An initial concern before visiting APG retrospective The Individual and the Organisation: Artist Placement Group 1966-79 at Raven Row is that the exhibition (put together by Antony Hudek and Alex Sainsbury in collaboration with Barbara Steveni) would engender an idea of the Artist Placement Group as in some way a collective. But this is a feeling that is repeatedly dispelled both in the layout of the show and in the accompanying exhibition guide.
Moving into the first space one is confronted by the slightly unnerving fact that the show actually contains physical work. Laid out on the floor in a light shade of blue steel is Garth Evans’ angular, ‘British Steel Corporation’, accompanied in Gallery 1 by a projection on the far wall and a sample of some of Evans’ photography, compiled during his time at the company compiled into a book appropriately titled, ‘Some Steel’.
Self-described as a retrospective of this “constellation” of artists, the show gives a broadly chronological break down of the practitioners involved and the nature of the companies they were working within. It begins in the lower rooms with Jeffrey Shaw and his work in the mid 1960s with the ‘Eventstructure Research Group’. Then progressing through to more recent incarnations such as Barbara Steveni’s ‘I Am An Archive’ (2005-), which is being screened in a separate room in literal, physical isolation from the work of the earlier 60s and 70s works. It’s for APG and its equivalents, such as Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) in the US, have become known.
The show continues over three floors and is packed with the kind of minutiae that can be labored over for many hours. There’s the involvement of the US Secretary of the Army’s Office becoming interested in the early efforts of Jeffery Shaw and securing some materials for the burgeoning APG and the video and audio recordings of Stuart Brisley, John Latham, Evans and Steveni in their many meetings. The show is vast and dense and could become impenetrable under the sheer volume of information, but this is avoided with an economy of curation and another outstanding publication, which makes sense of the group’s history without making too many assumptions about its aims or structure.
It is one of the joys of Raven Row that more often than not, the exhibition begins to make sense after you have left the space. The dedication with which they put together their accompanying publications makes thinking about the exhibition altogether more enjoyable.
APG at Raven Row runs until Dec 16th 2012. Including a performance by David Toop Dec 13th .