B.X.L., ca. 1968
Jeffrey Shaw (Eventstructure Research Group)
Jeffrey Shaw was instrumental in bridging Barbara Steveni's and John Latham's pre-1966 involvement in performance and the beginnings of APG. Steveni and Latham were protagonists of London's radical performance scene, collaborating with artists such as Gustav Metzger and Yoko Ono, and taking part in the 'Destruction in Art Symposium' in Covent Garden in September 1966. A year later, Shaw and Latham carried out a series of performative environments in the basement of Better Books on the Charing Cross Road entitled Book Plumbings, with actresses, coloured jelly, light projections and inflatable PVC tubing.
In a manner reminiscent of the American group Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), APG set out at first to source industrial materials for artists. This was the case of Shaw, for whom Steveni obtained PVC film from companies such as B.X.L. for his Waterwalk inflatable 'eventstructures' at the Brighton Festival in 1968. In 1967, Shaw co-founded Eventstructure Research Group (ERG), an artists' group based in Amsterdam, which produced a number of public participatory events involving large-scale inflatable structures.
Artists in the Works: Made for APG, 1970
Directed and narrated by Paul Overy
Produced by Nancy Balfour
This film was commissioned by APG to showcase its activities in the wider context of artists' organisations operating outside traditional art contexts. The film's main reference is to E.A.T., which was founded the same year as APG and aimed to facilitate collaboration between engineers and artists.
British Steel Corporation, 1969–1970
When sculptor Garth Evans took up the offer of a Fellowship at British Steel Corporation brokered by APG, he was one of the four tutors of the experimental sculpture course at Saint Martins School of Art, later dubbed the 'A Course'. Evans' two-year placement was APG's first, and served to demonstrate that an artist's placement in a non-art context could generate valuable (if sometimes unwelcome) observations while benefitting the artist's practice.
During his placement Evans studied the production of steel at the Corporation's facilities. He also found ways to engage in the social organisation of British Steel, drafting a series of reports that were well-received by the company's Director of Public Relations, Christopher Patey (who would soon become an industry-side spokesperson for APG). As part of this observational role, Evans took copious notes and photographs. British Steel produced a book titled Some Steel containing a selection of these photographs. The film in the gallery documents one of Evans' visits to a steel fabrication works, where he photographed steel constructions made by apprentice welders. Evans saw these constructions (made as exercises by apprentices) as readymade abstract steel sculptures comparable to those he himself began to make during his placement, Frame (1970–71) being one of the first.
Scottish Television, 1971
David Hall was closely involved in the inception of APG, actively participating in the Group's conversations about widening the social context of artists' work. Dissatisfied by the gallery confinement of his sculptural practice, he began looking to film and the new possibilities of video. In 1971 the artist was invited to take part in Locations Edinburgh, a city-wide exhibition coinciding with the Edinburgh Festival. He and the exhibition's curator persuaded Scottish Television to broadcast ten short works shot on 16mm film in place of the usual commercial breaks. These interjections were unmediated, without mention of art or artist. Hall made the films rapidly over ten days, preparing them for broadcast daily. His aim was to challenge viewer expectations of conventional televisual output. Shown at the inno70 exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1971, TV Interruptions over time became a standard part of APG presentations, taking on a manifesto-like quality for the Group. Hall has preserved seven of the ten films, shown here as an installation where the works interact.
APG Publications and Letterheads
APG was keenly aware of the need to present itself as a credible institution vis-à-vis industry and government, designing its brochures in the spirit of corporate annual reports. Its first publication, bearing the earlier version of APG as 'Art Placement Group', quotes John Ruskin's claim that 'Industry without art is brutality'. The second publication was produced for the 'Industrial Negative Symposium' at the Mermaid Theatre in the City of London, where APG invited high-level industrialists, politicians and artists to debate the relationship between art and technological innovation. The two versions of the Artist Placement Group publication from 1972 (identical but for their covers) seek to build on the momentum generated by the inn7o exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1971.
Between 6, Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 15–17 June 1971
Stuart Brisley, Garth Evans, Barry Flanagan, David Hall, Leonard Hessing, John Latham, Jeffrey Shaw and Barbara Steveni
APG was invited to make its first international appearance as part of Jürgen Harten's series of Between exhibitions at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. These interventions often showcased radical performance works (such as Gilbert & George's Singing Sculpture at Between 4 in 1970). For Between 6, the ground floor of the Kunsthalle was occupied by APG's The Sculpture, an enclosed office-like space with a round table at its centre, around which APG held a series of conversations between British artists and industrialists and their German counterparts. Bilingual APG Chairman Bernard Bertschinger facilitated these discussions over the three days of the exhibition.
A tall ladder was installed in The Sculpture, allowing David Hall to make a silent film of Between 6 from above, capturing not only the participants in conversation but also crews filming the proceedings for German television. By substituting a staged performance for visitors or viewers with an artist's interpretation of the live discussions, APG aimed to wrest control of its own media representation.
inn7o – Art & Economics, Hayward Gallery, London, 2–24 December 1971
Stuart Brisley, Andrew Dipper, Garth Evans, Barry Flanagan, David Hall, Leonard Hessing, John Latham, Ian Munro, Lois Pryce, Alan Sekers, Jeffrey Shaw (Eventstructure Research Group) and Marie Yates
In the April 1970 issue of Studio International, a cryptic four-page insert appeared. This was the first in a series of nine interventions leading up to the inn7o exhibition in December 1971 at the Hayward Gallery. The inserts were in all likelihood designed by John Latham at the invitation of Peter Townsend, the magazine's editor. Both witty and obscure, they formed a patchwork of fragments of newspaper business pages, interspersed with sections relating to APG. The inserts were each time printed in a 4,000-copy overrun, brought together to form the catalogue of the Hayward exhibition.
Since the exhibition technically began in April 1970, APG referred to it as an 'exhibition in time' under two titles, inn7o and Art & Economics – the former being a contraction of 'industrial', 'negative' and '1970'. The Arts Council made the Hayward available to APG even though only a handful of placements had been completed since 1968. Jeffrey Shaw was credited with the exhibition's 'design, equipment and concept co-ordination' – two of Shaw's proposals for the Hayward's terrace are presented here – while Barbara Steveni was responsible for 'coordination of industrial and other appointments'.
Among some of the larger-scale installations were John Latham's X-rays and crashed car related to his Clare Hall Hospital placement, and Stuart Brisley's Poly Wheel formed of concatenated Robin Day chairs, situated outdoors but visible from within the Hayward. Garth Evans covered an entire floor of a gallery with steel parts borrowed from British Steel, which he invited visitors to manipulate. His installation was accompanied by a ten-hour soundtrack of sounds from the shop floor at Ebbw Vale Steel Works in Wales.
Barry Flanagan was a student of John Latham's at Saint Martins School of Art. Their close relationship is demonstrated by the large amount of homemade money found in Latham's archives. Flanagan made these bills as an alternative currency, enabling him to buy work and services from friends. According to Alan Sekers – with whom Flanagan did an APG placement at Scott Bader in 1971 – the money was shown (and possibly even produced) at inn7o. The bills relate closely to Latham's parallel interest in the value of creative activity, theorised in the Offer for Sale publication and poster.
Latham produced a body of work specifically for the exhibition, including Offer for Sale, which took the form of a financial report where APG's contributions were detailed in pounds sterling as well as in Latham's own 'delta' unit, which he used to measure 'contributions to a total economy which either do not show up in terms of currency or are there so distorted as to be misleading'.
As in Between 6, the focal point of the inn7o exhibition was The Sculpture. Over three weeks, representatives from industry and government were invited to gather around a table at the Hayward to discuss APG's ideas with its associated artists. Exhibition visitors were not invited to participate in the discussions, separated from the discussants by PVC curtains, although the conversations were recorded on video and rebroadcast via monitors throughout the gallery. The video recordings shown here (for the first time since inn7o) – considerably deteriorated but revealing of a dramatic confrontation between artistic and corporate cultures – were made by Mike Leggett.
Thanks to inn7o, APG forged new ties with companies and artists. However, it is hard to cast the exhibition in wholly positive light: cited as one of the least popular in the history of the Hayward, it left most participating industrialists nonplussed, and the artists involved in APG strained emotionally and financially. In the press, the exhibition was assailed. While some attacked the dry obscurity of the exhibition's displays, others decried its apparent pandering to the aesthetics and culture of the boardroom.
Clare Hall Hospital, 1970
In December 1970, following a head-on traffic accident, John Latham was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of Clare Hall Hospital in outer London with broken ribs, torn muscles and punctured lungs. On the first night of his stay, Latham realised that by rotating his body in bed he could clear his throat of lung tissue without having to endure the pain of coughing. The X-rays documenting his rapid convalescence lend credence to Latham's claim that his discovery was an improvement over the normal procedure of raising the patient's legs. Taken while he lay in bed, these X-rays formed part of Latham's installation at inn7o, alongside his crashed car.
National Coal Board, 1969–70
Despite protracted negotiations, APG failed to place an artist with the National Coal Board, in part because of poor timing: the late sixties and early seventies marked the beginning of controversial pit closures and redundancies in the UK. But APG did succeed in obtaining a small grant from the Coal Board's Film Unit to support the production of John Latham's 25-minute, 16mm film ERTH (1971), first shown publicly at inn7o. The film encapsulates Latham's 'time-based' theory by collapsing geophysical and cinematic time into a single work.
ICI Fibres Ltd., 1970–71
Austrian-born Leonard Hessing was well known in Australia as an abstract painter and architect before he settled in the UK in 1966. He first encountered APG as he was developing methods of silk-screening colours onto plastic to create optically shifting planes. With the ICI Marketing Director Peter Byrom (an active and early supporter of APG) acting as intermediary, the company's board agreed to grant Hessing a placement.
Whereas ICI expected Hessing to engage with the structure and production of the company, the artist used its continuous filament plant at Pontypool in Wales to experiment with optical effects of synthetic fibres, producing what Latham called 'a new form of physical perceptual experience'. The work Hessing made at ICI specifically for the inn7o exhibition – a 65-foot stretch of coloured fibre entitled Spatial Disorientation Module – is now lost, but the studies from 1968 displayed here illustrate the artist's concerns with opticality and technology during his placement.
British European Airways (BEA), 1969
APG approached BEA on behalf of David Hall, who was interested in filming cloud formations. Although it declined to grant him a full placement, the airline allowed Hall to fly for free across Europe. The artist clocked many hours of flight, recording cloud formations in the Swiss Alps, the UK and in particular the Levanter cloud forming almost constantly over the Rock of Gibraltar. As the description of Hall's film in the inn7o exhibition catalogue suggests, the Levanter cloud could stand for APG itself: a dynamic and expandable presence between elements.
The British Film Institute awarded Hall a grant to make Timecheck (1971), a 16mm film edited from the BEA material and footage donated by NASA at the time of the first moon landing. For this exhibition, Hall has selected episodes from the original footage gathered over two years of his placement, some parts of which were later incorporated in the BFI film.
British Transport Film Unit, 1973
Ian Breakwell and David Parsons
Ian Breakwell's work in a wide range of media – including film and his multi-faceted Diary project – was well established by the time he joined APG's 'Think Tank' discussions. In 1973 APG negotiated a three-month feasibility study for Breakwell and David Parsons at the British Transport Film Unit, a prolific and at times experimental production centre of documentary films. Breakwell and Parsons viewed countless films in the Unit's archives and conducted extensive interviews with its employees. They collected this data in a detailed report, in which they also proposed to make a different kind of travel film. (By 1973, the Film Unit no longer produced non-promotional films.) The result was The Journey, directed by Breakwell in 1975 with the support of an Arts Council grant.
The Journey includes material collected during Breakwell's and Parsons' feasibility study (8mm footage, audio recordings and stills). For Breakwell, it represented an ironic take on the travelogue and the clichéd situation of two strangers on a train, as well as paying homage to the Lumière brothers' 1895 film of a train leaving a station. The soundtrack features Breakwell's voiceover Diary observations and reveries of other train rides. Withdrawn from circulation in 1998, this is the first time The Journey has been shown publicly since the mid-eighties.
Ocean Fleets Ltd., 1974–75
George Levantis was introduced to APG by Stuart Brisley, his tutor at the Slade School of Art. Levantis requested a placement on a ship – his Greek father had been a sea captain – and in 1974 APG successfully negotiated one with Ocean Fleets Ltd., Liverpool. The success of his first trip led to two more voyages on cargo ships to Africa and Asia. On board, Levantis recorded conversations with the crew, took photographs and on occasion was asked to draw their portraits and give art classes. He strove to become an informal 'listening ear' and learn about crew experience and grievances – going so far as to design for himself a mock naval uniform.
On his third voyage, Levantis responded to expectations that he should make art by producing ad hoc installations around the vessel with found bits of wood and canvas. These installations were a response to the environment – of sea and steel, cycles of night and day, and the ship as a place of confinement. Although the ship's captain described Levantis' presence on board as positive, a number of his constructions were thrown overboard by the crew. In 1976, Levantis produced Pieces of Sea Fall Through The Stars, a book about his voyages to accompany his solo exhibition at the Arts Council Gallery, Belfast.
Esso Petroleum Corporation, 1970
Andrew Dipper met John Latham and Barbara Steveni during their participation in political action at Hornsey School of Art in May 1968. Tom Batho – Head of Employee Relations at Esso and an APG supporter and Director – agreed to host Dipper's placement on one of the company's oil tankers bound for the Persian Gulf. During the trip, Dipper produced a Super 8 film and numerous slides, which were exhibited at inn7o. The artist recalls suggesting to Esso ways of alleviating boredom amongst the crew after their shifts. Dipper's voyage exemplifies APG's emphasis on exploring and observing context before making proposals to host organisations, and the mostly intangible outcomes (at least in economic terms) of placements.
Proteus-Bygging Limited, 1972–73
In November 1972 John Latham worked with the engineering firm Proteus-Bygging to initiate what was later described as a 'self-placement': the construction of a nine-meter high Perspex column topped with a giant bellows entitled Big Breather, demonstrating the closed-loop energy system within one square foot of the sea's surface. The first version of the Big Breather was sited outside Gallery House on Exhibition Road, London, where Latham was in residence with artists Jeffrey Shaw and Andrew Dipper. After the Perspex shaft burst under the water's pressure, Latham rebuilt a reinforced version nearby, outside the engineering faculty of Imperial College.
The artist would later quantify the Big Breather's potential for sea cultivation and energy production in the context of his Scottish Office Placement.
S. Hille & Co. Ltd., 1970–71
Performance artist Stuart Brisley joined APG shortly after its founding in 1966. He soon became disenchanted with the Group's lack of political engagement, perceiving it to be un-self-reflexive and un-collaborative, subject to the whims of Barbara Steveni and John Latham. Although Brisley distanced himself from APG, most explicitly in an article published in 1972 in Studio International, he remained in (often heated) dialogue with APG members. In this spirit, he declined to participate in this exhibition.
At Hille, Brisley found an organisation expanding rapidly but with inefficient channels of communication between workers and management. He tried, unsuccessfully, to alert the management to this dysfunctional communication chain. More fruitfully, his engagement with the shop floor led to the installation of notice boards, for workers to leave messages. He also encouraged them to paint their machines in colours of their choice, and with them built Poly Wheel, a circle of 212 Robin Day chairs from the production line, which he saw as a metaphor for the shop floor as a closed system. Except for the duration of inn7o – when Poly Wheel was installed outside the Hayward Gallery – the sculpture stood for many years outside Hille's Haverhill factory in Suffolk.
I Am An Archive, 2005–
I Am An Archive is a means for Barbara Steveni to continue transmitting the ideas of APG, to reflect on her own role in APG (and later O+I) over two decades and to activate its archive, as she puts it, 'beyond the acid free'. Whereas APG's preferred discursive format was the table surrounded by mostly male participants, Steveni uses the form of the walk to iterate APG's history, embodying the associative narratives of subjective memory. With co-travellers invested in APG's history and its currency for the future, she uses the pivot of site and context to trigger memories and chart APG's contributions – particularly those of the female artists associated with APG – to the changing social role of the artist.
Five walks are screened in sequence during the course of the exhibition: the 'Beginnings Walk'; two 'Westminster Walks' (Industry and Government); and two 'Scottish Walks' (Edinburgh and West Lothian). A sixth walk, the 'German/International Walk', will be screened at a presentation during the exhibition. Each video walk is bracketed by a recorded introduction and a discussion.
Department of Health and Social Security, 1976
In 1975, Ian Breakwell began a placement within the Architecture Unit of the Mental Health Group at the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS). As part of his feasibility report, he submitted his Diary observations of visits to the Rampton and Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospitals. He also produced a slide sequence for members of a 'Special Hospitals Internal Seminar', which graphically portrayed the ignominy of the patients' living standards, after which he was asked to join an interdisciplinary team tasked with improving not only Broadmoor's physical structure but also its impact on healthcare. The team's report advocated better living conditions for high security hospital patients, suggesting that 'the new building should be the opportunity for new thinking about treatment'. Immediately repudiated by Broadmoor's conservative administration, the report was censored by the DHSS and, following standard procedure (since Breakwell had signed the Official Secrets Act), it remains banned.
To circumvent the official silencing of the report, Breakwell wrote that he 'began to extend the experiences of [his] placement with DHSS into [his] personal artworks, and to present them publicly'. He published extracts from his Diary observations with reference to 'An Institution in England' but based on his visits to Rampton and Broadmoor, and in 1977–78 made the film The Institution featuring an improvised performance by singer/songwriter and ex-therapist Kevin Coyne. Breakwell's first-hand knowledge of high security hospitals eventually found its way into the public domain: The Institution directly inspired Secret Hospital, a two-part television documentary on high security hospitals produced by Yorkshire Television, which included Breakwell's original slide sequence.
Department of Health and Social Security, 1978–79
Nick Alderton, Ian Breakwell, Hugh Davies, Bill Furlong, Mick Kemp, Carmel Sammons and David Toop
In 1976, DHSS architect Mick Kemp invited Ian Breakwell to collaborate on a project initially titled 'Nostalgia Jukebox' but soon retitled 'Reminiscence Aids'. The project was aimed at helping the elderly – especially those suffering from dementia – reminisce, and thus assist their self-awareness and alleviate feelings of detachment and isolation. A research team was brought together that included artist/researcher Carmel Sammons, and sound artists within APG's network Hugh Davies, William Furlong, and later Malcolm Imrie and David Toop. Within a few months, Breakwell distanced himself from the project, amicably although concerned that the reminiscences were overly positive.
Under Kemp's leadership, the team undertook extensive research, using photographs to trigger memories during interviews in London care homes. Archival sound fragments were assembled and broadcast on BBC Radio to solicit contributions from the public. The response was overwhelming, and prototype audio-visual slide sequences were then tested in care homes to gauge their effectiveness in stimulating older peoples' recollections. The material would ultimately be organised into six audio-visual chapters corresponding to periods in the lives of the elderly in the late seventies: pre-World War I, World War I, the twenties, the thirties, World War II and the fifties. In 1980, the charity Help the Aged acquired the rights to the project, branding it as 'Recall' and marketing it successfully as an audio-visual kit.
Department of the Environment, 1975
Roger Coward with Gavin Brown, Roland Lewis, Evadne Stevens and Frances Viner
Documentary filmmaker Roger Coward first encountered APG at the inn7o exhibition in 1971. In 1974 APG negotiated its first government placement for Coward in the Department of the Environment. The aim was for Coward to make an audio-visual contribution to a government report on deprivation in inner cities. The artist was assigned to the Small Heath district of Birmingham, where he encouraged the residents' resentment at the failure of the Council's urban renewal programme.
Coward brought together a team of four artists – Gavin Brown, Roland Lewis, Evadne Stevens and Frances Viner – to work with the community, using photography, film and theatre for research and feedback. Three community groups were trained to use video to present their views to the City Council officials. The professional artist team made a documentary observing this process. Other groups, following group authorship theories developed by Coward, improvised or wrote four publicly performed plays. The Department of the Environment published its report on the project entitled You and Me Here We Are, based on Coward's own report All Fine & Context.
For his feedback film The Most Smallest Heath in the Spaghetti Junction, Coward used material generated by the placement to address problems of communication between periphery (local residents) and centre (government). The photographs and photo-montage displayed here were first shown at the 1977 exhibition at the Royal College of Art entitled You and Me Here We Are – What Can be Said to be Going On?. APG organised a symposium during the exhibition to officially launch a new phase of its activities: 'The Incidental Person Approach to Government'.
Centre for Life Studies, London Zoo, 1976
David Toop first encountered APG as a young musician just prior to the inn7o exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Five years later, APG negotiated a placement for Toop at the London Zoo, funded by a grant from Greater London Arts. Toop worked with partially sighted children at the Centre for Life Studies, exploring ideas of captivity and sensory stimulation through animal sounds. He was also able to further his interests in inter-species communication, observing and documenting animal behaviour through photographs and sound recordings: the amphibian, like the APG artist, represented for Toop the potential for traversing environments.
EAR[th]/ZOO was an indirect consequence of a dialogue with the BBC, which responded to Toop's complaint that it failed to devote enough airtime to ethnomusicology by inviting him to make his own recordings using the BBC Sound Archives. EAR[th]/ZOO also includes sounds taped at the London Zoo (such as those of sea lions and parrots). A version of the work was played continuously during a three-day APG event at the Garage Gallery in Covent Garden. One of Toop's photographs taken at the Zoo illustrates the catalogue he designed for APG's 'Art as Social Strategy' gathering in Vienna in 1979.
Scottish Office, 1975–76
For his three-month feasibility study with the Scottish Office, John Latham was assigned three subjects of investigation: derelict land, urban renewal and the Scottish Development Department's Graphics Group. While he spent time addressing each of these – coming up with a long list of potential subjects for further inquiry – it would be his suggestions for derelict land that would have the most impact. He concentrated on two giant mounds of shale (so-called 'bings', composed of waste material from coal mines) that loomed over nearby villages in the former mining area of West Lothian. He named one 'Niddrie Woman' for its resemblance to a prehistoric representation of a female body; the other, a constellation of smaller bings, became 'Five Sisters'.
Latham's conceptual operation was to propose the transformation of these oppressive mounds of oil-soaked stone into monuments to the area's collective past and future. He designed a sculpture that would function as a viewing platform on top of each bing, and proposed that artists be invited to reinterpret other parts of the surrounding landscape. Despite a positive reaction from the Scottish Office, Latham's proposals were resisted by the owners of the land, since the oil in the shale had commercial value. However, a 2005 report commissioned by West Lothian Council has confirmed Latham's interpretation of the bings' value, acknowledging 'the importance of the West Lothian oil-shale bings at both a national and local scale, for their contribution to local biodiversity, their historical importance, their education value, their social significance and their recreational function'.
Peterlee Development Corporation, 1976–77
Despite Stuart Brisley's widely publicised conflict with APG during and following the 1971 inn7o exhibition, the Group re-approached him in 1974 for a placement with the Peterlee Development Corporation, a 'new town' located in a mining area in County Durham. Brisley's proposal, which the Corporation adopted, was to create a participatory archive to enable the community to take on a collective memory. With the (remunerated) help of four local residents, Brisley devised a system whereby individuals could deposit photographs and personal recollections about the area before and after it became a new town.
Over the course of the placement, some 2000 copies of photographs and 200 audio cassettes were collected. The photographs were mounted on boards so that they could be handled and used in local exhibitions, at schools and in community groups. Brisley's Peterlee placement allowed him to shift his performance practice from an engagement with the subjective to the collective body. He considered the project to be outside the frame of art, as an ongoing resource for the residents of Peterlee. Durham County Council, which inherited the project, now presents a small part of it online under the title 'People Past and Present'.