab (from what they had gathered from the blog). This moved through an outline of global Student movements and occupations reacting against the neoliberlisation of the University and the increase in debt culture through to (post)-communist/anarchist writings by the Invisible Committee (in their small book ‘The Coming Insurrection’) which they have been reading as part of a reading group about political aesthetics in Liverpool.

Afterwards we talked a little about if and why Black Lab had consciously avoided such a directly oppositional/radical framing? For some of the participants it is/was a definite reference point and might help articulate the idea of a ‘common’ ethos but in practice we spent as much time ‘doing’ rather than ‘framing’ and often a lot of the activity was quite humble and less obviously politicised. Would the kind of framework offered by Dan and Penny (through autonomous and self-organised global movements) perhaps help articulate what the Black Lab is better to a wider audience and aid in finding connections with a broader range of ‘common’ activities?

We then began to talk about the specific issues of moving on from Black Lab. It was mostly agreed that a new name would be appropriate for whatever it becomes and a few practicalities were agreed:

- that it happens less regularly (once a week has been too much of a commitment to continue with),
- that the preceding admin and documentation/dissemination (through the blog) is rotated through a ‘steering group’ rather than one person always taking care of it,
- and that it would be a good idea to experiment with different spaces in which the meetings are held so it is not reliant or tied to spaces that Black Dogs have secured.

We spent the majority of the conversation talking over some of the issues that had arisen at the last meeting to do with renaming and also articulating neatly what Black Lab/the new project is. There is a clear tension between wanting to have clarity over what the project is so that it is open for other people (not necessarily to join but to engage in) and the potential for this to unduly ‘fix’ what the project is. Its fluidity and organic development have been key to its success and we want to leave that intact whilst being able to offer a better projection of the project to help address misinterpretations like ‘it’s Andy Abbott’s Independent Art School’.

This relates to whether we call it a ‘club’, ‘school’, ‘lab’, whether we use ‘art’ in the name and whether the name is ambiguous or attempts to be descriptive. Dan offered an observation that perhaps as long as the activity is continued to be well documented then the pressure to summarise what the project is becomes lessened. The sort of people that will feel an affinity or share common ground with a project like Black Lab are hopefully the kind of people that will appreciate the fact it can’t be easily or neatly articulated in a sound bite and will spend time engaging in a blog to get a sense of what it is. The people that can’t be bothered to do that are perhaps people that wouldn’t connect with it anyway.

Lucy suggested that we have the next meeting as a workshop in pulling out some key reflections on the past project using paper, pens, post-its etc. This might help us to find ways of articulating the project that we are collectively comfortable with. Lucy will therefore be the first in the ‘rotating chair’ and responsible for setting a date, time and venue (Saw Mill Yard should be available) and contacting potential invitees. Andy will forward around the contact list to everyone who has put themselves forward for being in the ‘steering group’ to date.


LB to arrange next meeting date TBC