no.w.here Open Meeting report
[Introductory statement]: Anthony McCall calls us a "Mutation on a form". We as artists emerged out of British Art Schools during the last Crisis of the late 90s at the turning point of the 21st Century when the apex of the film v digital battle was in full swing and the Lux Centre in Hoxton Sq had just collapsed. This first decade of the 21st Century has seen a great interest and renewal in these practices, and tons of really great new work has been made and no.w.here has been a part of that dynamic process.
 Practice Leads: We are not a facility. We are not an institution. We are not a resource though we have some resources. We are an artist run platform and we approach these “Screenings / Events”, “Workshops”, “Publications”, “The Lab” through questions about practice.
 We do not see these as separate areas. Having a production space is important for making work, but to make work well one must also transfer skills, discuss working practices, and address the conditions of distribution. For us at no.w.here we also see “self education” as an important part of this process.
 We respect that people may want to make their work in isolation, but we also see isolation and competition as forms of control on what work is seen and made, so no.w.here also has an interest in sharing ideas and in creating a wider context, community and critical discourse around individuals works - how work comes about is complex but we are far less interested in the perceived status of an artists or an artwork than what the art is actually responding to.
 We do not take the word “practice” or “community” for granted in our own artistic practices, and we try to think these terms through no.w.here. For instance, we often find it useful to approach practice as theory or theory as practice. We are interested in how people participate, and the questions they are asking. We have always viewed no.w.here as an extension of all of our individual practices, social networks and ideas.
 We are invested in art practices that are not only of a “western” discourse, particularly art practices and ideas that challenge dominant western histories or paradigms.
 no.w.here operates all of its activities on only 2 full time posts spread across 3 people. We are limited by our time and energy. But we do have our own space to work with, which allows us some flexibility and spontaneity to respond to ideas or possibilities.
Firstly it is our hope with these meetings (we imagine this as the first of a series) to be able to, together, find a way to exchange our ideas, to map common interests, to seek out proposals, and to ask: How as a space, as a resource and as a way of working - can no.w.here be of most use at this time? to you personally, to us (we), to those not at this meeting ...
What do we mean by this?
Well part of our current thinking was set out in the press release: for 7 years no.w.here has been an independent (semi autonomous?) place for artists, students, lecturers, activists, and the general public. no.w.here’s position of precarity is not unique! our fragility is not why we have called this meeting, our current funding is secure for 12 months (to March 2012) which is an enviable position compared to equally significant organisations such as Animate Projects, or the A foundation or the 30 people made redundant last week from Soho Film Labs after years of service.
We are thinking about what is happening in our current moment and how we can address it? How can self-organised, artist run platforms like no.w.here maintain their independent space for research, theory and practice? Where are the supportive spaces where group discussion, collective thought, and critical practices can grow and disseminate if they are removed from the Universities? How can we continue to cultivate a grassroots radical approach to artistic practice and cultural production?
Of course, these might not be your questions? and this is the point of these meetings. A forthright exchange of views and an attempt to map common interests and proposals. For this we propose no.w.here as a site to work on as well as within.
But how to do this?
We have had the first meeting and we are aware that no.w.here works across many interests and disciplines at once. So we proposed the following as a format:
Break into smaller discussion groups around the key interests / terms and in our groups reflect on the personal questions or ideas that we have for each other and for no.w.here......
This we would like to propose as an orientation, a mapping exercise of our interests, ideas, questions, and alternative proposals..... We are suggesting that these be entry points to enable a discussion to happen: Please add to this if there are things that you are interested in that are not listed.....
Screenings / Events,
Sequence / Publications,
Membership / Lab /
Thoughts from meeting
From 7.30 to 8.00 we broke into small discussion groups around the terms people felt were most relevant to them. The aim being to reflect on the following: What resonates with you?, What might be proposed in the area you have been drawn to? What is needed now? A sharing of ideas, proposals, and alternative ways of working?
After, we reconvened as a larger group, the smaller groups feeding back on the ideas discussed, leading us into an open discussion facilitated by Rachel Anderson. Here is what was reported back and discussed:
-Potential space as an extension or gap in academic thinking
-Suggestions for a more regular screenings program
-Social contract – engaging locally, programs that engage with the community
-Art School Community/ Events directed for MA, PHD, Research students
-A potential idea for a “Curators Pool” for organizing/running events
-Key issues: precise ideas for events, framing of events and funding?
-If regular screenings, free or charge and how? A suggestion of a monthly/yearly membership.
-What kind of space will no.w.here occupy with the dismantling of our art schools and universities?
-Was the largest group: which means it is clearly central to no.w.here!
-Questions about pricing could we be unique, could we price differently?
-Questions of adaption: Are there ways around or dealing with this economic fact.
-Workshops: Bringing together theoretical/ philosophical and material/ practical ways of thinking about film. Key words: sound, perception, time, movement, space, truth, history, creation, signification, presence.
-Lab - discussed: 16mm black and white processing, contact printer, optical printer, telecine, rostrum camera, 16mm loop machines
-Networking – recognized that no other galleries were here which raised questions of how to get them in the room?
-European/International projects. Working with other community projects elsewhere in the world.
-Crowd Funding / Friends of no.w.here scheme.
-How are people working? Open source idea…
-Collaborating with others and like minded galleries/spaces
-Questions raised about Value - print/web, artwork/magazine, object/text
-Emphasis on artists writing, with the added question; how do you prompt artists to write?
-What will be the relationship between writing and work, the screenings and events?
-Connecting up with like minded journals/spaces/people ( like Banner Repeater )
Questions and suggestions: discussed and unanswered
-Thinking the unthinkable at all levels, working across and with provisions given... Do we accept this? No.w.here as convivial, ameliorative space or more antagonistic
-Looking elsewhere for funding - European funding bodies etc.
-Possibility of funding from new media or digital related projects
-Invitation to people running or working in other cultural spaces particulary in tower hamlets
-Could screenings and the lab become larger groups? Do we want this?
-Looking forward or going back to co-op? Can no.w.here be self sufficient?
-Questions raised about no.w.heres flexibility
-Considering David Harvey’s idea that there is a difference between growth and development. We do not necessarily need to grow in order to develop.
-A NEED TO draw up an action list for ways of proceeding, what we need to do/ get in motion for the next meeting, and how and when we would like to meet again - as there were lots of great ideas and thoughts that need more time to be developed.
It is important that no.w.here engages with other forums that are opening up spaces of cultural production in order to ask questions of not only how we produce, but, how we can rethink how we produce, in order to open up questions around distribution and redistribution. These are common questions and problems that these kinds of spaces are trying to think and map.
Precarity: A Particpatory Peoples Tribunal held at the ICA on the 20th March was another step towards working collectively with others struggling over common concerns. Topics raised in the form of a tribunal were; living on a tightrope, unpaid and/or flexible, temporary labour, exploitation and the increasing anxieties, uncertainties that cause competitive rather than collective responses.
Links, tags, relative sites etc.:
Thoughts from the 2nd meeting.
Introduction to the second meeting took the form of reflecting on the current economic and political conditions for the arts and those working in culture, the privatization of the arts, and the restructuring of the Arts Council NPO process and its affects. The purpose of the 2nd meeting was to further address the questions of resources, access and advocacy for no.w.here’s artist community.
Following on from the introductions to why we were all in the room, each person introduced themselves, this set off an interesting discussion around individual and collective needs and desires. Questions around sustaining non commercial art practices, research and experimentation with the language and innovative form of the moving image. After 40 minutes the large group discussion split off into smaller size groups to facilitate deeper conversations on the issues that were raised, below is a transcript of those discussions.
People spoke about what they felt was important:
The core questions addressed were:
1) What is the purpose of self-organising?
2) What is the politics / set of demands / code of ethics in terms of working? Took the example of CCA – open source curatorial project which still had a hierarchical structure.
3) Don't want to self-exploit in making gestures.
4) Potential in practical groups – how to pass on skills to a group?
5) Create linkages between areas of interest – create a forum?
6) Where do resources come from?
7) Links to non-arts / social movements
8) Owning the means of production – overlaps professional development of tutors
Being in an institution, it is easier to spend £500 to get professional development than to get no.w.here to speak to students. Huddersfield is going through a bloody process in laying off of its staff.
UEL teaching hours are going to double.
My course is dropping experimental film as they want courses with over 30 people. Also, part time courses are being stopped to get more people through the door.
See this, our jobs are under threat.
Came up with a few key things to organise around resources, values and commitments through historical models. They were thinking of no.w.here as a cross-cultural space. It is important for it not to be medium specific. It reminded them of radical values and roots of the film co-op and these values are being re-ignited here.
Space creates competition and those organisations made to be medium-specific or holding fetishistic values that history has shown to emancipatory politics. To address the question of whether different processes would be easier to collect than others?
They suggested that we should engage in discussion around looking at models outside of film. Music and the live-arts are embracing new technologies. They opined that commitment to values are important towards more than one technology.
Groups overlapped naturally. Picked up similar things but saw them in different ways. They were changing and branching out. A lot of the talk was about the lab here - seeing how to smooth out ideas and baggage around branding.
Suggestion that the idea of analogue is important but no.w.here needs to branch out. Came up with the question of how the lab could open up to artists not working with 16mm / 8mm.
Led to networking and connectivity with different arts performances, live arts, painting, sculpture.
Led to idea of a salon, i.e. opening up the space were people can come and discuss their practices.
Valuable intellectual exchange – active, participatory engagement.
Emphasis on interaction for facilitation towards collaboration
Forms of membership
Overlaps huge Socratic interaction between established artists and newcomers. Conversations revolved around the importance of education – lectures, informal discussions, cafe or a bar as a social space. I've seen this in Madrid , Casablanca but it's problematic.
Cafes and bars are non-hierarchical spaces in which teachers and students can meet and interact as part of the final show.
Book launch / broadcasting as a focal point of the whole exhibition space.
Discuss what no.w.here does in terms of education and what it doesn't do.
There should be more structured workshops where students are encouraged to come to a set of workshops. It delivers an idea of continuity. That's an appealing thing.
There was a question raised at the last meeting - “Are we going to open up and be autonomous?”
The last 5 years this has been a reflexive space. So how committed are we to this? How do we open up? One way we think to address this question was to ask what could these working groups be? The core issue, perhaps, are the values, commitments and investment in time?, constituted by a broader group of members working in the space.
It has to be slow, has to be right, as we don't want to self exploit in terms of free labour in the arts. The question of working groups around education is going to be very different to say the curatorial programming?
It needs a structure, modes in which people can enter. Off market is a model, anyone can come in a purpose. So, is there a solution underneath?
SUGGESTIONS FOR REGULAR MEETINGS
Once a month?