Emily Pringle: I feel immensely privileged to introduce Barbara, I think its fantastic you're here and I really look forward to...
Barbara: I think under the circumstances, its pretty fantastic too!...
Emily Pringle: All the work you've done is incredibly relevant in this context, so without more ado I'll hand over straight to you...
Barbara: Thank you for saying that. I was very interested in what you were saying about how there was a need to validate this activity, which immediately raises the question, where that validation would go from this particular symposia series... where this material goes, and who and how its used, is obviously a very important point, so ...
I have to say, it came as some surprise to find myself put down as a speaker on this series of Arts Council run symposia, since this is the very first occasion in a period spanning over three decades, I can recall being 'invited' by that body's representatives. When I did enquired how I'd come to be 'put forward' for such a series and by whom, I was told I had been suggested by a researcher as part of their 'wish' list! Well its the first time I've ever been part of the Arts Council's wish list...
Again, looking down the initial list of categories this series of symposia originally intended to address, I could see that as representing APG, now O
Underwhelmed as I am by the UK's Arts Council's late arrival at the hot topics they now wrestle with, and also by the lack of any acknowledgement of the significance and opportunities opened up by APG's artists in the 70's, for both art and society (acknowledging its inherent dangers), I believe it is nevertheless constructive to bring this suppressed history into view, in its country of origin in direct relation to the 'currency' of this experience to today's circumstance.
I'd like to thank Anna Best and her Teambuild project for bringing this work into view in this country, the last place to acknowledge its origins. Through Anna's Teambuild and her energy, I've met with many of the current generation of artists in this country and from Denmark and elsewhere. Also before that, through Ian Hunter at the Littoral Conference, Dun Laoghaire (1998), people who have found themselves asking those questions, that much of APG's work had addressed in depth. So I just wanted to thank Anna here for getting this work out in this country. In fact it was at Teambuild, the Baltic, that someone came forward and said. "Thank God you're here because a lot of people have never heard this history and maybe they even think they've invented this 'socially engaged art practice'. So onwards...
The circumstances of societies today, conditioned and affected as they are by expanding technologies and globalisation, and to paraphrase Tony Benn, in his Darwin Lectures, Power and Society, "today's greed economics" has produced the current urgent re-appraisal of the role and function of art and artist, or any other specialism for that matter, where there is to be collaborative engagement and participatory activity with an 'other'. Again (as in the '70s) certain artists lead the way through their practice, media used, and issues they select to address, questioning both their practice, in the wider non-art social context, and the institutionialatision and control of creative initiatives, by hosting organisations and including the arts funding bodies. From the Far East, Singapore, Central Europe, Scandinavia, and the USA, I have met with artists vigorously questioning the premise of their actions.
Jay Koh in Singapore, also operating from Germany, has an organisation called IFIMA which is to do with empowering the 'other' through 'socially engaged art practice' as its now called. Jakob Jakobsen from Copenhagen with the Free International University; Kent Hansen, with Democratic Innovation, also from Denmark; Platform, James Marriott and gang, who will question all this since they are here; and Ian Hunter of Littoral, come to mind as some of the individuals 'engaging' and many others. This is echoed in the current explosion of symposia, and conferences mounted by both artists and artist led organisations, and by the considerably more adequately funded arts bureaucracies and cultural institutions worldwide who, led by artists, are forced to construct what might be more appropriate forms of operation in the 21st Century.
These practices have been called variously, socially engaged art, public art, (site-specific is hanging on in there too) and performance art (and I'm not sure where the social engagement is there, is that social engagement?) A recent discussion at an art venue, Dilston Grove, looking at the work of artists such as Stuart Brisley, was definitely billed as Performance Art, so to an extent it does depend on the context, and again, notions of responsibility for action held by artists in relation to society, includes the position taken to a funding body. Then there is Arts and Business of course, and/or Art and the New Economy to name a couple more.
So today the social context is a recognised development area by both the British Council and Arts Council. They have come a long way since APG's funding was discontinued on the grounds of "APG being more concerned with Social Engineering than with pure Art" (1972, post Hayward Gallery exhibition) while around that time the German Government was encouraging APG's podium presentation 'Art as Social Strategy in Organisations and Institutions', Bonn (1977) and subsequently (1978) at the Palais Liechtenstein Vienna, which led to international artist placements in this new role in Europe.
So now to the immediate context, and here I flag up one of APG's major axioms: CONTEXT IS HALF THE WORK. That is, that the component parts of any context (which is not site-specific in terms of physical space alone) is made up from those parts which includes participant, observer, space, time
I have been asked to contribute to the educational slot - Artist as Educator - and to expand on the history of artist residencies specifically through the work of the Artist Placement Group. It is interesting for me that the context today is Birmingham, the scene of the first artist-with-government placement we negotiated between the Department of Environment, London, Birmingham City Council and the residents of Small Heath (underneath Spaghetti Junction), and I'll talk more on this when I show the pics. Sadly no one at Ikon or organising this conference, had heard of the DOE placement or for that matter, any of the other ground-breaking government associations. But if there is time I will expand a bit on this when showing the images.
Looking at some of the identified issues to be addressed by this symposium, I find several questions immediately surface which parallel our field experience, particularly within educational projects, for instance, with our Southwark project within the Borough's educational remit. Who do the symposium organisers consider is being educated by such projects, our children within the strictures of the national curriculum, or/and the makers of educational policy?
I remember Kenneth Robinson relating how when he was pushing through the government commissioned report "All our Futures" ( I don't know how much of this expensive and extensive report got actually taken up) he was very shocked to be told that drama was not a subject and was to be dropped.
So who is being educated, for whom and to what end? Again, where is culture being seen and validated in this country, and in others? The Labour government declared "We want to see culture in the heart of government" and in Denmark, the Department of Culture joins with the Department of Trade. Is this about product, and if so, what is the place of the artifact/product in the arts arena? Is the process of exchange a product? Can it be evaluated and if it is, who and how will this validation be used? (which is a very important point) These are just some of the issues which require rigorous and constant questioning in this very real world of art practice today.
'Socially Engaged'? Perhaps Tony Benn's questions he lists when addressing people with power. apply equally here to artists when researching any potential hosting organisation:
What power have you got?
Where did you get it from?
In whose interest do you use it?
To whom are you accountable?
How do we get rid of you?
(Tony Benn gave me this Darwin Lecture tape, which I play over my 'I AM an Archive' event)
So finally, before taking you through the visual histories which illustrate our process and the contexts we addressed (and I'd like to expand on both the Birmingham placement and the educational projects), there are a number of _key basic principles and axioms which are central to APG and O + I's _workings. You can glean these, and O + I's concise histories from a paper I gave last year in Singapore and which I'll read extracts from now (full paper available email@example.com).
O + I, Organisation and Imagination, formerly APG (Artist Placement Group), emerged in London, England in the late 1960s. The original idea of artist placements was conceived by Barbara Steveni. It was to take its focus from the group of UK artists led by John Latham, who were experimenting with new art forms. They were pioneers in Britain of air-art, film, early video and body art, out-of-gallery and studio enactments and 'Events and Happenings', later known as performance art. It was Latham, however, who, from his transposing of books into sculpture, was to provide the body of the Group's conceptual underpinning - in particular his ideas on concepts of Time in its mathematical relation to science's 'physics'. It was this shift, from the largely Object and Space-based forms of art expression of the period, to Time and Event-based forms which was identified and made into a precise cosmology by Latham. They both defined and united the group and provided the rigour necessary to practise as artists in the new non-art contexts APG and O + I came to address (national and private industry, government departments, academic institutions).
British artists who joined APG at that time included Maurice Agis, Ian Breakwell, Stuart Brisley, Barry Flanagan, David Hall, Ian Macdonald Munro, Anna Ridley, and Jeffrey Shaw. Overseas artists who participated with APG in the Events and Happenings in London, and on the continent, included the Fluxus Group, Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, and in the first APG initiated event in London (The Industrial Negative Symposium), Billy Kluver from the USA and Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT). It was, however, 'Events and Happenings' of the period, in particular the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS), which caused the group, and especially Latham ("book burner") and Brisley ("body artist") to become officially banned by the British art establishment. The group was branded as an anarchic movement which was subsequently actively suppressed.
Since that action, it wasn't until the Whtechapel Gallery Exhibition in London (March 2000) "Live in your Head" presented an overview of the conceptual art movement in Britain in which DIAS participants and exhibits were included and referred to significantly, for the first time in this country. Clive Phillpot, joint curator to that show, writes how .... "the issues pursued by some artists then, ranged beyond art to aspects of science, social forces and into politics".... how " political issues, and the wide-spread destructive impulses in the world, could be brought within the remit of artists more overtly and through different means than , say painting and sculpture. He refers to "Latham's burning towers of books ,begun in 1964, evoking a possibility, that perhaps the cultural base had been burnt out",
John A Walker, one of the few critics at the time with an overview beyond market and art -establishment criteria, writing in (Studio International 1976) what proves today, to have been both a definitive and prophetic article on the group. It points to the group's long-term objectives and points to reasons for its influence on a current generation of artists and social groupings seeking a history and sense of cultural activity. He refers to the ambitious aims of the group emanating largely from Latham's writings. "... ultimately they involve changing the fundamental metaphysical assumptions and values of British society. Two primary objectives stand out: a change of time-base, and the adoption of a new accounting system"
1) A change of time-base. Latham contends that industry, government, and the media are concerned only with the immediate future. With short term goals, with the topical. They operate with an extremely limited time-base. As a result, human evolution and purpose tends to be reduced to the purely economic and expedient.. Crucial developments take place over much longer periods: hence the need to adopt an extended time- for our thinking. Once this is accepted it becomes obvious that scientific observation economic and technological controls do not extend very far into the future and that radically different criteria for measuring value and for determining the direction of human evolution are required.
2) Adoption of a new accounting system. Given the perspective of a long rather than a short time-base, the inadequacy of measuring the wealth or success of a society in terms of gross national product, in terms of monetary units becomes self-evident. Latham suggests that the general level of awareness in a community and the increase of consciousness through time s a better guide to success and he proposes that monetary units be replaced by what he calls 'units of attention'. An artwork is, in Latham's terminology, an attention magnet. Each unit would be related to three factors: (a) the number of people affected by a particular idea; (b) the period of time the idea remains influential, and (c) the degree of awareness induced. (On a scale of unconsciousness to the most heightened awareness.) ...this merely****extends and formalises what British governments do when they decide to keep unprofitable bodies and services running on social grounds. What Latham emphasises is the need to acknowledge and to develop the new accounting procedure and the expression 'total economics' for measuring human development.
APG is, therefore, an organisation specifically concerned with the future, rather than the present or the past. It is a kind of research and development unit in the field of art. In its concern for the future, in being ahead of current thought, APG pushes the concept of 'avant-garde' to a literal conclusion.
The aim from the outset was distinctly different from Experiments in Art and Technology, EAT (1968), with its emphasis on corporate collaboration between artists and engineers and the fabrication advantages this could provide for the artist. APG sought a position which could introduce change in society through the medium of art relative to those structures with 'elected' responsibility for shaping the future -**governments, commercial organisations, and academic institutions. Basically, a REPOSITIONING OF ART IN SOCIETY. **
With the exception of the Gregory Fellowships (later to be know as Residencies) at Leeds University in the north of England, set up jointly by the historian and academic Herbert Read and the founder Gregory, there was nothing near this evolving concept of 'Placement' at the time. The notion of those fellowships was that an artist making art in a studio sited at the university, would broaden both art and the other disciplines. APG was to shift this somewhat passive role into the context, first, of industries and then government organisations with their heavy impact on society. 'Residencies', in particular in Britain today, extend an arts administrative version of placement. It was the reason behind the change of name from APG to O + I (1986) to distinguish the artist intent from an 'authorised' arts-admin "soft option".
Artist Ian Breakwell ['From the Inside', Art Monthly No. 40, 1980] has undertaken Arts Council authorised 'Residencies' since his APG placements with British Rail and later with the Department of Health. He makes a distinction as follows:
APG has placed artists with various organisations e.g. industrial ones in the private and public sectors, and more recently with government departments;the intention being not one of the traditional relationship of patronage, but to involve the artists in the day to day work of the organisation at all levels including decision-making... The artist undertakes a feasibility study, minimum length one month during which he or she identifies the areas within which they wish to work. If there is mutual agreement between artist organisation and APG that work should proceed then a contract is drawn up and a placement follows where the artist works within the organisation for a year or longer on a basis of joint enterprise and mutual learning. Artists on Placement are paid by the host organisation on a professional salary scale equivalent to that of the permanent workers in the host organisation.
By contrast, some conventional residencies are run on subsidies, which , from our point of view, we feel absolve both sides from responsibility and significant engagement. So ... anyway ....to the axiom ...
"CONTEXT IS HALF THE WORK" had become, by the late 1970's, a central APG axiom, and forms the basis of O + I negotiations with any potential hosting organisation to this day... and that's what we lobby on... Constructed to traverse time, place and discipline, this method does not impose on any context, place or person, but rather suggests engagement between the artist on the one hand and invitation by the potential host on the other.
Then we refer to a text submitted to the Zentrum fur Kulturforschung in Bonn (1980), described APG's principles for an effective form of association of artists with organisational structures, It emphasised the following guidelines: [APG's text to the Zentrum fur Kulturforschung Bonn, 1980]
1. That context is half the work. (cf. Between 6, Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Germany, 1971 and Art and Economics, APG, Hayward Gallery Exhibition, London,1971.)
2. That the function of the medium of art is determined not so much by the factual object, as by the process and the levels of attention to which the work aims. (By level of attention is meant the consideration of human long-term identity.)
3. That the proper contribution of art to society is art. (APG is not concerned therefore to seek 'employment' for artists, (which was of course what the Arts Council wanted us to do) but is run in the belief that society is starved of an important ingredient when certain 'creative' people are kept outside the working parts of governments, organisations and institutions. (And when I say creative people, of course within these organisations ..., one is engaging with...the 'other' meeting with .. other people ...scientists... specialists in their field ...who are engaged in research, initiators perhaps of those jumps in research ...)
4. That the status of the artist within organisations must necessarily be in line with other professional persons, engaged within the organisation.
5. That the status of the artist within organisations is independent, bound by invitation (very important) rather than by instructions from authority within the organisations, department, company, to those of the long term objectives of the whole of society.
6.That, for optimum results, the position of the artist within an organisation (in the initial stages at least) should facilitate a form of cross-referencing between departments.
Negotiations are contingent upon both participants having this understanding and a mutual confidence. So APG/O + I requires intelligence and strength in art and a reciprocal response from within administration.
So ... those are some of the premises/principles on which O + I continues a REPOSITONING OF THE ARTIST IN SOCIETY. They are the issues and places we have arrived at today, and at which it is as crucial as ever that questions continue to be asked rigorously when engaging with the 'other' including the arts organisations of course.
So it is interesting for O + I and perhaps for others, having arrived at this third millennium, to look again at Walker's futurist prediction and assessment of Latham's concepts of Time-Base and Event Structure, which appear to demonstrate clearly their underlying precise implications for a long-term non-pre-determined approach to the creative act so appropriate for today's circumstances. Also to look at how the tenets of O + I's practice stand in the increasingly money-driven, quick-fix media-gratification society of the day; to which O + I is now perhaps able to add to its pragmatic challenge to 'the system' of the new 'repositioned artist'; introduction of an inclusive art challenge to science's discipline. especially of physics. Is this to make the shift in thinking which society could now take into account? Exchanges over the last three years between Latham, Professor Isham (Head of Theoretical Physics), and Dr. Ntina Savvidou at Imperial College London, indicate just such a shift has occurred and can be acted upon. The shift is towards 'event-speak' and away from 'things'
So to the images, which lead us through the process, progression, development and implementation of (APG) now O + I, THE WORK. Through Events and Happenings of the 60s and 70s., the move out of art world contexts, its values and use of new media of the time, through APG's negotiation of materials from industry, to negotiation of a new social role and to the first industrial Placements. Public expositions in UK (Hayward Gallery London, Art and Economics 1971) Rejection of UK art world; and work in Europe (Kunst als Soziale Strategie Bonn Kunstverein Germany and Vienna 1977-78), to negotiation of artist-with-government Placements, German acceptance. Transition years as O + I to 90's Educational placements, to negotiations with Government organisations today, 2003.
[PLEASE NOTE: Inclusion of the full illustrated verbatim talk, has been adapted and cut for purposes of the written text, with the selected images and their referring text inserted as definitive points of focus to the histories' progression. In some instances I have referred to placements but not included an image.]
Ignition of a book relief. Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS, 1965 Latham and international participating artists.
This shows Latham detonating books with Prodias and Tony Cox (Yoko Ono's husband at the time), during the Destruction in Art Symposium, an international symposium initiated by Gustav Metzger,
Shadow Piece, DIAS 1965 Performance by Yoko Ono with Barbara Steveni. Notting Hill Gate London
Here I am performing Shadow Piece with Yoko Ono - a great supporter to this day of our 'mad initiative'. Other events at the time included: the international Poet's Conference at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Latham had been invited to provide an action by the 'Beat' poet Alan Ginsberg, which he performed with Jeff Nutall author of Bomb Culture in an enactment between soft backed books and hard backs. Other actions around London included Nodnol Lives..., with actions such as 'Homo Sapiens' initiated by Stuart Brisley. It was of monkeys feeding the human beings ... the humans in the cages.
Tetrahedron inflatable walked to the shore. Brighton Festival England, 1968 Artist, Jeffrey Shaw.
This is during the Brighton Festival 1968, an action by Jeffrey Shaw, now a director of ZKM in Karlsruhe, he was one of the founding members of APG. This was when we were getting materials from industry, before we made the social role. In this case, we'd negotiated materials for the inflatable tetrahedrons, walked here from a lifeboat out at sea to the shore. Other artists who'd come together around APG, who were using different materials and forms of expression, included Rose Finn Kelsey. She made big banners flown from Battersea Power Station and such places. One was entitled, 'Power for the People'. and another 'Here is a Gale Warning', was hoisted outside in Bern, Switzerland.
Our first industrial placement was with British Steel. This photograph, an 'Object Found Resembling Sculpture', is of a piece fabricated by the steel apprentices when acquiring welding skills. It is shown here as a printed insert which went towards making our Hayward Gallery exhibition catalogue. The Hayward was an exhibition in time and the inserts for the catalogue. (as composed and edited by John Latham) were dropped into the format of the Times Business news. (In negotiating this placement with British SteeI, I'd found in the researches, a fellowship for sociologists and for meteorologists but they hadn't had the idea of having an artist. When I suggested it they thought they'd get a whole lot of sculptures; and they did, but that wasn't the object of the exercise. In introducing the new role, Garth Evans the artist, went into Port Talbot, one of the largest steel-producing complexes in the country. From talking with the apprentices and asking them what they would do with these skills and where they'd go after they left British Steel and how they saw their future, he wrote a paper for the Steel Federation, (the only required stipulation for the Fellowship). They were very impressed at the questions he raised with the apprentices and gave him a second term, another two years. So these placements were long-term, both onsite and in the duration of their effect. Reports were written, as well as a wide variety of different outcomes. A major result you might say, was this big exhibition at the Hayward Gallery which depicted these industrial placements in varying ways.
Other industrial placements at this time included British Airways, with David Hall. He went with a British Airways crew, filming the special cloud formation which forms over the Rock of Gibraltar. He made particular proposals to BA to incorporate more of the visual flying experience into their airport environs. (I can't go into these placements and their many outcomes in any detail here with the time available). Another placement was with Ian Breakwell and British Rail. Breakwell's film which he made with British Rail, 'The Journey' was interesting as art and well received by British Rail as was his presence with them. There was a slight upset since the soundtrack was of the girl in the train seat opposite apparently having an orgasm. These were just some of the things which I found myself having to 'sort out' on many occasions.
Artist Andrew Dipper on Esso tanker. APG placement. Esso Petroleum Ltd 1970
Another long and interesting placement was with Esso Petroleum. (The head of Esso Employee Relations joined APG as a director afterwards and as an adviser.) The artist with Esso, Andrew Dipper, did several things. He was a musician, made instruments, and films. (All the artists put forward had to have a variety of skills and abilities, they could bring to bear on whatever context they found themselves in. This was an essential factor in any selection process)__Andrew made several super-eight films, which we showed at the Hayward Gallery. They were in real time; for example, the sun coming up over the horizon, the camera hand-held, with the vibration of the tanker's engine. (Adverse comments from Esso's PR department, "the picture isn't still", contrasted interestingly with the positive reaction of the crew who brought their families to the exhibition, "that's what it's like at sea") Andrew also sited messages and posters, which on the grey of a ship at sea, told strongly. Also, by taking photographs of say, just rope and things which interested him, he stimulated many of the ship's crew into photographing life at sea. There was this mass of requests for film stock from the crew when they came into port. He also brought attention to such things as the bar being over the engine room; questioning whether this could cause a future emergency if the sailors were drunk? ... there was concern in narrow heavily populated waters, i.e. English Channel, in turning these large oil tankers around quickly, Anyway he came up with a variety of observations and I suppose products, which Esso were pretty pleased with. In particular, his findings around joining 'ship to shore' with the crew's families through photography and his filming, e.g. at the Hayward exhibition.
This was a placement with positive two-way benefits, and afterwards when we went to negotiate with the government, the Esso Petroleum representative came with us to the Civil Service Department. It resulted in this placement example being referred to in the Civil Service Memorandum recommendation to the Departments as, "this is the type of placement we would be interested in".__
There was another placement at sea with a Greek artist George Levantis. His father had died at sea. He was very dramatic, wishing to avenge his father. He came with me to Liverpool and we negotiated with the shipping company Ocean Fleets, that George would go to sea on a cargo ship, a tanker and a passenger liner. On the ocean liner he was asked to paint pictures and to teach the passengers to paint. George had made an installation art piece which they threw over the side of the ship as it was not what they wanted from 'The Artist'. He wrote a beautiful and poetic book of his experiences amongst other outcomes. It included a very good two-way working rapport with the sailors on both the cargo ship and the tanker.
Catalogue cover of Hayward Gallery exhibition Art and Economics (compiled and edited by JL).
After we'd set up the industrial placements I went to the Chairman of the Arts Council, Lord Goodman, and the Secretary General Sir Hugh Willatt, (you could actually speak to these people at that time) and said, "look we want the Hayward Gallery to put on our industrial placements". It was to be an exhibition in time to last over two years from the start of the placements. I remember Goodman saying, "Do you want all the Hayward Gallery?" and I said "well yes", and he said, "well ambitious, but I'm sure you two can do it with a wheelbarrow over night and I'll put all the weight of my influence behind you." I looked at this great figure completely filling the chair and thought OK, we'll do it". It took two years to develop the placements, to collect the evidences of exchange, and to present them as works in the gallery organised as a means of demonstrating the process of exchange.
I guess you could say we curated the Hayward Gallery show, not of course a term in use at the time, since we lived in it throughout the duration of the exhibition, having been given the gallery so to speak. We set up one gallery, as 'the Sculpture' in which we held interviews between artists and industrialists, to debate questions of commercial, ethical and economic value and the new role of artist to society, a format we also used in Germany.
Installation of Industrial Board Room, Hayward Gallery, 1971-2
and Between 6, Dusseldorf Kunsthalle, 1970
Something we always took care to do whenever we made an action was to cover it ourselves whenever the media were present. There you see David Hall covering the German television covering our discussions.
What happened after we'd put on the Hayward Gallery show, was that all funds to APG were stopped, for 'social engineering' and not doing 'real art' and possibly for living in the gallery. It was after this that we approached the Government Departments.. We asked that a letter be sent from the Arts Council. Hugh Willatt and I composed the letter together, and sent it off to the Civil Service department in Whitehall, to the individual who'd been identified for me via a contact in the Statistic's Office, who had come to the Hayward exhibition. Nothing happened for some time. Obviously with the word artist it had dropped straight in the waste basket. So I went back to the Civil Service Department and asked "who did you send it to"? They replied "well this person in the Scottish Office, this person in the Department of Environment" mentioning various other departments and representatives. So I said, " I would like to go round and talk to them about what it is"?
Anyway, I went first to the Department of Environment, to talk to the Chief Planner. When they realised it wasn't to put pictures up in the DOE's head offices in Marsham Street to make that terrible 'dead' building, 'better', but was about something quite different, they, the Chief Planner said, "we've got these three studies, looking at the Inner Cities; in Birmingham, Liverpool and Lambeth, perhaps you could join the Inner City teams as artists". I remember going and presenting the idea at a full Council meeting, in Birmingham's huge City hall, waiting until they'd finished all their business and then being invited to speak by the leader of the Council. I got up and proposed that an artist could join Birmingham's Inner City team, and asked if the Department (DOE), could agree to this? The Department of Environment agreed to it, Birmingham City Council agreed to it. and the Inner Area Study team in Small Heath, just under Spaghetti Junction, agreed to it. So this was the site the artist would work in.
Department of Environment, Birmingham (Small Heath) resident speaks directly via artist-initiated video project, to central government Department of Environment, on effects of central government policy on inner city residents.
This first government placement set a precedent, since artists in government with the role we had initiated had not happened before (and still have not been undertaken in this way). You might have an individual such as Vaclav Havel, or Andre Malraux, but a proposition to involve artists in this way, had never been put into action before.
The artist Roger Coward, was a film maker. Working closely with the imaginative team leader of the Inner Area Study, he went in with a team of actors, so spreading his full contractual fee. There was a substantial report published by the DOE, IAS/B/14, "You, Me, Here We Are", Artist Placement Group Project. It has gone into the thinking of how artists might be engaged in such ways in the Inner Cities.
That the residents of Small Heath were in a position to respond to the Department of Environment's proposals and plans for what they saw should happen in Small Heath, had been facilitated by the APG team being onsite. By use of the new technology initially brought in by the artist and extended to the community, they could actually talk right back to the DOE central offices on the plans which were being proposed to them and integrate their responses from the live context under discussion, directly into the Department's findings. Another project which came from this placement, besides the DOE published report (which has it all) was that numbers of the community, students, young people who came into contact with the artist and actor's team, (the artist additionally made a personal film from his experiences) discovered they could actually take up subjects like art, drama, and dance, which was stimulated by the artist team being there. So there were some very positive outcomes for both artist participants, and from the hosting organisation from this placement.
Another long and 'successful' government placement, in that it went on for five years all in all, was with the Department of Health and Social Security. This placement was undertaken by two artists, Ian Breakwell and Hugh Davies. Hugh was a musician, a pupil of Stockhausen. In Ian Breakwell's assessment of a two-way success, this placement "succeeded in bringing un-forseen issues to the surface", with its influence continuing today.
DHSS placement. Gate to Broadmoor Special Hospital for the criminally insane. One of the on-site contexts of APG artist Ian Breakwell when working with the DHSS.
This is of the gates of Broadmoor, a high security prison for the criminally insane. Ian made a number of controversial and highly original films both as art and as documentaries, these last with Yorkshire Television. Naturally reports emerged, but in particular an important study, the Broadmoor Community Study. Subject to Official Secrets at the time, it made proposals for what was to become the future of Care in the Community. (Incidentally, all the APG government projects required us to sign the official secrets act)
An additional project funded by the DHSS over two years, was an age renewal kit, or Reminiscence Aid which on completion went into Age Concern in old people's homes throughout the country, and is in use today. Ian, Hugh, Bill Furlong and other artists were involved, as I was myself. The project developed from observing old people in hospitals and homes, and the scientific information that, if you can get people to reminisce when they are on the edge of senility, can significantly delay the process. The APG team proposed making a visual and sound archive extracted from the period these people would have lived through and remembered.
Another of these significant long-term placements was undertaken in Scotland by John Latham. He was asked to look at, again, he was asked to look at in effect, was '_invited'__by the Scottish Office. The suggestion that organisations should 'invite' _artists, is an all important premise of the artist-government negotiated protocol. Here you see some of the shale 'bings', derelict shale heaps from the early oil (paraffin) industry One is of large manmade object larger than the pyramids. (John called it Niddrie Woman) An aerial photograph showing it up as a dismembered body of a woman.
Here is a detail from a series of shale 'bings', the Five Sisters which lie between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
and artist John Latham.
John Latham was asked to look at Derelict Land, Urban Renewal and the Graphics Division (this last of course since he was an artist, gave him access to the Arial photo library of Scotland). Numbers of suggestions came up from this placement, in all a report containing 36 proposals which went on to the records in the Scottish Office and are there to be implemented. A number of proposals were taken up, for example, the Five Sisters were declared a National Heritage site and not taken away for road in-fill. Suggestions on tackling the Derelict docks and decline of the fishing industry, had the Scottish Office surprised to find Latham talking to people from the White Fish Authorities, or any other of the departments. It led to an ambitious proposal to revitalise the derelict docks and fishing industries, by farming fish on platforms warmed with water from the nuclear power station off little Cumbrae island. A causeway proposed a way to take the heavy weather effect off between the island and the mainland. Vested interests such as the Steel Industry wanting to keep the shipping lane open, was one objection to this proposal. (although the Steel industry in that area was to be liquidated the following year.
The other significant placement undertaken in this method was by Stuart Brisley and Peterlee New Town, the Peterlee Development Corporation. The images I show, contrast the old mining town environs and communities of Peterlee, and the bright factories and precise layout of the New Town of Peterlee. When the New Towns were first built, they were developed from a proposal entitled Farewell to Squalor, to get rid of the squalor of the old industrial towns, and build new towns around them. Struart went up there and as part of his observations, elected to look at and make, virtually a social tool, an audio and visual Archive of Peterlee and the other mining towns, linking the families now living in the New Town with their industrial past. Lasting over a period of eighteen months Stuart worked with an ex miner and school leavers collecting material, as spoken histories and pictures. Renamed 'Peoples' Project Past and Present'(originally it had been called Artist Project Peterlee) It is a popular feature in the area touring round schools and villages in the North. The suggestion that a purpose-built museum be made to ensure the Project's safe keeping and survival as an educational and 'social' tool was perhaps not quite what the artist had intended. (I gather Stuart has been to Peterlee recently to check on the project.)
I'm seriously running out of time here and its not possible to give those telling and crucial directional pointers these images stimulate for me, and which I believe might well save valuable time to our current debate, and do justice to the experience gained on this long placement history's journey. As APG was referred to in a considerable German press coverage following our podium exchanges with the German government, (Bonn 1977) "Artists take the long march from the periphery to the centre". So from this point, I'll move quickly to touch on our work on the continent, Germany, and our more recent work in the UK, to re-establish this initiative.
Kunst als Soziale Strategie. Bonn Kunstverein, Germany, 1977.
APG artists in discussion with German ministers.
APG artists in discussion with four German Secretaries of State in Bonn (Health Youth and Family, Education and Science, the Interior) It was to lead to the first international artist-with-government placement, a German and English artist to work in this method. The invitation, via Margarethe Jochimsen to APG was at Kassel Documenta 6, in Joseph Beuys' 'Honey Pump' installation; an invitation from Joseph to John Latham, to talk about our artist-with-government placements, under a title 'The Incidental Person, Approach to Government'. What she said was, "Joseph talks about this, but you have done it, how can I help?" I virtually said, "Well take us to your leader", and she replied, "well that won't be too difficult, he's the Minister for Education and Science. Meeting this extraordinary wide ranged individual, and his wife, (he later became Minister of Technology for North Rhine Westfalia, and was a member of the Bundesbank), led not only to a long lasting friendship, but to an in-depth understanding of the philosophy underpinning APG's action in a way not taken up (so far) in this country. This Minister, was instrumental in enabling us to work in Germany during the 80s with our all important German artist colleagues, and to implement the method in Germany. The Minister in Bonn put our campaign into German in this phrase. "Die Nutzung kunstlerische Potentials fur die Losung Regierungs-und Verwaltungsaufgabe"
It was not until the late eighties, (1989) that we decided to work actively again in the UK to promote the methodology and to attempt to build on the track record of, in particular, the government placements. Changing APG's name, (to distinguish it from proliferating arts-administration schemes set up on the APG example) to Organisation and Imagination, O + I, (the logo also reads as zero plus one). We re-approached the Civil Service Department, and received a positive response. I can't go into the interesting changing circumstances, which pushing a social/cultural agenda into politics at this time entailed, except to say that, our first placements were in the educational are and on the continent, (1990) a paper I gave under the title, 'Reposition the Artist in the Decision-Making Process of Government', at the inaugural meeting of ELIA European League of Institutes of Art and Design in Amsterdam, about APG's work with government, was taken up as a European Network to this end.
O + I education placement, 1989-92. ILEA and London borough of Southwark.
Map of boroughs: councillors discuss devolution of educational responsibility.
These images are from O + I's Southwark Educational Research Project. This first is of a meeting in County Hall with the educational heads of all the London Boroughs in the last few months of the Inner London Education Authority. O + I were asked, amongst a number of issues identified in the Borough of Southwark, to look at the large fallout in secondary education (one of the highest in the country) from take-up of higher education. O + I were not doing an Artist-in-Schools programme, although of course we went into the schools.
A team of artists (Robena Rose, film-maker, Carlyle Reedy poet, Rita Keegan, visuals, John Latham, myself) worked across the borough, with the Inspectorate, School Heads, teachers and pupils, from a base supplied by Southwark, examining, interviewing, filming, working recognisably and unrecognisably as artists, in class rooms of six primary schools and six secondary. The project lasted two years, at the end of which we mounted a video installation at Southwark Town Hall. One important outcome was a proposal entitled 'Recycle and Discuss' (JL initiative) concerned with the 'make' activity and motivation which was well received and awaits implementation.
These last are from our many photographs and films from this project.
The always photogenic primary school pupils. O + I educational placement. London borough of Southwark primary school.
O + I educational placement. Acting out stop and search procedure.
Secondary school pupils, London borough of Southwark.
Finally, here I am outside the Department of Culture. Engaged in our current ongoing negotiations with the Departments in the UK and our Department of Culture in particular, to reinstate the artist-negotiated protocol into policy on a level with other disciplines and professions.
Barbara Steveni outside the Department of Culture, 2001.