In The Beginning

Welcome to the L-13 News & Archive Pages

The idea behind this section is to write regular instalments that provide important anecdotal information about some aspect of our illustrious past. These accounts will be sporadic and in no particular order, but as this is the first entry it seems fitting to start at the beginning.

L-13 first came into being in 2003. Back then we were based in a small Georgian shop on a quaint walkway in Bloomsbury. We were then known as the aquarium as that was the name of the shop that I had formerly run as a rare bookshop. I’d been sharing the space with two other bookdealers but when they left I decided to turn the upstairs space into a gallery area where I could exhibit the posters and other visual ephemera I’d been collecting and dealing with. Most with a counter-culture / radical slant. Then following the start of the second Iraq War and a particularly disastrous episode in my personal life I decided something more proactive was needed, hooked up with former book-dealing colleague and political activist Andrew Burgin as a business partner, and we started a programme of exhibitions.

Following a general opening show and an exhibition of photos from Stop the War protests, the first real exhibition we did was called The SI and After: What is Living and What is Dead in the Situationist International. Having left art college some 12 years earlier (dropping out of my MA a couple of months before the end) stating I hated all art, artists and anything involved with art, I still wasn’t that keen on working with artists as such. So, an exhibition that centred around the radical French revolutionary anti-art group known as the Situationists seemed the way to go. In all fairness I was pretty much a spectator in terms of the organisation of this exhibition. Andrew gathered together an enthusiastic committee of people willing and eager to help, we met a lot, drank a lot, and through that a programme of talks and events were organised: from discussions to film showings. “Nostalgia stops here” was scrawled on the doorstep, the gallery was badly painted grey and various texts, posters and information pertaining to the Situationists and our exhibition were pasted up on the walls or left strewn on the floor. In one corner we developed a pile of empty bottles and cans from all the alchohol consumed during the show. This was our homage to Guy Debord and pasted above the pile of empties was his quote:

“Among the small number of things that I have liked and known how to do well, what I have assuredly known how to do best is drink. Even though I have read a lot, I have drunk even more. I have written less than most people who write; but I have drunk much more than most people who drink.

Andrew Wilson, then editor of Art Monthly also lent us some fantastic and rare Situationist publications and artworks from his collection which we exhibited amongst our detritus.

My role in all this was mostly in defining how everything was presented and coming up with ideas like the Guy Debord Tribute Corner. Latter-day Situationist and trouble-maker Michel Prigent was given the job of designing the poster but his effort was so crude and incoherent no one wanted to use it. I quite admired how rubbish it was though, so even though I designed the final poster I included Michel’s derided effort in the central photo. This is possibly the first creation I made for L-13/the aquarium. The second was a very limited edition book I made for the show. It was a stencil book of the slogan ‘Never Work Ever’, but with all the letters overlaid so it was illegible. The book came in a box packed with shredded Situationist texts, 4 cans of spray paint and instructions. I made 7 sets but no one wanted them. The cans of paint all got used for other things, but somewhere we should still have a copy of the book. As soon as we find one we’ll post a photo here.

In 2003, the digital camera wasn’t so common, and they certainly weren’t part of a phone. I don’t have any photographs of this exhibition, but I’m sure some were taken. If I can track some down we’ll post those here as well, but in the meantime the only visual evidence we have is the poster.

Here’s also a review of the show written at the time https://cloneguilt.wordpress.com/2003/08/28/situationists-at-the-aquarium/

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