John Latham “X Years On…”

It has been 10 years since the death of John Latham, an artist of significance and influence in the 20th century. His time based thinking confounded the world of science and art – both of which he called into question. Often critical of those who dictated what art is his work was aesthetically seductive whilst tackling complex theories of time through his philosophy ‘Event Structure’ which proposes the concept of ‘least event’. John, often referred to as the ‘father of conceptual art’ had many challengers – however his work was hugely influential if never always getting the credit it deserved – although a number of highly regarded galleries exhibited and collected his work, most notably the Tate, and Moma (NY), and the London Lisson gallery. His close connection with APG (Artists Placement Group), an idea conceived by Barbara Steveni, brought a radical shift to how artists integrate with society. He referred to an artist as an ‘incidental person’ who used a circumstance to create work. Rather than the traditional approach of regularising artists employment through patronage as practised by the ‘medici’s’ during the Renaissance, artists now placed themselves into an environment and used the placement as ‘material’. Often these artist interventions into industrial and public service environments, negotiated by APG, produced extraordinary outputs. In this context, most notably,  was John Latham’s “Niddrie Woman” waste to monument work – a site specific intervention (organised by APG with the Scottish Office) at a series of red shale waste bings near Edinburgh. Many other artists were actively involved in APG and produced some seminal works within the placement context – Stuart Brisley, Ian Breakwell, Garth Evans,  Barry Flanagan… However, although APG was relatively short lived,  APG’s unique and invaluable approach as to how artists intervene in a social context is unsurpassed. The demise of APG was not helped by the Arts Council expropriating the ‘placement concept’ and reducing it to ‘artists residences’ – to understand this ‘blueshift’ it’s worth reading Graham Stevens “How the Arts Council Destroys Art Movements” published in AND issue 27 – 1992.*

To commemorate Latham’s dynamic contribution to art practice and extreme thinking, which after ten years since his passing, is as fresh as ever. AND eventSpace is re-presenting his ‘Skoob Box’ installation accompanied by works from artists who knew him and worked with him.

* see back issues of AND Journal of Art & Art Education on this link http://www.and.org.uk/journal/issue/27.php

Original printed copies of the publication are available for purchase from AND Association. Contact us for details: and@and.org.uk

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