alt. S P A C E
alt.SPACE: A Network of Artist Research Groups
In face of the increasing commodification and capitalization of the academic and other culture and knowledge industries the alt.SPACE Network is an international, transdisciplinary formation of self-organized, non-institutional research groups set up by the artist collective C.CRED with the overall aim to explore artistic and other forms of cultural production through a variety of different media and through a wide range of contextual, theoretical and other approaches. It is amongst the central assertions of the group that within the context of an historical period that stands witness to the increasing entrenchment of research and criticality into the manufacturing processes of global, profit-driven corporate industries, the struggle to win back the right to dissention is an absolutely crucial one and one that, furthermore, is waged within the field of self-organization and the non-totalizing, informal networking of micro-practices and minor forms of engagement.
The alt.SPACE Network comprises a group of core members running the network per se and a number of semi-autonomous research and work groups that meet regularly, some physically, some through Skype or other forms of IT-based communication. These groups including various forms of reading groups, a group focusing on walking and cartography as a form of learning, a group engaging with sound and sound art specifically, and a group dealing with the re-writing, editing, performance and re-enactment of existing texts and other documents as a form of experimental and collective learning.
The network also organizes regular events that don’t require the participation in any of its research groups. These events include an annual alt.SPACE Festival comprising various forms of communal and convivial activities, semi-regular art open mic sessions for project presentations and informal discussions, thematic research retreats, and experimental reading, re-enactment, writing and performance workshops.
Additionally, the alt.SPACE Network occasionally also lectures, performs, publishes text and audio in various formats and arranges alternative guided tours around art galleries and museums and other cultural institutions.
Crucial to the practice of the alt.SPACE groups are, amongst others, the following reflections:
(1.) Dialogical processes: alt.SPACE is an environment for testing the prehensive capacity of ideas, of various kinds of productions. Our ideas, objects, texts, performances, gestures have limbs: arms, legs, tails, which allow them to grab and to be grabbed. The prehensive capacity is synonymous with their life (a jungle existence – more or less brief). In this sense they exist dialogically and in an immanent, non-dialectical relation to one another. This is not a space where projects are presented or practices theorized or contextualized. It is, much rather, a space where a form of dialogue takes place that traverses the terrain of given entities and meanings, given position and relations; a displaced and displacing kind of ‘speech between’ that no longer simply narrates or represents but that opens up to a future collective potential. It is thus not a space designated simply for institutional or negative critique or deconstruction, but also, and significantly, and affirmative space for experimental and exploratory activities and process.
(2.) Process-based and collective learning: alt.SPACE promotes work as fluid, as moving , as in process. However, it encourages an understanding of ‘process’ as something other than just snapshots of the steps taken towards a destination. – this, it seems to me, if often what is implied. It’s not, then, that there are no outcomes – we produce, write, archive, perform, organize, disseminate, etc. – but rather, the things we make are continuously subordinated to the intensive movement of discussion. Such process-based element allows a high coefficient of what could be referred to as the speculative or exploratory within a research culture whilst still retaining an element of collective labour – learning through producing something, through physical as well as intellection activities as well as through the crucial processes that link the two.
(3.) Complex spatial-temporal textures: alt.SPACE allows for an understanding of collaborative practice not simply as the alternative to something like an individual working process. What is commonly named as individual might be always another collective, but one that has become homogenized. But despite (or perhaps even because of) its smooth, impenetrable, ungraspable, protected nature, it is mistakable as such. alt.SPACE encourages a renewed search for the texture of ideas – for the vulnerability of objects, performances, gestures – the aspects from which these things might be grasped, or from which they might grasp. The group involves the complex and dynamic textures of space that constitute ‘life’ both in the sense of physical and corporeal spaces, discursive spaces, and epistemological spaces. It oscillates between a macro-level of relations between different groups in different geographical locations and a micro-level of each group operating locally; it involves nomadic trajectories between different groups, activities and events as well as the events of each meeting or activity. Furthermore, alt.SPACE places a heavy emphasis on collectivity and collaboration in all aspects of the work of the network and the research groups it comprises. It is crucial that the network remains involved in the thinking and setting up of alternative forms of collaboration and collectivity – alternative, that is, to those that govern most dominant institutional frameworks such as the academy.
(4.) Nomadism and peripatetics: alt.SPACE is not intended to be another art project as such, but something that links people that are involved in different project and facilitates the research around and development of those practices, including the initiation of other forms of collaboration and collective practice. Similarly, the networkd doesn’t have a space per se, but make use of all kinds of public and domestic spaces, as well as host venues of different kinds. A practice that is somehow not a practice, a space that is somehow not a space – based on such premise the alt.SPACE Network functions nomadically and peripatetically and seeks to avoid all forms of totalizing meta-networking practices. There are different forms of self-organized struggle and resistance, criticality and dissention taking place within different formations of power and control. It is our belief that such struggles have to be considered specific and irreducible and that any attempt to capture such struggles in totalizing networks of any form remains reactionary. However, it is also our firm belief that such struggles and practices whilst being specific and irreducible incorporate a significant potential to link transversally with other struggles in forms of networks, alliance and alignment that doesn’t operate on a meta-level but as a subterranean desire to explore collectivity and communality and experiment with forms of cultural, social and political organization alternative to those of dominant imperialist and capitalist regimes.
alt.SPACE Reading Groups
The alt.SPACE Reading Groups focus on artistic research, and, in particular, on the relation between artistic practice, critical theory and wider social, cultural and political contexts. The reading groups include an art and philosophy group, a Skype-based group on art and social engagement, a group devoted to the work of Jean-Luc Godard, a group focussing on different takes on Herman Melville’s novel Bartleby, the Scrivener, a group looking at texts and theories related to laughter, a transversality and anti-psychiatry group, and a group engaging with collaborative writing and poetics.
alt.SPACE Open Mics
The alt.SPACE Open Mics were regular events organized at host venues such as pubs and bars, galleries, museums and other exhibition spaces and cultural venues, squats and other domestic spaces, public spaces of different kinds, seminar rooms, lecture halls and, on occasion, even on public transport. With only a partially set program, the evenings had several slots open for presentations, performances, lectures, discussions by attendees and, once or twice, passers-by. The evenings often concluded with a more convivial event such as a meal or picnic, dancing, cooking, screenings, or concerts. For a year or so (2005-2006), most of the events were generously hosted by The Funky Munky Bar in Camberwell, SE London, where the bar and dance floor on the upper floor was used for more elaborate events.
The alt.SPACE Festival 2005: The alt.SPACE Free Bar
Operation: City / Urban Festival, Zagreb, Croatia (2005)
The first annual alt.SPACE festival was organized by artist collective C.CRED [ Collective CREative Dissent ] following an invitation to take part in the Operation: City exhibition and events program in Zagreb in September 2005. Having already organized a number of alt.SPACE art open mic sessions in London, C.CRED invited a number of friends and allies to collaborate and take part in setting up the first alt.SPACE festival within the framework of a makeshift bar and communal sleeping area constructed in a derelict factory in the east of the city using primarily industrial pallets and second-hand mattresses. Over a month-long period, a series of events – walks, project presentations and discussions, reading groups, communal meals and parties, screenings, and art open mics – were hosted, primarily by the Free Bar space, involving both local guests and collaborators, and invited participants from different parts of Europe and the US. The month ended with a trip to the island house of a local participant that were kindly hosting the remaining parts of the group for a weekend by the sea.
An experiment in micro-physics (through dereliction). 1. The test we set for ourselves: for a month, we are taking over a disused factory in the east of Zagreb, building a free-bar where we serve cheap Rakija bought from the farmer’s market across the road. The entire bar, comprising modifiable and moveable units, is built using industrial pallets and pieces of wood. We live in an adjacent room that we have turned into a sleeping area. There’s quite a few of us, at times ten or eleven. 2. The event: the actualization of the potential immanent to the physos of dereliction involves a turning away from the redundant and repressive politics of parties, presidents and policies – and then also a shift in speed, an alt mode of life, an alt strategy for life. A different – collective – way of eating, drinking, sleeping, talking, thinking and being.
Note on Micro-physics: All space is practiced and functional. Labour, dereliction, drinking, sleeping – these are functions and practices, and all space is grounded in their various temporalities. They can, however, be shifted, altered, modified. The task of the micro-physicist is to explore the temporal textures that constitute a given space, to create a shift, a mutation of sorts, to open up a different kind of space, a different assemblage of bodies (non-institutional forms of conviviality, friendships, alliances, collaboration, collectivity, etc.). This involves an experimentation on all kinds of levels and with all kinds of bodies, various physical bodies – tables, chairs, bars, humans and animals bodies – but also chemical bodies – drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. The notion of a micro-physics of space thus also includes a chemistry and toxicology of space, and the micro-physicist has to deal with chemicals and toxins, as much as with mutations, temporary and minor uses of space, particular kinds of movement, mobility and nomadism, different forms of residency, cohabitation and parasitism. But, all in all, the main political task of the micro-physicist is to fight the stupefying boredom of the normative physics of everyday space-time.
Contributors to the alt.SPACE Free Bar Program: Red76, Joe Collins / Storyhunters, Klaas van Gorkum, The Bureau for Research into Post-Autonomy, Inga Zimprich / Think Tank, UNWETTER, Pirate Cinema and Città dell’arte.
The alt.SPACE Festival 2006: A Long Weekend in London
Hosten by South London Gallery, E:vent Network, and various public spaces, London (2006)
The second annual alt.SPACE festival was set up as a three day on-going dialogue with invited participant and other guests. Using both public and domestic space, and two host venues (South London Gallery and E:vent Network), the festival took the form of a continuous movement across London interlinking practical activities (walking, cooking, setting up camp, etc.), informal discussions and convivial activity, and more formal project presentations and discussions.
DAY 1: We meet up in the flat in Whitechapel that hosts us for the weekend, have some drinks amongst the mattresses on the living room floor; there are bags everywhere; people are chatting and playing music. We eventually make our way to Camberwell and South London Gallery, where we have set up in a dark room behind the gallery. It is a really warm summer day and South London Gallery offer to buy beer and wine for everyone and we start drinking in the courtyard before the project presentations starts. Following the presentations themselves and some brief discussion in the courtyard, we set off to a nearby cul-de-sac: the security floodlights of the building at the end of the dead end alleyway provides us with some light and a makeshift stage. We cover the cobbled street with huge pink cushions and set up some tables, make sangria and gazpacho, and we have fruit and bread, and a huge plastic rose bush. The evening ends with story telling and music performances.
DAY 2: The following day we get up early and try to make cucumber sandwiches. Eventually we set off from Whitechapel and head towards Stratford train station. After a picnic in front of the station, next to the little clock that counts the days to the Olympics 2012, we walk across the nearby cycle tracks and into Lea Valley, and then head south towards Bethnal Green, stopping near the canal for some discussion and to share the now very soggy cucumber sandwiches. In the afternoon we end up E:vent Network getting some curries on the way. People gather in the gallery space, and after a few project presentations we get into a broader discussion which lasts until late in the evening. Back in Whitechapel people are crowding in the living room, listening to music, talking and drinking. We eventually move out into the garden, and as it starts to rain, try to put a gazebo up, eventually succeeding after some initial difficulties. We stay in the garden and watch the sun rise before trying to catch some sleep.
DAY 3: We gather late the following day. After a meal, we screen Vilgot Sjöman’s I’m Curious Yellow/Blue. People are falling a sleep. There are flights to catch. Work to go to. Homes to return to. At midnight, we call an end to the whole thing and try to get some sleep.
Invited contributors, participants and guests include: Dominic Hislop / BIG HOPE, New Beginnings, Signal Gallery, Rozalinda Borcila, Neil Chapman & Martin Wooster, Lee Simmons and Joe Collins / Storyhunters.
The alt.SPACE Festival 2007
The alt.SPACE Festival 2007 was a month long series of events hosted by Gasworks, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Goldsmiths College, South London Gallery and Beaconsfield Gallery. Additionally, several events were organized in public and domestic spaces, public transport, and in various pubs and bars. Participants included (amongst others): Steve Duvall, Susan Kelly, David Stent, Helen Walsh, John Russel, Ola Ståhl, Marcel Swiboda, Sam Gould / Red76, Åsa Ståhl, Sparwasser HQ, UNWETTER, David Stent, ArtQuest, Frans Gillberg and Carl Lindh / Idel öra.
alt.SPACE Retreats were organized regularly, usually with between five and ten participants living, working, cooking an eating together over a period of several days. Most frequently taking place in a house in a small village by coast in the south-west of Sweden, retreats were, on occasion, organized in Malmö and Gothenborg, Sweden, Halberstadt, Germany and in a rural cottage just outside London. Themes explored include the work of Alain Badiou, Antonio Negri, Giorgio Agamben, Paul Virilio and John Cage.
alt.SPACE Occupations and Tours
At regular intervals, alt.SPACE used particular sites around London to host topical events, seminars and guest lectures. These sites included hidden-away alleyway in the south-east of the city, an empty rooftop in the City and a disused warehouse in the East End. Additionally, the group offered alternative guided tours of major museums and other cultural institutions emphasizing the sociopolitical contexts of the artistic and curatorial production exhibitions – factors often in the background, if not entirely absent from museum displays and informative leaflets.
alt.SPACE Experimental Workshops
Members of the alt.SPACE group also organized more experimental workshops. One such workshop focussed on the conditions and contexts of any given conversation looking at and making use of Gregory Bateson’s metalogue model while exploring issues to do with dialogue, transversality and collaboration, and in particular the ways in which these issues are broached in an interview with Jean Oury. The workshop involved a recorded discussion of the themes involved, a listening to and discussion of the resulting recording, and a recorded re-enactment of the initial discussion followed by a conversation about the process and its outcomes. Another such worksop took as its material and discursive point of departure the architectural structure and, in particular, the flat, horizontal surfaces of disused military defense bunkers scattered along many European coast lines, using these as sites for collaborative writing and image composing exercises transversally engaging with the structures themselves and the history of their usages.
C.CRED participated in three residency projects during which they set up alt.SPACE structures in Philadelphia, PA and Portland, OR, USA, and Malmö, Sweden. In Philadelphia, a temporary alt.SPACE research centre was constructed at the art venue Basekamp to host reading groups, seminars, web-conference lectures and discussions, screenings and dinner parties alongside a satellite installation, functioning in much the same way, in collaboration with Basekamp, as part of the Locally Localized Gravity exhibition at the Institute for Contemporary Art. In Portland, upon invitation by the artist group Red76, a series of walks, seminars and talks were organized, alongside a small installation in the library, at Reed College, exploring notions of illegality and culture through the example of the Bowdlerization and exclusion of certain literatures from public libraries. Finally, in Malmö, as members of C.CRED relocated to Sweden, a series of events were arranged at a domestic apartment, public spaces, and the cultural association Ystadvägen 13. These events included artists’ talks, performances, demonstrations, and readings, open to the public but also streamed to audiences at interested institutions and organizations.
alt.SPACE publications, performances and presentations include a number of undocumented guest lectures and artists’ talk alongside the following releases and events: