‘Think Tank’ at 22 Portland Road, London, c.1968. Clockwise: Barbara Steveni (foreground), David Hall, Garth Evans, Barry Flanagan, John Latham, Stuart Brisley, Maurice Agis, David Lamelas and Ian MacDonald Munro. Courtesy Barbara Steveni. Image not licensed for reuse.
In this extract from her Artists’ Lives recording Barbara Steveni clarifies the scope provided for artists within the APG (Artist Placement Group). She explains the potential for them to interact within their host organisation, which might be industrial, commercial or within another environment. Steveni refers to artist Joseph Beuys’ later invention of the term ‘social sculpture’ – the idea that everything is art, that every aspect of life can be approached creatively and that everyone has the potential to be an artist.
Barbara Steveni was recorded by National Life Stories for Artists’ Lives in 1998. The interviewer was Melanie Roberts. In 2018 an additional recording began with Steveni, conducted by Victoria Lane.
We seemed to, all of us, in our different ways and different uses, wanting to make a, a wider object you might say, which was a process, and it would come out of the context in which we were working. In the same way as one might have been doing a painting before in a studio, you would have those materials, but we were going to have a whole lot of different materials, and they could be the new technologies, they could be film, they could be photography, or they could be people passing on a street, or whatever it was that the factory threw up. But supposing it was a factory. It wouldn’t just be the materials that we’d be working with; we’d be working with the people in that factory and what they brought to bear with it, and the component parts of the issues of what that industry was going towards. So, that’s how it then developed. But... And that was the way we found ourselves working. But it came from these events that we did, that, anything could happen, but in a way we were directors of the play, so we were again the directors. I mean I’m using this word now, having just thought of it, but... So we were making this wider work, which in later was coined I suppose by Beuys as social sculpture, but at the time he, we hadn’t met him, and he hadn’t coined it, you know. And he certainly wasn’t going to put it, although he talked about it, he certainly didn’t put it into action in commerce and, and these other contexts to make a new work out of it.