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Incidental Meeting: Context!

Thursday, 18 April 2019
6.30 – 8.30 pm


This incidental meeting is part of a seven-city UK tour to explore the long term impact of the radical work of Artist Placement Group (1960-70s). In this context, the term ‘incidental’ refers to activities without a predetermined intention. The only item on the agenda of incidental meetings is the unfinished business of Artist Placement Group and its commitment to placing artists beyond the worlds of art, thereby interrupting norms in law, health, industry, education, administration and more.

We are delighted that collaborative platform General Public, formed of artists Elizabeth Rowe and Chris Poolman, will convene this incidental meeting at Eastside Projects. General Public propose to create a prototype board game for the future by capturing experiences and challenges of making projects in public spaces.

Taking historical case studies of the Artist Placement Group, the focus is on how to express boundaries and limitations when creating socially engaged practice. Together we will also surface local practices based in Birmingham and nearby that share the interests of Artist Placement Group.

Curatorial support for this incidental meeting is provided by Barbara Steveni, Marsha Bradfield, and Polly Wright, who are all members of Incidental Unit, the current iteration of Artist Placement Group (2016 – ongoing). This incidental meeting is part of Incidental Futures, a public programme and UK supported by Arts Council England, The Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) of the University of Westminster Flat Time House and University of the Arts London. Incidental Futures is coordinated by Polly Wright and co-curated by Marsha Bradfield and Polly Wright.

The Incidental Unit (IU) was formed in 2016 following a series of ‘incidental meetings’, which aimed to informally share information about the APG, as well as its successor O+I (Organisation and Imagination). Founded by artist Barbara Steveni in London in the 1960s, the APG sought to reposition the role of the artist in society. For the APG, the artist was no longer restricted to or defined by the burgeoning culture industry nor conceptual modes of practice. Rather, the artist could be put to work in what was called ‘industry’ in the UK of the 1960s. By way of the APG, artists were placed into governmental and commercial sectors.

The IU reprises John Latham’s use of the term ‘incidental’. It is used to refer to activities without a predetermined intention. Incidental also refers to what Barbara Steveni identifies as the ‘not knowing’ experienced by an individual who enters an unfamiliar context or chooses to critically examine their own. The IU encourages approaches that interrupt existing institutional codes and that therefore create the opportunity to develop new patterns in education, administration and planning processes. To this end the IU has no formal organisational structure associated with legal, industrial or cooperative models. It is instead bound together by relations, knowledge, experience and a record of incidental activity that reflects the socially engaged nature of the IU. It is a unit of activity.

General Public is the collaborative platform of artists Elizabeth Rowe and Chris Poolman. Broadly speaking, they devise large scale public art projects that incorporate elements of fiction, myth-making, local history re-invention and heritage rebooting.  Often this process involves re-working or inverting an established model or institutional structure. Their approach is interdisciplinary and collaborative: they produce artworks (writing, film, print), devise collaborative frameworks, organise events, curate / commission other artists. They recently completed the ‘Heathland Festival, a ‘children’s festival of ideas’ that occurred at Birmingham Community libraries over the 2018 summer holidays. They are currently artists in residence at the University of Birmingham 2019/20.