Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th Century Please Turn Out The Lights?

The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe is an artist-led collective based in Leeds.

John Wright, a research-led curator and PhD student in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, has been involved with the collective since its creation in 2014.

In this article, John talks about their latest initiative in a disused pub in Baildon:

“I co-founded The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe with artist John Ledger in order to create a conceptual ‘thinking’ space were we could realise projects, exhibitions and artworks which had become lost, forgotten or rejected by galleries, funders and other institutions.

“The collective has since developed through constant conversations between the members of the collective which have then become publications, exhibitions and interventional projects. There are now five core members and one ‘ghost member’ based in the USA. They all have diverse backgrounds but share a common perspective the world.

“The aim of our collective is to create a place to experiment and generate new thoughts and ideas in order to deconstruct the state of play. We are a nomadic collective without a fixed location, often appearing in temporary spaces. Conversation and the sharing of ideas are at the heart of our ethos.

“The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe have temporarily taken over a disused pub in Baildon, West Yorkshire, turning it into an on-going project space to experiment and test out new ideas. The central concept which frames this exhibition is of a contemporary sense of ‘stuckness’ which has pervaded over the later part of the twentieth century until the present. Wrapped up in a complex history of neoliberalism and late capitalistic modes of production, this sense of repeated ‘stuckness’ is perhaps only now beginning to fracture.

“Baildon is a civil parish town located near between Bradford and Shipley. This particular project in a former pub has been made possible by help from Skippko and their Blank Canvas scheme. The scheme utilises empty commercial space to promote artists and creative work within different communities. As a nomadic collective, we decided to take up the space as soon as it was offered to us by Skippko. The ex-pub works really well, with not only the name of our collective but also our collective practice which aims to work on a site-specific basis with often non-tradition locations.

“We are giving an open invitation to all to come along to the space between the 3rd and 8th of July, to find out more and to share thoughts and ideas on a multitude of issues facing our society at this turbulent time in history. We have set up a series of events where people interested in what we are doing can come along and find out more.

“We will be hosting an opening evening and informal discussion on Thursday 6 July from 6 to 11pm. The informal discussion is an opportunity for participants to raise thoughts and generate discussion on any topic they wish: it really is a free for all. There will be a few planned informal talks to start things off. However, all are welcome to come along and join the conversation. Refreshments will be available.

“If you cannot attend, we will also be having an open exhibition on Friday 7 July, from 6pm to 11pm with refreshments. The exhibition will continue on Saturday 8 July from 10am to 5pm. Or simply arrange to view the space at another time by contacting us.

“The focus of my PhD research is on exploring the nature of the contemporary artist-led collective through questioning its role and positioning within wider socio-cultural discourse. The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe collective is a case study within my PhD research. I am developing an auto-ethnographic approach enabling my ‘insider’ position, as researcher, to explore the artist-led collective which I am involved with and which constitutes the majority of my creative practice.

“This project will be framed as a social science experiment within my research, as I will be able to analyse the creation and development of a collective from its conception.”