Incidental Futures

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following plans and making stuff Ritherdon & Co Ltd., Lancashire, where Nicola Ellis has been doing a placement

Incidental Futures

co-curated by Marsha Bradfield and Polly Wright
Below is the extended press release.
13 & 14 September 2019
The Clore Studio, South London Gallery
65-67 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UH

From the whirlpool of change comes interest in creative practices that challenge conventional ways of doing and being. Faced with wicked problems and epic uncertainty, many of us who value culture are once again questioning the role of art in society and beyond. What work does it do? Where does it do this and, crucially, why, when and for whom? What value does this work create, both inside and outside of the cultural sphere?

It was questions like these that catalysed Artist Placement Group, one of the UK’s most critically acclaimed cultural networks. Founded by Barbara Steveni and others in 1966, the group spent decades wrestling with the value of art to champion its potential beyond the studio, the gallery, the auction house and other sites of the so-called worlds of art. This began with positioning the artist in extra-artistic contexts. Exceptional experiments supported by Artist Placement Group took place in administration (government departments and public policy), industry (manufacturing and technology) and commercial enterprise (trade and urban renewal).
Some fifty years later, these values and methods are again garnering critical interest. This includes the work of Incidental Unit. Initiated in 2016, this open and voluntary organisation has been led by the ideas of Steveni, Latham and others in Artist Placement Group, which are discussed when Incidental Unit meets on a semi-regular basis at Flat Time House.

To celebrate the public launch of Incidental Unit, South London Gallery and Flat Time House will host a programme of events. At the heart of these two days is the legacy of the Artist Placement Group. Exploring this impact across the UK contributes to global conversations about avant-garde experimentation and its drive to merge art and life by embracing cultural complexity and interrupting business as usual. Holding fast to the prospect that a return to historical examples affords fresh possibilities, we aim to extend the lineage of Artist Placement Group by working with new generations of practitioners, partners and other supporters. This line of descent has much to contribute to our understanding of compelling developments in critical contemporary art while priming the panoply of roles it might play in our futures.

On the one hand, this two-day programme opens up Artist Placement Group’s rich but unruly past to contemporary audiences and other publics; on the other, this is an invitation to all those influenced by this approach to come and recognise/be recognised as a community of practice.

On Friday 13 September a study day will explore historical examples of Artist Placement Group to consider how these experiments anticipated key challenges presently facing art, artists, the worlds of art and beyond. We will head to Flat Time House afterwards for a private view of work by John Latham and the launch of Incidental Unit’s website, including its online directory (More info below.)

On Saturday 14 September, a curated assembly will convene contemporary practices inspired by Artist Placement Group. Activated by their artist practitioners, each instance will highlight the long-term impact of Artist Placement Group on cultural production across the UK.

Contributors: Michele Allen, Johann Arens, Charles Danby and Rob Smith, Corinna Dean, KALEIDOWORKS, Nicola Ellis, Simon Farid, Rob Flint, Amanda Loomes and Laura Purseglove. (More info below.)

Activating in the non-commercial market


13 September 2019, 11am – 5pm
FREE, Booking Encouraged
The Clore Studio and Orozco Gardens
65-67 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UH

Join us to learn more about the history and methods of the Artist Placement Group. Facilitated sessions across the day will bring together newbies, enthusiasts and experts. Come for one or all of these discussions, with each focusing on a specific concern (see below). Everyone is welcome but booking is encouraged.


11.00 – 11.45 - Context is Half the Work (led by Neal White)
12.00 – 12.45 - Incidentality & John Latham (led by Gareth Bell-Jones)
12.45 – 13.30 - BREAK
13.30 – 14.15 - Artists in Industry: Giving Up and Giving Over (led by Sarah Andrew)
14.30 – 15.15 - What’s the Difference Between Placements and Socially Engaged Practice?
(led by Marsha Bradfield and Polly Wright)
16.00 – 17.00 - Incidental Meeting: Unfinished Business, Taking Stock and Anticipating the Future

Sessions will start on time but may run into the break. Refreshments will be available from the cafe at South London Gallery.


14 September 2019, 12 – 4pm
FREE, drop-in, no booking required
The Clore Studio and Orozco Gardens
65-67 Peckham Rd, London SE5 8UH

Incidental Assembly will showcase examples of live practice that carry the DNA of Artist Placement Group. Selected through an open call, the featured practitioners will work with the event’s publics to inspire action. This is based on diverse techniques, methods and other aspects that share a commitment to interrupting norms in law, health, industry, education, administration and more. Many of these draw upon concepts coined by the Artist Placement Group, such as the idea that ‘context is half the work’ or the figure of the Incidental Person. Below is a short preview of what visitors can expect by attending the Incidental Assembly.

Reflecting on the bings that were the locus for John Latham’s placement in the Scottish Office, artist collaborators Charles Danby and Rob Smith will bring the first quicklime produced in Lowick for 100 years to London, offering new narratives of land use and industrial processes.

Stemming from a current placement at Ritherdon & Co Ltd., Lancashire, Nicola Ellis will invite the public to experience her role as an Incidental Person in her manufacturing context through product assembly activities.

Discover the potential of experimental, collective moving-image making in public space with Betsy Dadd of KALEIDOWORKS and consider the legacy of embedded projects by revisiting their 2017 Playing Fields together.

Learn about artist Johann Arens’ collaboration with medical developer Dr. Alejandro Granados Martinez and their cross-disciplinary workshops for surgeons grounded in tactility.

Taking the Isle of Sheppey clay as a departure point, Corinna Dean offers research through making and deep time.

Amanda Loomes will use a combination of personal anecdotes and expert knowledge, as artist and civil engineer, to activate objects and portfolios from her work in industry and open dialogues around social engagement, the culture of health and safety and other complex practices.

Amanda Loomes's told us stories about extraordinary object

Michele Allen wonders what it means for nature to bear witness to industrialisation. Her ongoing engagement with an ancient woodland in Gateshead, alongside historical and archival research, asks questions about our relationships to the environment at a time of climate emergency.

Rob Flint will explore voice with a prepared text score and an ad hoc chorus of volunteers. Their collective reading will respond to Incidental Assembly and embody the Artist Placement Group’s motto, Context is Half the Work.

Those attending Incidental Futures are also invited to join Curator Laura Purseglove in four sequential interdisciplinary conversations that are prompted by future scenarios authored by her collaborator, artist and poet Himali Singh Soin. Click here to find out more.

The demands of his day job as a gallery invigilator will make Simon Farid conspicuously absent from the assembly. This will highlight the tensions that organise the mixed economy of cultural production, which is a touchstone in Farid’s practice.

Drop-in event. All ages welcome. South London Gallery has step-free access throughout its exhibition spaces, Clore Studio, café, and gardens.


Michele Allen is an artist and researcher based in North East England. Her work has its roots in documentary and site-specific practice and frequently explores the relationships we form to place and environment. Allen often works collaboratively with communities and sometimes specialists from disciplines such as history, geography and social science. Her approach is interdisciplinary and she uses multimedia, incorporating photography, sound, video and archival research and has been exhibited as site-specific installations and in gallery settings. Allen has a PhD by photographic practice which she undertook in collaboration with the Locus+ Archive (an arts commissioning agency based in Newcastle upon Tyne). To progress and disseminate her practice-based research, the artist regularly presents at conferences across the UK. Alongside Allen’s artistic and academic work, she has a longstanding community arts practice (going back 24 years) which at times overlaps with and informs her art practice.

Johann Arens uses installation and video to survey the documentary properties of public interiors and their inherent social textures. These site-related interventions are enquiries into the multiple ways novel technologies device our communal life and shape civil behaviour. The deriving sculptural practice anatomises the role of mobile interfaces, the potential use value of artwork and the repercussions for the physical human body.
Born in Aachen, Germany, Arens received his MFA in Fine Arts at Goldsmiths, University of London. Since then he has worked on public commissions assigned by Arnolfini / Art and the Public Realm Bristol, Letchworth Heritage Foundation, Jerwood Foundation London and Kettle’s Yard Cambridge. Recent exhibitions include Scenes of the World, Pump House Gallery, London (2019); Findings on Palpation, at P/////AKT in Amsterdam; digital_self, IMMA Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin and IFFR Rotterdam Film Festival (2018).

Gareth Bell-Jones (b. 1982) is the director and curator of Flat Time House, where he develops the exhibition programme, residencies, events, alternative learning platforms and manages the archive. From 2010-14 he was curator at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire and he has also curated independent projects in the UK and internationally, at spaces such as ICA, London, and Nýlistasafnið, Reykjavik. He regularly writes catalogue texts for artists and is the editor of NOIT journal. Gareth is a cross department tutor at the Royal College of Art and an associate lecturer for MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea College of Arts. Bell-Jones has been part of Incidental Unit since its first incidental meeting in 2016.

Marsha Bradfield rides the hyphen as an archivist-artist-curator-director-educator-researcher-writer. Interdependence is the red thread that stitches together this cultural production. She is fascinated by plural ontologies, especially creative practices that are both useless and useful. Bradfield works with groups and is a co-founder of Incidental Unit and co-curator of Incidental Futures. Collaborations like this yield insights that Bradfield develops into accounts, alphabets, drawings, events, lectures, performances, publications, sculptures, sites, situations, sounds, systems, traces, walks, websites and more. In 2015 Bradfield founded Artfield Projects to provide cultural services and practice-based research. This builds on her work co-directing Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (2013-2018). Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Bradfield has been based in the UK since 2006 and affiliated with the University of the Arts London as a fellow, lecturer, researcher and PhD supervisor.

Charles Danby and Rob Smith have been working collaboratively since 2011. Their work explores site and land use in the transforming industrial landscape of the UK. It draws on histories and legacies of Land Art practices, exploring new approaches to site-based contemporary art making within the material and digital environments of bordered land sites such as quarries, islands, forests, and national parks. work uses video, photography, social practice and digital technologies alongside curatorial and archival approaches. It investigates the ‘forming’ and ‘becoming’ of site as time-based event structure. It presents a fluid 'distributed' model of site that extends through time, scale and location, proposing plural possibilities of new relationships between human/ non-human and site/non-site.

Corinna Dean founded ARCA in 2014, the Archive for Rural Contemporary Architecture, which is an open source archive to encourage participation from the bottom up, as well as re-engaging cold war structures and other architectural typologies in a rural context. She is engaged in looking at these sites through ideas of local ecologies and ‘deep time’. Most recently she produced a body of work based on subterranean air raid shelters casting the spaces at various scales at Bankside called Trace, and is carrying out a residency with the Sheerness Dockyard Trust on the Isle of Sheppey. She has exhibited Bankside-on-Call in the Bankside arches working with the Bankside Open Space Trust when carrying out a PhD with Tate Modern and London School of Economics, as well as Embassy Gallery, Scotland and the RIBA Gallery, and Blue Town Heritage Centre, Sheerness.

Nicola Ellis is interested in the properties, value, function and circulation of materials. With a current focus on metals and the companies that work with them, Ellis’ work draws on the visual and spoken language of industry operations, fabrication and profiling processes. The parameters for her sculpture, installation, drawings and videos include relationships between people, businesses and technology. Materials and knowledge are often loaned or traded; they become a kind of currency. Ellis is currently undertaking the two-year project Return to Ritherdon which is built around a two-year residency at Ritherdon & Co Ltd, a manufacturer of metal enclosures based in Darwen, Lancashire UK.

Simon Farid is a sometime artist and moretime art gallery security guard based in London. He is an overt surveillance worker, embedded within an art institution, subject to its hierarchies. Like many of his co-workers, he considers himself a practicing artist. This leaves the institution in the curious position of having lots of super interesting, creative people silently standing in rooms for them. Experiencing this led Farid to experiment with a number of tactics exploring ways of working together, exhibiting art and running institutions in a more horizontal way:

1.Collaborating with some of his guarding colleagues on really exciting performance and [REDACTED]
2.Collaborating with some other colleagues in a public art/guarding group called the ‘Invigilator Research Network’ -
3.A personal practice concerned with these topics -

Rob Flint’s practice explores the voice, and how it engages with power. Past collaboration with Christine Sullivan used verbal description to evoke absent objects in performances like: The Thing Is at Motorcade FlashParade in Bristol (2012), and Conversation Piece in the show Hlysnan in Luxembourg (2015), where the artists narrated their experience of viewing films hidden from the gallery audience.

A residency project with curator Jennie Syson in 2016-17 culminated in shows in Nottingham and London, under the title The Authorities, exploring aesthetics of commandment and instruction through sculpture, sound and moving image. Related works were screened in TBCTV at Somerset House in October 2018. Recently Rob has been using text scores as a way of choreographing spoken word performances with volunteer groups in participatory actions such as: Sky Blue, Hyson Green at Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, and Like Work in the Research Pavilion in the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Artist duo Kaleidoworks use experimental moving-image, sound, drawing and installation with diverse community groups, exploring the intersection of community and public space. Previous projects include: Films for the Future, South London Gallery (2016-19); Grey Area, Camden Arts Centre (2017-19); Zeitgeist, Battersea Arts Centre (2018); Soft House Noisy House, Camden Arts Centre (2018); Playing Field, Reading Room, Create Pembrokeshire (2017); STOP PLAY PAUSE, Space to Play Symposium, Foundling Museum (2017); Future Floor, V&A (2017). Voice of Children is a research film made collaboratively with Assemble exploring international adventure playgrounds and children's democratic spaces and has been installed at the Arsenale, Venice Architecture Biennale (2016), The Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art Newcastle (2016); and Now Play This, Somerset House (2019).

Amanda Loomes watches other people at work and listens to what they have to say about the world. She can often be found exploring the primary industries, heading out to sea on an aggregate dredger, or considering production lines such as Johnston road sweepers or Peter Beales roses. Loomes is particularly moved by the effort of people whose work goes unnoticed or that is difficult to see, work that becomes erased or undone. She uses experimental documentary forms to consider the frailty and resilience of human endeavour, imbuing materials and places with the stories of the people they where made by. Her recent solo exhibition, Formation Level, at Aspex Gallery, explored her former life as a civil engineer through the labour and materials embedded in roads. She is currently showing The Custody Code, a film installation with the Forestry Commission as part of their centenary celebrations.

Laura Purseglove is a creative producer who focuses on off-site projects. She currently leads Radar, Loughborough University’s contemporary art commissioning programme which facilitates interdisciplinary collaborations between artists and researchers. Current projects include Bodies of Knowledge, a series of artist-led workshops exploring the body as a site of knowledge production, and a series of commissions exploring interconnections between ecological, political, social and financial risk. This chimes with her contribution to Incidental Assembly, a collaboration with artist and poet Himali Singh Soin which explores language, uncertainty and futurity via deliberative workshop sessions. Purseglove's interests include the role of narrative and dialogue in contemporary art projects and the reframing of artistic practice as research.

Born in Iran, Barbara Steveni is a British conceptual artist who in 1966 conceived and later co- founded the Artist Placement Group (APG), which has been described as ‘one of the most radical social experiments of the 60s’. Throughout the Happenings of the 60s and 70s Steveni worked with the Fluxus art movement, Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, John Latham amongst others. Steveni’s original concept for APG was to expand the reach of art and artists within a wider social context.

More recently, Steveni’s I AM AN ARCHIVE (IAAA) (2002-ongoing) gathers artists and professionals across three generations in a series of participatory and documentary walks, taking place on sites of original APG placements, exploring the potential to reactivate the methodology today; creating an evolving archive that draws together memories, embodied dialogue, oral histories and exchanges in society. Continuing this theme, Conversations Between Ourselves is an ongoing series of filmed conversations with women, seen/unseen who have shared Steveni’s art-life journey. As an artist and researcher, Neal White has significant experience and interest in interdisciplinary and collective forms of practice. For over 20 years, his work has critically explored art as a collaborative endeavour – developing projects, research and artworks with academics, architects and activists. As founder of ‘Office of Experiments’ (est. 2004) an artist research network, his interest in the impact of science and technology on cultural forms, knowledge production, ethics and social engagement has led to internationally recognised exhibitions and publications in UK, Europe and the USA. White has integrated much of John Latham thinking and APG ideas into his work. He was involved in the establishment of the FTHo archive project and was formerly Director of O+I to 2009 (formerly APG). White is a founding member of the Incidental Unit. He is a Director of the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM), a UK leader in research centre across art, design and media (REF2014), University of Westminster.

Polly Wright develops curatorial projects and public programmes both independently and for organisations. Currently, she is Programme Coordinator for Incidental Futures and Programme Producer at Brighton CCA, exploring cross-disciplinary research and practice. Recently, she has undertaken an MA at the Dutch Art Institute and is continuing to create strands of practice about experimental education, performance and close collaborations.

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Incidental Unit (IU) began to form in 2016 following a series of 'incidental meetings‘ with one agenda item, ‘unfinished business’. The aim of these meetings was to informally share information and knowledge about Artist Placement Group (APG) (1966-89), as well as its successor Organisation and Imagination (O+I) (1989-2009).

Conceived by Barbara Steveni in 1966 and co-founded with Barry Flanagan, David Hall, John Latham, Anna Ridley and Jeffrey Shaw in London in the late 1960s, Artist Placement Group sought to reposition the artist in society. The Incidental Unit reprises John Latham’s use of the term ‘incidental’ and seeks to reignite and enrich debates around the role and work of the artist and inspire their critical and creative action.

This year marked the start of Incidental Futures as a public touring programme curated to discover the impact of Artist Placement Group on cultural production in the UK and to consider other ways the group’s approach and values may be learned from and adapted today.

The two-day event at South London Gallery is a culmination of the six previous incidental meetings earlier this year at Summerhall, Edinburgh; the Bluecoat, Liverpool; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; Spike Island, Bristol; Baltic 39, Newcastle and Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester. The September 2019 gathering at South London Gallery also launches the future of Incidental Unit. We welcome new members and are seeking new opportunities, partnerships and other possibilities, especially those that reach beyond the worlds of art.

Incidental Futures is coordinated by Polly Wright and co-curated by Marsha Bradfield and Polly Wright. An organisational steering group, informally known as Preincidental Unit, is comprised of the programme’s curators (Bradfield and Wright), Gareth Bell-Jones, Barbara Steveni and Neal White. Preincidental Unit is part of Incidental Unit as an emerging network that is motored by the interests and enthusiasm of its general membership. Thanks to all those who have supported and contributed to Incidental Futures.

We would also like to thank the specialists, institutions, organisations and other formations that provided funding or support in kind to Incidental Futures: Anne Bean, Arts Council England, Artfield Projects, Bad Vibes Club, Baltic 39, Barby Asante, the Bluecoat, David Cross, Eastside Projects, Flat Time House, Kathrin Böhm, Keep it Complex, Lise Autogena, Manchester Art Gallery, South London Gallery, Spike Island, Summerhall, People’s Bureau, University of the Arts London, University of Westminster.

It has also been a pleasure working with all the artists who were commissioned in the touring aspect of Incidental Futures. Our thanks go to Anthony Schrag, CIRCA projects, Jane Lawson, General Public, Niamh Riordan, Oliver Sutherland, Jessy Young and Rising Arts Agency.