Wednesday, 1 December 2010
A trio of us - Ollie,Dave and me - traveled from London to Nottingham to spend a cold November weekend thinking, discussing, tinkering, breaking, making, and playing with all things frequency related in a laboratory space dedicated specifically to such activities. The task the group LAB had set before us was to harvest this hidden language of radio waves and use it in new found ways or take the known and reuse it in unfamiliar ways. To me the success of the weekend was less in creating a functioning project and more about people working together in a shared space, opening up dialogue about topics and ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise engaged with before.
The first day we had a material gathering outing to the infamous Anchor military supply store (where, yes, you can find and buy torpedos, gas masks, low flight zone maps of eastern germany and all sorts of electronic bits and pieces) and a brainstorming session. Saturday began with tromping through the light blanket of snow on the ground at the cattle market, collecting cheap tape players and cassettes hidden amongst all sorts of stuff. Then back in the LAB space people self-divided up and chaos ensued - a massive mess of colored wires all over, tape decks and itrips being torn apart, radio static scratching in and out of various speakers. Yet within that disorder things were happening. The final day was a finish up of projects from the day before and then concluded with a show and tell. Everyone was quite amazed to hear what everyone else had been working on - there were many different types of projects: creating walkie-talkies, using iphone apps to make morse code, broadcasting a previously gathered narrative of rural farmers into an urban setting, and the reuse of tape decks to capture and make a loop of sounds gathered from the space.
My role in the Laboratory, being less knowledgeable (and perhaps less interested) in electronics, became more about observing the interactions of people in the space. Taking note of what everyone was doing and how individuals went about their work - some sat quietly, diligently working, others were here and there, all over the room. In trying to capture and record the event that took place - through sketches, photos, language, diagrams and the physical products - a living archive is produced that begins to form the laboratory and will continue to be added onto through the successive workshops.
There was so much left unfinished, but maybe that’s the beauty of LAB - they act as instigators, combining people and ideas together in a space and asking questions which have no right answer but instead lead to more questions. This continual process is an art, and seeing how it comes about is the exhibit. All in all, it was great fun, I learned some new things, drew a few pictures, had a laugh, met great people and now, as I glance out my window at antennas on the nearby houses, I pause for a moment and wonder what frequencies they’re picking up and how could we tap into that...?