Installation view of From the vibe out: Neven Lochhead.
Vibe Check is a radio art project made in relation to Neven Lochhead’s solo exhibition From the vibe out , as well as its tendant learning experiment involving a group of local artists. Over the span of four half-hour, bi-ly episodes, Lochhead will transpose the compositional tactics and languages of his exhibition’s two-channel video installation to CFRC’s left-right stereo signal. Panning between a blend of synthetic voice, midi-instruments, field recordings and guest interviews, Vibe Check conjures a set of real and imagined polyvocal exchanges as sonic scaffolding for an institute to come.
Listen to the broadcast Wednesdays bi-weekly 21 April–2 June, 4:30–5 pm on CFRC 101.9 fm. After airing, it will be transcribed and archived on Digital .
Other Ways to Listen
Tap or click on “Transcript” under each track to read or download the full transcript of each audio commentary.
In Episode 1 ofa gently building soundscape introduces listeners to Neven Lochhead’s process of ‘sonic scaffolding’ and its effects. An interview with the artist about his currently closed solo exhibition becomes a base for auditory renovation, as the approaches driving the two-channel video installation gradually adjust to CFRC Radio’s immersive stereo habitat.
Neven Lochhead: You’re listening to CFRC 101.9 FM, located on the Queen’s Campus in the basement of Carruthers Hall and online at cfrc.ca. My name is Neven Lochhead. I’m an artist and curator based in Kingston. And welcome to the first episode of Vibe Check. This is a four-part radio art series that is being produced in relation to a solo video exhibition of mine called, From the vibe out, at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre. I’m so grateful to Dinah Jansen who agreed to and encouraged this idea I had to produce some kind of “radio-fied” version of that currently closed exhibition, that we could air on the CFRC airwaves over the next couple of months. I’m not really quite sure what a radio version of an exhibition is or could be. So I’ll say that partly this will be some kind of experiment in navigating an act of translation or transposition between art forms or art contexts. The first strategy that I’d like to try today will be to extend the sort of spatial poetics, or the density of the viewing experience of the installation, into musical formats and sonic arrangements. So you’ll hear a lot of that today, through the kind of incessant sound tracking and layering that I’ve composed underneath and over top of the spoken content for today’s episode. That spoken content for today is a bit strange in that it’s basically an interview with myself, which was conducted by Dinah Jansen, shortly after the opening of the exhibition in late February. If you can manage to make it through my meandering responses to Dinah’s questions, then at the very end of the episode I’ll be featuring a recording by a wonderful local artist named Andy Berg, who’s part of a group of artists that I’m working with as part of a learning experiment that we’re designing together called Fabricating Vibe. And so, this recording from Andy is from a workshop that they did called “Calibrate-Your-Gravity.” And it’s my hope that we might hear more from that group in future episodes, as that project develops as well. So I’ll leave it there for now. And I wish you luck with the episode. Thank you for listening in. And with that, I’ll hand it over to my good friend, Dinah.
Dinah Jansen: Hi Neven.
Neven: Hello Dinah. It’s great to be back on the air.
Dinah: It’s great to have you back on the air. And folks, we are talking with this fabulous CFRC alumnus about his new exhibition that is happening at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, over the next couple of months. And we’ve got a lot to talk about with this exhibition. Neven, but before we get into all of the fun things that we’re going to learn about from you today regarding your exhibition, can you remind our listeners, maybe, about your time at CFRC back in the day. Some of our listeners might remember who you are from our airwaves.
Neven: Well, I appreciate the opportunity to revisit those years. I guess it would have been 2009 to 2013. I was involved in the station in a number of different ways over that period of my undergrad. Started out as a volunteer and actually had the chance to be Music Programming Manager in my second year of school, and revisited that role again in my fourth year. Yeah, I think about that time with a lot of fondness! I mean, I grew up in Kingston and I remember the feeling of being introduced to CFRC and the community, as kind of unlocking Kingston for me in a whole new way. And I came to realize how much — How many different communities pass through that basement. You know, artistic communities, for sure. Music communities. Also, academics. A lot of the activist community Kingston was involved with programming and things there. So it was — It was so transformative for me. It really defined my time at Queen’s. And I later realized how much I was learning, in that time, also about curating — And we’ll probably get to that later. But the role of being a programming manager called upon me to really think about curatorial practice and engagements with publics and just sensibilities, like how to produce the appropriate flow in a schedule, really influenced some of my more recent curatorial projects, where I’m looking at exhibition making through a kind of time-based lens and bleeding different media together and things like that. So, yes. That’s a bit of a long answer, but I just — I was so fond of CFRC and we were just reminiscing about you having a show back then called Primordial Soup and being one of those veterans who welcomed me in and made me feel comfortable and lucky to be working there — So, yeah. That’s my flashback.
Dinah: Well, for listeners out there who may not remember my show from back in the day, Primordial Soup too. When I retired my show and went on a temporary hiatus, I was finishing my doctorate at the time and had obvious things to take care of at the university in terms of –As well as student governance and my teaching responsibilities at the time too. So I went on hiatus. And as I’m walking out the door, Neven was the last person I saw at the station when I was — On that very sad day. And he gave me a very kind thank you card, which I still have. So it’s a real pleasure being able to welcome Neven back to our airwaves folks. A real treat for me. And I hope it’s a real treat for our listeners too.
Neven: They must be tearing up at this point.
Dinah: [ Laughter ] I feel great. I’m just — Yes, I’m so happy. So, Neven, let’s hear a little bit now about your work. You touched on it, even just in your last response there. Can you share a little bit about your artistic background? The work that you’ve been doing in your past residencies and installations. And even your teaching as an artist. Let’s hear more about what you’ve been doing since your time at CFRC.
Neven: Since I walked out the door.
Dinah: Since you left.
Neven: Yes. Well, really it was during that four-year period at CFRC when I really started to engage with, or see myself as an artist. Another kind of local connection I want to name is the Artel Collective, where I lived during that period as well. Which was a kind of gallery, also a house for artists in Kingston to collectively operate this programming entity. But, you know, in that period I was doing an English degree and I was making these performances and videos on the side and had professors who were encouraging me to apply to art school. And I did that in my fourth year. I ended up going to Syracuse University, in a sort of small MFA program in video art, kind of retro word. But it was very specifically focused on time-based media. And the teaching component down there was mostly TAing and running sort of crit environments with undergrads and things. I was lucky to get a job at – SAW Video in Ottawa, which is an artist-run centre, a longstanding one. It’s been around for almost 40 years now. And found myself in a kind of curatorial position. Yeah. Again, where I was kind of a director of programming, like I was at CFRC. Like many artists who find themselves in curatorial positions, it’s kind of — It can be kind of difficult to separate out your artistic practice from your curatorial practice or to like not have them contaminate each other too much. But gradually I figured it out, and I was involved in so many interesting projects at SAW, the main one being the establishing and operating of its new venue called Knot Project Space.
Dinah: So what brought you back to Kingston?
Neven: Well, I left — I left the job in early 2020. And I had some, you know, overseas projects and other things. But the pandemic hit. And I have family here and I just sort of moved back to have some stability in those early — Those early months. And I ended up enrolling in the PhD program at Queen’s in the Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies program. And so that’s the reason I’m sticking around now. Is that I have — I have a position there and I’m again being able to do some TAing and working with students and so —
Dinah: And maybe we’ll entice you back to the airwaves.
Neven: I know! I was going to have a sub-meeting with you about how do I get on the — How do I get back on the air? [ Laughter ]
Dinah: Come to me!
[ Laughter ]
Dinah: Well, congratulations to you on returning to Queens University and entering into your PhD program. That’s wonderful news for Queen’s University and our community too. So, okay. And you’re doing some other really great stuff right here at the university as well. You have an exhibition underway now at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, entitled From the vibe out. So Neven, let’s learn about the new exhibition. And from the Agnes’s description online, if I may check it out here, I understand that From the vibe out brings together your language propelled approach to the moving image, with your curatorial space making practice. A project that summons a semi-fictional, artist-led research Institute, as interlocutor. So Neven, in plain terms, break it down for us. What are you exhibiting at the Agnes? And what does it all mean? Boom!
[ Laughter ]
Neven: I could — I could try – You know, primarily I’d say this show is — It’s a solo exhibition of some work that I’ve made over the past eight months. So at a basic level, there is video work. It’s sort of dominated by these two large vertical projection screens that are the identical size of the doors to the room. So they kind of have this appearance of being cut out of the wall or otherwise being blockades to be put back into the wall. There’s also some print works. There’s sound components, speakers that are embedded in these objects that are kind of resonating from inside the image. And some text works on the reverse panel of these screens. That’s a kind of basic, what it is. I mean, what it also is, is, you know — It’s work that was made during a pandemic. And I feel like that’s important to point out that this isn’t a kind of project that was carried over from the before times. It was me revisiting an artistic practice in this period where like the art world, as we know it, was really upended and paused. And the relationship to publics was changed, and things like that. So I’d say that I really opened myself up to, okay, this is a destabilizing moment. How can I make a work that has traction in this time? And so it’s very much an experiment with this context. But as you also pointed out it — All of that gets wrapped in this semi-fictional frame of this Institute. And we could get into that. I think that that was, in some way — Yeah, a response to what I was just saying about how do you produce traction for your work? Or how do you kind of — How does your work land somewhere, right now? And as I was working, you know, I was making a solo exhibition work and working on these kinds of self-contained artworks. And I was kind of not getting excited by that. And I thought, this is not really pivoting enough in response to this moment. And, yeah. I kind of started to [ Laughs ] hallucinate this fictional institute that was based in Kingston. I was writing, I was doing a bunch of text experiments, writing with the voice of this institute. And that was producing a kind of more interesting dynamic for me, in that, this entity was demanding to institute itself through the work. It wanted to kind of emerge. And it was applying pressure to me, in the making and kind of saying, this is — We want to carry this kind of emphasis. Or we want to have a really specific focus on Kingston and things like that — So, it just became a kind of helpful tool for me to tether the work to some kind of — Some kind of sense of traction. I hope it’s making some sense.
Dinah: This really fascinating. I love how multi-tiered or multi-layered — Maybe tiered is the wrong word. It sounds a little too structural, I guess — But multilayered, anyway, the motif that’s happening here. But also I think that the media that you’re using — You use several different kinds of media to –
Neven: Yeah, absolutely. So I could talk to that. I mean, I think that that’s important because, I should also say that, you know, when you go to the show, you’re confronted with a lot of paper. Like it’s a digital work, but there’s this stream of documents that you are confronted with on the screens. And this was kind of my response to this fictional institute wanting to assert itself. So, I thought, what are some tools that I can use to do that? And I had just, as I said, moved back from Ottawa. And I had this kind of archive of notes and meeting minutes and PDFs that were the kind of grey literature or the kind of marginalia of an actual space making project that I was engaging in, in Ottawa. And I started to think of these in the same way of how, you know, in climate science we have these data points that we can locate in the now. And how these data points or these trends, in the present, can infer a kind of image of where we might be in 10 years, 50 years from now. So this kind of — I don’t know if it’s deduction or inference or something. But using a kind of set of coordinates to produce an image of some kind of future state. Or in this case, a kind of future institute. And so I started working with these documents. And I didn’t just scan and reproduce them. I altered them. I kind of would take PDFs and perform a kind of grangerization – a thickening of these documents. And through that, I started to see this institute forming. Through how they were making these documents, you know?
Dinah: Yeah. That totally makes sense! Yes. Okay. So I’m kind of curious then if we can — If we can explore a little more about the media. So your — Your work is drawing on like text on screen with moving images. There’s some minimalist music involved.
Dinah: Lots of colour. How do your media forms convey ideas and messages in the way that you want them to? In ways that other media cannot, for example, like a painting.
Neven: Yes. I wish I could paint…
Dinah: Maybe this is like the kernel, like, what does it all mean? What is art, kind of stuff, right? But why did you choose — What is it — What is it about the media that you use that conveys messages that other media cannot, at least for you?
Neven: I wonder if I know exactly how to answer that. I mean, you mentioned the minimal music thing and it makes me think of how, you know, I make work for a gallery context often. And work with time-based media for a gallery context. And that situation of a gallery, it has a very specific type of viewership in it. You don’t know when a viewer will enter the work. You don’t know if they are even there to see your work. They might be passing through to look at the Rembrandts or whatever.
Dinah: Yeah. As some people at the Agnes do. [ Laughter ]
Neven: Yeah. As they should. So I’ve always thought of it as a challenge actually, for time-based work. And at the same time, I am sort of not a fan of seeing cinematic style works in a gallery, where you have to sit down for 45 minutes or something to take it all in. Or see the second half first and then see the first half later. So this can be challenging. It can also be liberating. You then don’t have to worry about your work having a beginning, a middle or an end. You have to kind of produce strategies in the work that will win the attention of that viewer and sort of compel them to commit to the work. That is really the starting point for me, when we talk about these other strategies of like minimal music or using text. I want to produce that commitment. And so I want people to encounter the work, be addressed by the work and to be kind of pulled into it. And also to feel like that there is some kind of system happening. That if they spend time with, they could sort of figure out that system. So I think that’s my connection to the minimal music. Is, how it’s different from kind of ambience in that — We do have a sense that there’s some kind of compositional strategy happening here. Like I think of the work of Julius Eastman specifically. A kind of more militant form of minimalism, that encourages — Encourages a form of committed listening, or committed viewing, things like that.
[ Music ]
Dinah: I’d like to learn a little bit more too, because we’ve talked about the text, as well, that appears in this work. Do you — Are you — What kinds of — What text are you using? You don’t have to give it all away to us, but are you writing specific like prose or poetry and then adding it in? Or are you selecting meaningful passages from Moby Dick or something? [ Laughter ] What is the text that you’re using?
Neven: It definitely varies from project to project.
Dinah: Okay. Is it your own creative work or are you using, or modifying the work of poets or authors elsewhere? Or you saw some news clips or something?
Neven: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s take this project as the one to look at.
Neven: It’s definitely a blend of what you’re describing. There are a lot of PDFs in this work that have been rearranged. And titles of works that have, yeah, have been sort of turned inside out or are tripping over in themselves, and things like that. So there is definitely an element of having a relationship to texts which already exist. I became interested in this work specifically, with like the experience of like skimming through a book like this and how that’s a form of reading because you pick up the text that is in bold font. And it kind of — It carries like just the aroma of the concept or like the vibe of what the author is trying to do. And I wanted to try to privilege that type of skimming of — Or like speed reading a bunch of documents. So that strategy makes me want to write, or rearranged those texts, in a certain way, in that they need to sort of transmit something when they just move across the screen for two seconds. There’s also a form of writing in this work of marginalia, like where you have a text and you see the way a reader has thickened that text with their own private notes, or they put a heart somewhere or a star. And I became interested in that too. Like leaving this trace of the imagined institute and portray something about them as a thinking body, where there’s kind of thought at work in the archive — In the imagined archive, and things like that. But you know, unlike other projects that would require completely different – [ voice fades out ]
>> Nobody knows what an institution can do, just as nobody knows what a body can do. Only the practice of exhibition-making gives the organization a sense of what it is capable of inventing, of its range, of its reach, its core, its expertise, its strength, its focus, its sense of what is possible, feasible, imaginable, inventible. Kodwo Eshun.
Dinah: The current exhibition too is based — Like this is work that you’ve just created within the last year, since the pandemic became an everyday part of our lives. But it also sounds to me that the textual aspects are almost a little bit autobiographical, if I may, because you are a pre-comp, PhD candidate. You are speed reading at the moment and doing a lot of marginalia. And it’s going to get weirder and heavier as you move towards your comps too, right? [ Laughter ] So, was that intentional? Were you thinking about that as you were getting the texts together? Were you like, this is what I do. This is what I’m doing every day.
Neven: I mean, that’s a good point to bring up. And another layer to add to that is that, it is drawing from an actual archive that I produced by doing actual work as a curator. You know, actual work. I mean, I think it has autobiographical elements, but tries very hard to move away from those.
Neven: That’s kind of a direction of it. It tries to draw a line with an arrow, away from those sort of specific autobiographical components, to point towards this other entity.
Neven: But you know, another thing that’s great about that is that, it means that making the work is possible because — Yeah. I think it just kind of folds into work that you’re already doing. And I found it a lot easier to sustain that behaviour I was mentioning, because it just sort of required tweaking a certain form of study that I was doing already, and will continue to be doing. And it does create a kind of strange relationship with that work in that, when I’m making notes, I sort of think, oh, maybe this is something for the institute. I’ll photocopy this and I’ll make another version that has it annotated in their voice or something like that. So it makes it — It kind of — It adds a bit of fun. [ Laughs ]
Dinah: Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing so much. We appreciate it.
Neven: You’re welcome.
Dinah: So, does the exhibition itself have local connections as well? I also understand that part of the theme is — Part of the theme was, as described on the Agnes’s website, it was something about an empty art space in downtown Kingston. Are we thinking of the Artel here? Or an imagined space? So, I had to ask!
Neven: No, of course. Of course. It’s explicitly stated there and also in the show that there’s this local connection. I think that choice goes back to something I was just saying earlier about the way that the pandemic has upended usual circuits of the art world, you know. I remember early on, in like April, watching webinars and things by curators and people running galleries that — I mean, while it was really a terrible situation, there was also this feeling of relief that — I remember one curator, Clementine Delice, she said, “We no longer have the pressure of the motherships, the biennials, the commodification of the museums, the residencies, the auction houses and the art fairs. The galleries are going to have to rethink what they did. It’s time to sharpen our pencils.” And so I felt that I — You know, I was in Kingston. And I wanted, as I said, this work to have some kind of traction with where I was and in this moment. And so I made an active choice to tether it to this city. And again, to transform something which I was experiencing, which is this space that I’m in right now. It’s an actual space downtown. It’s a studio space. It’s large enough to host events and exhibitions. So I wanted that to become a condition of the work too. That I could speculate about what this place could be in the future. Maybe this is where the institute would set itself up. So if I was in a different city, I might make that explicit connections to the local place as well. But it’s just because I am here that I wanted the work to behave in this very direct relationship with the Kingston. And now that it’s open, I feel quite happy about that, because I feel uneasy about inviting people from out of town to come to Kingston and see my show. But I can engage with artists who I know here. And we can look at the work together and extend things from that work. So I think I’m happy that it has been kind of scaled to the situation that we’re in. And we’ll see how that plays out now, over the course of the coming months. That’s kind of the exciting thing about making that move is that, the show is open, but now there’s like more work to do. And it kind of hangs in the balance, whether it does have traction or a kind of projective behaviour as a work. That’s up to the coming months, you know?
[ Music ]
Andy Berg: This is an energy force — — coming up out of the ground.
[ Background Sounds ]
>> Partially buried — — partially exposed. It is a strong communicator. It is accessible. And it has nutrient density. It is a rather odd thing.
[ Background Sounds ]
>> The question is, can this repel exclusionary language? Arrogance, doomsaying, exploitation, or disempowerment?
Neven: For sure.
[ Background Sounds ]
Andy: If it will function of selfishness — — bad lighting — — broken hearts — — billionaires — — fascism?
[ Background Sounds ]
>> Tried to figure out — — the blame game here. Is there a blame game? We talked about it.
Neven: We spent years labouring over —
Andy: We talked about childlike wonder.
Neven: A possible construction of a realizable site.
Neven: We tested out video art strategies, group visioning exercises–
Neven: — and other celebrated assemblages, in hopes that they would guide our blueprints, grant applications.
Andy: We talked about efficiency.
Neven: We listened back to hours of field recordings and webinars, scrubbing through audio in search of some kind of directional…
Andy and Neven: Possible.
Andy: The unknown.
Neven: Eventually, we started to sense the presence of a constant lateral emotion, a vibe. Which at times seemed as big and as uneven, as the whole world put together.
Andy: We talked about the possibility of shape shifting.
Neven: We all consented to maintain it in us.
Andy: Strengthening — — and transforming.
Neven: We took to rotating simple objects in our hands; rocks, lanterns, pipes, all talking together about what we were seeing and not seeing.
Andy: When looking at this- — spewing out water — — is there a blame game?
Neven: Through rounds of observation, our mediations were activity recalibrating.
Andy: Why is there so much orange?
Neven: Our knowledges.
Andy: Under this water?
Neven: Rendering social, once atomized crafts of interpretation.
Andy: What discernment can we bring today upon this scene?
Neven: Our learning is changing the very thing being learned.
Andy: The fact is, that this is sitting on top of an artesian well.
Neven: We spend sleepless nights here.
Andy: And there is a large underground river —
Andy: — just above the little hill, where this pipe is.
Neven: These flows into a launch pad, a binaural habitat.
Andy: The water is rich with iron –
Neven: It’s not easy to hear the currents of our reality.
Andy: — and calcium.
Neven: Before it has happened to us.
Andy: That is why you have this beautiful orange colour today.
Neven: But it has become a necessity.
Andy: It is draining out.
Neven: A way for us.
Andy: And it is flowing into a bigger river.
Neven: To ground ourselves materially.
Andy: Which is flowing in.
Andy and Neven: The sea.
>> Vibe Check, episode one.
[ Music ]
>> Special thanks to Andy Berg.
In Episode 1 of Vibe Check, a gently building soundscape introduces listeners to Neven Lochhead’s process of ‘sonic scaffolding’ and its effects. An interview with the artist about his currently closed solo exhibition From the vibe out becomes a base for auditory renovation, as the approaches driving the two-channel video installation gradually adjust to CFRC Radio’s immersive stereo habitat.
Other Ways to Listen
Tap or click on “Transcript” under each track to read or download the full transcript of each audio commentary.
Neven Lochhead: You are listening to CFRC 101.9 FM located in the basement of Carruthers Hall on the Queen’s University campus in Kingston, Ontario and online at cfrc.ca.
My name is Neven Lochhead. I’m an artist and curator in Kingston. And I’m feeling again quite lucky and grateful to Dinah and CFRC for this opportunity of doing a bi-weekly half-hour radio program that I’m positioning in relation to an exhibition of mine called From the Vibe Out which is at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, but which is currently closed due to the lockdown. So this program was made as a kind of pivot point that has allowed me to keep some of the ideas and strands of that work in motion and in relation with a public.
Last week, I tried to translate some of the poetics of the exhibition onto the airwaves through musical composition. This week, some of that will carry over but it’s mostly going to be focussed on a learning experiment that I’m conducting with the Dark Matter Playgroup, which is a project initiated by Sunny Kerr and Michelle Bunton at the Agnes. And they frame the Dark Matter Playgroup as “a nomadic mentorship-based program supporting adaptive forms of collectivity and art-making, under the conditions of the pandemic.” So, I’m a kind of mentor in this program. And I’ve been designing with this wonderful group of artists, a sort of modular assignment-driven peer-to-peer learning habitat. Which is, I should say, also a modified remix of an open educational resource that was designed by Neil Mulholland at the Edinburgh College of Art called Contemporary Art and Open Learning.
So, in this episode, you’re going to kind of eavesdrop on a module that I just completed with the Dark Matter Playgroup over this past week. And as you’ll hear, I’m taking this context of the radio very much into account. And thinking of how it can be a platform to both allow this group to come together in some kind of way in the absence of working in physical space, but also to open up the mechanics of this open learning experiment to you – to the public that I encounter on the airwaves. And so, it’s a kind of experiment in interrogating the potential openness of these educational models. So I encourage your attention, and if you feel up for it, also your participation in the module that you’re about to hear. So thanks for listening, I’ll hand it over to myself, in a different hat.
Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I — — put together — — a module for the group. But I’m keen to sort of turn back to — — our learning experiment. Now that term is wrapping up — — just walking on my way to the studio now. Unfortunately, that idea of the shared studio space is going to have to be paused until the stay-at-home order lifts. But not to be deterred, I have devised a little activity — an exercise here in Module Two that will, I hope, give us a kind of alternate context to do some embodied learning or haptic experimentation. And also a becoming public to each other. It’s an assignment that is built off of a couple of exercises from Neil Mulholland who offered a couple PDFs in the last module. Anyways, I’ve been talking to Neil and I asked him to record a little prompt of himself walking around Edinburgh. And this sort of recording he sent in a way kick-started my thinking for this module. So I’ll just hand it over to Neil briefly.
Neil Mullholland: I think what I’d like to try and talk about is this whole idea that I mentioned in this talk about the creation of open research objects, following what Boshears has to say about that. So his idea is that you create an open object, that could be an artwork or it could be something that you write, could be anything really, so long as you can license it with a Creative Commons license that allows it to be repurposed. So it’s really a question of thinking of what it would mean if we took Boshears at his word and we tried to apply that sort of logic to the creation of works of art. And I think also, with that in mind then, thinking of these artworks as somehow being things we can repurpose to build other artworks or possibly to use them for other ends and means. So thinking about them as being like reciprocal readymades. You know, Duchamp used Rembrandt as an ironing board. That sort of idea. So I guess there’s the potential to think about how these open research objects can become something that you… you know you could use them for other purposes than as artworks. I suppose there’s also the thing to consider here whether artworks are research objects at all, whether they are something other than forms of research. So maybe that’s contestable, but I think the basic premise is that somehow we can license things in such a way that makes them open and inter-operable. So his other caveat here is that he thinks it is slightly pointless doing that unless we are focused on creating new publics. So the key thing here is that as people use and engage with these open objects that they become new publics for whatever it is that the object does, whatever it intends to have as engagements. This is about affordances, maybe. Like, what does the open research object afford and enable in this kind of interaction between the people who engage with the object, and the object itself? The object is constantly being changed through that interaction and it is always in the process of becoming something else. – – [noise] Oh… okay…
Neven: Okay, so what Neil’s talking about there about the open research object, and this emphasis on it needing to produce new publics — — has made me start thinking about this radio program that I just started a couple weeks ago called Vibe Check, as a possible tool for us in lieu of sharing a physical space that we could occupy the radio airwaves, and this very transmission to coexist as a group and carry out a set of related but dispersed activities and come together within the space of the edit of the radio show. So, it’s an open question and idea of how we might occupy the radio in this way. And I’d really like to try it with you guys if you’re open to it. Yeah part of the challenge of what I’m proposing would be to not just upload the outputs of our workshop, but actually to transform the radio program into an open educational resource. So that would involve me repositioning and recodifying the outlines of the activity called Speculative Itineraries, which I’m hoping you’ll carry out, into a kind of public facing resource that would have the ability to be taken up by a listener — by a public. And it would invite people to remix or improvise upon the contents of the transmission. So it’s pretty interesting to be talking to you actually: I’m, of course talking to you directly as a group — as the Dark Matter Playgroup — but simultaneously, I have one eye on the listener to the radio show Vibe Check. And potentially of other publics that I will encounter there, cohorts of co-learners that could form around this very broadcast. I think that’s what it would mean to do open education on the radio and indeed I feel a bit strange, the kind of boundaries of our virtual classroom are exposing themselves to a public audience. So we’re both learning and teaching in and through a public platform. So with that I’ll just frame the assignment Speculative Itineraries, its various steps. For the Dark Matter Playgroup, you’ll be able to just read all that below. And for the listeners at home, I’ll be reading the instructions out on the air in just a few moments. And then we will shift to hear, I hope, a collective edit of the documentation from running this assignment within our group, which we can share with the listening public of CFRC.
So, this assignment is called Speculative Itineraries. If you’d like to do it, you need to find a peer or a friend who is willing to commit with you to the prompts, which I will outline in detail. You can also find a transcript of these prompts on the Agnes website alongside archival audio of this very radio show.
Step 01: Essential Activity identification.
This step should take 30 minutes of individual reflection.
Identify an essential activity or errand that you need to do or would like to do that will take place at some point this weekend. Make sure that this is an outing that will require you to leave your place of residence, ideally involving a walk or even a drive of some kind to another location that is separate from your interior domestic space. Ideally, the essential activity that you identify will be something that will take no less than 30 minutes. Its purpose could range from the practical (such as grocery shopping, mailing a package), to the personal (such as getting a bit of fresh air, doing some exercise, visiting a loved one), to the creative or cognitive (such as walking to your studio to make an artwork or going somewhere quiet to read a chapter of a book). But whatever it is, try to choose an errand or essential activity that is not going to be particularly stressful or rigid when you carry it out. As these activities will eventually be altered by your peer learner, which would mean that they might need to potentially unfold in a slightly unexpected manner. And so this requires some flexibility on your part.
All right. On to…
Step 02: Essential Activity Transcription.
This step should take no more than 45 minutes of individual reflection and some writing.
In an email to your peer learner or your friend – your partner in this exercise – inform them of your chosen essential weekend activity. Explain to them when it is likely to happen, as well as its desired goal, such as, “I need to get some fresh vegetables,” or “I’ll need to clear my head,” or “I need to go make an artwork,” things like that. In the format of an itemized itinerary, similar to what you would receive from Google Maps when you plot a trip, detail for your partner the route, or the a series of steps or actions that you will be taking on the weekend to complete your essential activity. So, try to explain this route to your partner in meticulous detail, going over its basic motions and durations, for example, “eight minutes walking along Gore Street.” But also try to describe potential secondary sites and features that you expect will occur along the route. So, in other words, try to give attention to the scenic or peripheral areas, the sense experiences, the other characters that you may encounter on the way for your activity, but what you may not typically perceive as the core parts of its completion. You know, these additional descriptions of secondary sights or things, they don’t need to be overly immersive. You can simply mention to your partner aspects like, “Here I will pass a magnolia tree,” things like that.
So with that kind of mode of thinking carefully move through your essential activity and make an itemized transcription of that activity describing the full scope of your trip and its logistics. When you’re done that, send this as a document or email to your partner.
Step 03: Speculative Itinerary Creation.
This step should take no more than 60 minutes of individual thinking and writing.
So after receiving the itemized itinerary from your peer, in which they outline their essential weekend activity, spend some time reading it and contemplating its context and dynamics. Imagine the trajectory of your peer as they are carrying out their task. If needed, maybe Google Search the site of their activity to get your bearings if their particular locale is different from your own. You know, this could take place anywhere from Kingston to Berlin, Paris, depending on where your partner is. Consider the stated goal of their activity and ask yourself whether this will factor into your response. So, consider what you know about your peer already, their general vibe, their interests, and reflect on whether these will be ingredients for you to use or tap into as you go about your next step, which is to start thickening and modifying their itinerary through a process of speculative annotation and itinerary editing.
This part of the assignment is a unique opportunity for you to directly inflect the logistical dynamics of your peer and their goal-oriented errand. Your modifications will potentially affect, improve, or simply make strange their otherwise regular everyday outing. The modifications and additions that you make to their itinerary are open-ended for you to play with and improvise upon. Although, there is one rule that you must abide by, and that is that you must not interfere with the completion of their stated goal. As in, you can’t modify whether they go to the grocery store or not if that is the stated essential aim of their activity. This means that the focus of your additions and creativity and logistical experimentation must occur on the route of their essential activity. So, in other words, you will be modifying and designing aspects of their journey rather than their destination. Or you’ll be building a learning habitat, rather than identifying the outcome of that habitat, which just predetermined.
So yes, using their itinerary of their essential activity as a kind of frame, begin adding in speculative, playful annotations and edits. Thickening their schedule, as you adjust or add in text, such as instructions, prompts, and descriptions of peripheral tasks that you’re inviting your peer to take up as they go about their activity.
So, for example, in your acts of annotation or modification, perhaps you’ll introduce alternate routes for your peer to take, encouraging their diversions into peripheral or secondary spaces, such as those they’ve named in their itemized itinerary. You might decide to add in interruptions or moments of pause to their outing. For instance, proposing that your peer carry out a brief, immersive sonic experience, writing in something like, “Before entering the grocery store, please sit in your car for five minutes listening to the attached song.” Perhaps you’ll direct your peer to search an outdoor site for a certain material or collect an object of a certain size. Or maybe read quietly a text that you deem is relevant to a specific location that they’re travelling through. Alternatively, you might opt to be quite subtle in your speculative itinerary writing. So for instance, you might simply assign a calming playlist for your peer’s head-clearing walk. Or you might instruct them to carry a specific object in their pocket as they grocery shop. But whatever your approach, when you feel that the itinerary’s thickened enough or modified to your liking, then send this edited, annotated document back to your partner.
A note is that it’s important that you send this to them at least a day before they’re meant to carry out their essential activity so that your peer can schedule in more time to carry out the modified trajectory that you’ve designed for them.
Step 04: Conduct your Speculative Itinerary.
The duration of this task will vary depending on the original scope of the central activity that you’ve offered to your peer for alteration, as well as the volume of the alterations that your peer has made on that activity.
Bring the speculative itinerary that has been designed for you by your peer as you set out on your essential activity. Use their itinerary as a guide as you embark on your outing. As you go, you’ll start to make decisions about whether you will adhere to or pass by the altered itinerary that your peer has made for you. You should also feel free to improvise on their written instructions or to pursue unexpected tangents that might arise out of your tweaked, logistical choreographies. When it’s possible in your outing, try to record video or audio of moment that you’re encounter, as you carry out the tasks on your itinerary. So for example, if there’s a task for you to collect an object, then take a moment to make a short video on your phone of that object or record yourself describing something that your peer asked you to witness… [ voice fades out ]
[ Music fades in ]
Neven singing: Study is talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing and suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name of a speculative practice. (a quote from The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, published by Minor Compositions in 2013).
Were there any thought processes set in motion by your peer’s alterations?
Were there unexpected encounters on your route that altered knowledge of a specific space or object?
Were there any reactions that you witnessed from bystanders or unforeseen characters who came into and inflected the activity?
Was the stated goal of the errand still able to be completed, and was its outcome enhanced or hindered by your peer’s altered itinerary design?
The thing to do with a recording of yourself reflecting on these questions is to send it back to your peer along with any media that you may have recorded during the itinerary informing them about the effects of their itinerary design.
So, with that now published, we can turn our attention back to the Dark Matter Playgroup, and check-in with them in this final section of Vibe Check, to see how they fared, and what came of their initial playtest. The keen and capable group that they are, have taken it on with great generosity and imagination and sent along a bunch of recordings as well as scripts and scores, that I’ve taken the liberty to sort of fold together and re-inscribe here into a radio format, making an edit that I hope the group and I will continue to modify, and perhaps build from. So, we go and encounter Bicky, who’s doing some — — some speculative grocery shopping here at the Metro.
Bicky Marquez: This experiment will start with the basics. Let’s find fresh bread. As you can see here, there is nothing fresh yet. So there is nothing to smell, actually. I can’t find anything that can — — let me know if — — the product I’m finding or I’m buying is completely fresh. But I will — I think I will just choose a random thing. Let’s say, a plain bagel. This is disappointing because I can’t actually — — perceive the molecules that this kind of bread are releasing when they are fresh. So the next step is to find something of another colour.
Dorothea Paas: I dress for time travel. I imagine a line connecting me from my starting point to my destination, the small park. I consider this line to be the radius of a circle, and the small park is right at the centre of that circle. I think about what might have lived inside this circle 300 years ago, 3000 years ago, 300,000 years ago. I do this through research and fabulation, some irreducible combination of both. I leave through the North door. I get in the car and drive it down the gravel road towards Highway 2. I turn left onto the highway. I fill my car with Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne.” I listen as I drive through the rain. I consider this car to be a mobile atmosphere. Something material enough to coat my clothing, stick to my skin even after I will exit it.
[ Music ]
Bicky: So, let’s say I want to add some lemons to it. As you can see here, lemons are like kind of rounded structures, right? They are not perfectly rounded, but that’s the point… that’s the — they don’t need to be. Otherwise, — — we wouldn’t have multiplicity in the world. And — so the weakest and the strongest wouldn’t be possible, right? So — — we’ll be like a boring planet with same structures, with no complexity. So, if we are talking about the strongest and the weakest, let’s choose tomato, which is the most rounded tomato that I can find which would indicate that I’m choosing the strongest — the more, the more perfect structure, if that makes sense. Let’s say this is my tomato — my perfect tomato. So the other indredients for a tuna salad [ voice fades out ].
Neven: When walking along Brock Avenue, make a quick detour to Noble Street. Stop in front of the gallery and check out the black and white pictures hanging outside on the fence. Consider making a short story with the images you’re perceiving and the environment of the cafe.
Noah Scheinman: It’s maybe late summer, and it’s still really warm, and the big garage door is pulled up. So there’s an easy flow between inside and outside and just this nice kind of — you know, kind of rhythm sort of… Well, it’s actually more of arhythmic, or kind of movement between people inside and outside. And just people generally feeling a kind of sense of bliss. And there’s also just this kind of new appreciation for these kinds of moments. Because this was something that was such a simple pleasure, for so long for most of their previous experience of these kinds of spaces and moments within their life. Now, there’s kind of this sort of meta recognition that this is something, that is, the kinds of small pleasures that essentially are kind of incrementally kind of accrete into sort of a kind of a full life. And in fact, as is so often the case, it’s these kind of intervals that we kind of build the supposed more kind of grander moments of our life around. And I find that people kind of within the space are kind of feeling that. So — — that’s very kind of kind of present in the kind of mood, I would say. I would say it’s — — not a kind of exuberance. It’s not sort of ebullient, a kind of overflowing. It’s sort of a much more, sort of — almost a polite kind of processing that is on the one hand social in the sense of people acknowledging this sort of… rediscovered novelty.
Neven: Vibe check, episode two.
Underworld: Life. It’s a touch. Everything is golden. Open. Wider. Stumble. Catch. Yeah! (Song: I Exhale [DJ Koze Remix] – Underworld)
Neven: Special thanks to Andy, Noah, Gabe, Bicky, and Dorothea.
Episode 2 of Neven Lochhead’s Vibe Check radio art series delves into the dynamics of an ongoing, informal learning experiment Fabricating Vibe, which Lochhead is constructing with and through the Dark Matter Playgroup: a nomadic mentorship-based program initiated by the Agnes supporting adaptive forms of collectivity and art making under the conditions of a global pandemic. Lochhead’s contribution as a mentor to the program has been taking shape as a modular, assignment-driven, peer-to-peer learning habitat – a heavily modified remix of an open educational resource (OER) designed by Neil Mulholland at Edinburgh College of Art called Contemporary Art and Open Learning. This poly-vocal episode features an asynchronous exchange with Mulholland as the project’s distal mobiliser, before a cascade of workshop scores transforms the broadcast into an OER itself, landing the listener in the thick of an interwoven and itinerant site of study, featuring activity reports and other sonic artefacts from the Dark Matter Playgroup.
Neven Lochhead is an artist and curator working with video, sound, music, performance and installation. His own artistic work draws from traditions of durational moving image and performance practices, the employment and conventions of text-on-screen in video art and cinema, and compositional strategies of minimal music. From 2017–2019, Lochhead developed his exhibition-making practice as curator of Knot Project Space, a venue in Ottawa he established as part of his role as Director of Programming at SAW Video Media Art Centre. Through this discursively operated space, Lochhead produced exhibitions and performances while working closely with local, national and international artists, as well as a series of lectures, learning contexts, residency platforms and off-site public art projects. Residencies as an artist include the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2015) the Artist Research Laboratory in Como, Italy (2014). He received an MFA in Art Video from Syracuse University in 2016.