This is the story of two short-lived artist-run spaces that are associated with some of the most innovative developments in the arts in Britain in the late 1960s. The Drury Lane Arts Lab (1967–69) was home to the first UK screenings of Andy Warhol's twin-screen 3 hour film Chelsea Girls, challenging exhibitions (John and Yoko / John Latham / Takis / Roelof Louw), poetry and music (first UK performance of Erik Satie's 24-hour Vexations) and fringe theatre (People Show / Freehold / Jane Arden's Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven / Will Spoor Mime Theatre). The Robert Street 'New Arts Lab' (1969–71) housed Britain's first video workshop TVX, the London Filmmakers Co-op's first workshop and a 5-days-a-week cinema devoted to showing new work by moving-image artists (David Larcher / Malcolm Le Grice / Sally Potter / Carolee Schneemann / Peter Gidal). It staged J G Ballard's infamous Crashed Cars exhibition and John & Dianne Lifton's pioneering computer-aided dance/mime performances.
The impact of London's Labs led to an explosion of new artist-led spaces across Britain. This book relates the struggles of FACOP (Friends of the Arts Council Operative) to make the case for these new kinds of space and these new art-forms and the Arts Council's hesitant response – in the context of a popular press already hostile to youth culture, experimental art and the 'underground'. With a Foreword by Andrew Wilson, Curator Modern & Contemporary British Art and Archives, Tate Gallery.
Foreword - 'IT'S NOT EASY'; 'The best Arts Laboratories are play pens.' Andrew Wilson Introduction Part one – Drury Lane Arts Lab Setting-up The Building The Programme Mix Theatre Poetry & Talks Music The Gallery The Soft Cinema Challenges Part two - The New Arts Lab at Robert St. (IRAT) Setting-Up The Building The Cybernetic Theatre The Gallery Music / Poetry / Talks The Print Workshop Video – TVX Cinema and Film Workshop Closure Postscript Appendices Drury Lane and Robert Street Workers' After-lives Arts Labs & Related Phenomena / Addresses & News by Regions' (IT / BIT Oct '69) Rob La Frenais & James Strangeways – On the Southampton Arts Lab David Jeffrey – The Penis in Italy – an Arts Lab Adventure, 1968 Jan Quackenbush – My play Complexions at the Drury Lane Arts LabMo Throp & John King – Footnotes to Sketches From a Hunter's Album Index Biography
David Curtis studied painting at the Slade School, UCL before becoming involved with the Arts Laboratories (1967–71). He was Film Officer at the Arts Council of Great Britain for over 20 years, giving grants tofilmmaking artists and organising exhibitions of artists' works including Film as Film (Hayward Gallery, London 1979). He has written extensively on experimental film and animation, his books including Experimental Cinema (Studio Vista / Universe 1971), A History of Artists Film & Video in Britain (BF1 2007) and The Artists Film (Thames & Hudson 2021). He was a Senior Research Fellow at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London 2000–2010 where he founded the British Artists Film & Video Study Collection. His curatorial projects have included Midnight Underground (Channel 4 TV 1993) and A Century of Artists Film in Britain (Tate 2003–04).