lisa haskel on Mon, 9 Aug 1999 10:41:09 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Report from the Luxsquat

[From 12 to 17 July, Rachel Baker and Heath Bunting of took
up residence at London's Lux gallery. 

Several events took place each day and evening of the week.  There were
practical workshops such as introductions to Perl/CGI, media streaming and
desktop digital video, plus presentations of projects by and
discussions led by associates on related themes and initiatives. 

In a major departure for the Lux, the machines from the education resource
were moved into the gallery - available to all-comers - on-line and set up
for digitial video, sound editing and HTML.  Books, magazines and the
Lux's comfy leather sofas helped transform the gallery into an active
space and gathering point for existing and new irational friends. 

The residency was initiated and organised by Lina D. Russell, Education
Officer at the Lux and a media artist, in association with the Lux Gallery
curator Gregor Muir. 

On the final day of the residency Lina (LDR), Heath (HB) and Rachel (RB) 
gathered with me (LH) to reflect on the achievments and implications of
the weeks activities]

Hoxton, London, 17 July 1999

LH: The Lux Gallery has been looking a bit messy this week, so I wondered
if you could tell me what's been going on. 

RB: We called it the 'Luxsquat', and the people who are squatting it are We were invited to do this by Lina, the idea being that we
could open the gallery for a week, and encourage people to come and play. 
We were given a certain number of computers, with full internet access. 
Also we've been giving workshops, presentations and some talks. 

LH:  What is irational, and to what extent is a project like the Luxsquat
part of what irational is and does? 

HB:  Irational is, we call it, an on-line art collective which consists of
five core members, with several other regular associates. Recently we have
been trying to work more closely together with other people, and doing
residencies is one way of doing that.  so its been good to work with
Rachel :-) 

RB:  We don't actually have a studio or a base to work out of, and the members are globally dispersed, so we are very dependent on
media-lab type situations, whether they are big institutions or little
independent spaces.  So it is in our interest to develop and support these
places in some way so that we can use them like oases as we are roaming

LH: Lina, has what's happened during the week surprised you? 

LR: In certain ways, yes. I think its probably made the people at the Lux
question what we are there for, and its made people wonder whether working
with networked media is something that the Lux does well and is capable of
doing.  Its a move in a very different direction for the Lux, but I think
it could trigger a whole new direction for programming the gallery, and
also education work, and the kind of people that is actually attracting. 
I think its a very healthy thing for the Lux. 

LH: What about the people that you've met during the week.  How do you see
irationals role in the contact with those people? 

RB: We are a kind of model, a design for a mode of being.  We are trying
to develop a model of how to work in a free-floating, mobile way, in a
collaborative way. Its an experimental model that we often share with
people and encourage them to take up. We show and demonstrate how it can
work, and reveal the possibilities.  As for the people that came along, it
was quite surprising who and how many.  The people that came to the
workshops had quite a specific reason to come. Often they had an avenue
they were pursuing in their own work and needed some more expertise. So
for example, at the Perl/CGI workshop people had some specific projects
that needed some specific pointers, bits of advice and programming.  As
for the presentations, like the online tookit presentation,
I think people were exposed to a method and way of working that they
hadn't seen before.  So the methodology is kind of educational, amongst
other things... social, and interventionist. 

HB:  I was surprised.  Why do people come? 

RB: A question was put to us last night at the talk with Erik Davis -'Is
our work about providing a service, or is it for our own inspiration?' For
us its a kind of mixture of both.  We have a kind of problem-solving
approach. We start with our own set of problems, and maybe share them with
whoever has a similar set of problems. We try and solve them creatively,
to have some fun at it.  They could be financial problems, or social
problems or political problems. 

LH:  In some ways that you could say that what you are doing with these
workshops is kind of training on the cheap.  But in another way you could
say that this is training or education with a very specific ethic behind
it. Lina;  I wondered if you would like to say something about that, in
relation to the education and training work that you do generally as part
of the Lux programme. 

LDR:  Well, I always try to make s distinction between workshops and
courses.  This to me is a lot more specific. I think that this kind of
stuff is what we should be doing more of.  The courses we have to do, we
are committed to doing them. 

LH: Could you remind me of the costs of the courses? 

LDR:  The cheapest is 50 pounds for a day, and the most expensive,
something like the media illusions one is about 220 pounds or 270 pounds
for two days.  We are not subsidised for courses. I have to pay my tutors
well, or else they would not teach here, and I ask them to do a lot of
preparatory work.  Workshops are much more about finding out what the
people that come to them want, more organic.  Its not about: this is what
we have to offer, here we go, its more about chatting, more two-way
process. Its different, and I think there is a real need to do more of
this kind of stuff, you could see, the workshops were all packed.  I would
like to be able to offer more of this kind of stuff. 

LH:  Heath, you have done quite a lot of work with various kinds of
institutions.  Has this week helped you think through how institutions
might take up this way of working? Is this something that you would like
to see more of? 

HB: I'm always saying about places like the Lux, that any institution has
a duty to broaden themselves out.  So that things that things that they
should without question be offering are things like free email, free web
space, free internet access - that kind of stuff.  They should have that
in place already.  All those machines are in the building and are idle
most of the time. Its like social management, really.  And I know that
Lina has been working on this very hard, and I think it has been Rachel's
intention also to open things up a bit, to be a model. 

RB: Yes. I wanted to get involved very specifically to open it up, because
for the Lux has been pretty inaccessible..  Maybe thats a kind of
psychological thing, but I haven't felt that I have been able to interface
with the Lux at all.  So for me it has been really good.  Backspace have
also have been doing residencies, I think this residency thing is quite

LDR:  At the beginning, I was really really keen to do this.  irational
and some friends were very enthusiastic, but a lot of people weren't.  I
never got a sense that people really wanted this to happen, apart from the
people in this room.  There was glimmers of interest occasionally, but not
enough to sit down and really plan it well. With something like this, you
have to be very specific, this is what we are doing, this is when we are
doing it. 

RB:  There was some resistance, definitely. 

HB:  Yes, a lot of people, other artists, said no.  They said, well, the
Lux has money, they should support us, not the other way around. 

RB:  Yes, people said, well not directly but implied, that the Lux is an
institution, it should support us in our own terms and on our own ground. 
Its not our job to do this for them. 

RB:  Yes, people said, well not directly but implied, that the Lux is a
privileged institution, even represents something we are opposed to, it
should support us in our own terms and on our own ground.  Its not our job
to do this for them.  Which is fair enough, but probably too simplistic. 
We were dealing with Lina, she was our interface with the Lux institution
and she has an interventionist sensibility that we liked. 

HB: I think that the programme could have been structured in a slightly
different way, and if there had been a bit more money some other things
could have happened.  We could have brought a few more people in because
its been quite a lot of work for me and Rachel, everyday, doing one or two
workshops or presentations. 

RB: It was quite a lot more work than I thought, and it was good having
people like Toni, Lisa and Armin coming in to do discussions. We needed
more people. We don't like to work too hard. 

LH:  Lina, given all that, can you imagine that this kind of programme can
coexist with the more traditional media art gallery programme that the
gallery is doing? 

LDR: I think its really complicated.  My initial instinct is to go for
this kind of model and try and develop it further, but I do think its
complicated, especially in the case of the Lux where you are trying to
work with different cultures.  You are trying to work with film-makers and
video-makers: I'm not trying to be separatist about it, but I think that
people working with different media you do have different cultures and
different expectations.  We are working in a building where on one side
you have a gallery and on the other side you have avid suits and silicon
graphics machines.  Sometimes I think the Lux is trying to do too much,
and I think that different people within the Lux have different agendas. 
But as always, it comes down to funding. It depends if someone can
fundraise for something like this.  We have done this on a ridiculous
budget, and I don't think that thats something that can be an on-going
thing.  I find myself relying on friends and colleagues too much.  I don't
think that the Lux should expect people to spend their time and effort for
nothing.  But all that said, yes, I think that it can develop a programme
like this. 

RB:  I don't think its always about money. You can find mutually
beneficial arrangements.  There is always something that the Lux can give,
or that others can give. It doesn't always have to be a financial deal. 

HB:  For instance, if the Lux had said Ok you can do a workshop a week and
we will offer free email access for the artists community in London for
five years then we would say yes to that. 

LDR: You see, that is the precise model that I would like to hear. 
Because I do not know how to offer that as an individual, but maybe it is
something that is possible.  I can come up with my own ideas but I need
other people to come up with theirs.  For instance, I had been thinking,
we have an Avid, you could use the Avid, but I know that you don't use
that. I would need to know what we have that you can use.  I can't know
what some small organisation needs. I need them to come to me.  I would
really like to work with artists and groups on proposals and so on, it
shouldn't always have to come from the Lux. 

LH: But you also have to be empowered within the institution to be able to
do that. Do you think that the management structure of the Lux can cope
with that kind of barter economy? 

LDR: I think that it has to. It just has to change. Its like what we were
talking about at the Interfund workshop. It has to. It can't be just: 
money equals equipment.  It has to open its doors otherwise the equipment
will sit there unused, like it does a lot of the time. Some people use it,
but not all the people that want to can.  It doesn't work. 

LH:  It seems that one of the things that this residency has done is
bridged some of that gap between expert-ism and access. 

LDR: Yes, but also you have audience expectations.  At the Lux people come
to the cinema, they see film and they go home.  They go to the gallery to
see a show. So some of the time people would come in when there wasn't
much going on, when we weren't in the middle of a workshop, maybe you were
checking your mail or I was plugging something in over at the other side
of the room, and people would say what going on?  so I would say: well: 
whatever you make of it, whatever you want, but its very difficult. 
Either people walk in with a very active attitude: like people might walk
into backspace with an attitude which is like I'm coming in here to *do*
something. People come to the Lux, still, with this attitude that I am
coming to *see* something. Its something that's confused a lot of people. 
I don't think its bad at all, its just something that we have to work out
for ourselves.

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