As Claire Bishop wrote, this project seriously put forth the idea “that art can cause both business and art to re-evaluate their priorities,”
Calling itself an “artist consultancy,” a “network consultancy,” or a “research organization,” APG arranged “placements” for artists within both public and private organizations for limited contract periods. Including the British Steel Corporation, the Ocean Fleets shipping company, and the Department of the Environment, selected host organizations allowed the artist to essentially roam free within their confines according to agreed-upon terms of service (rendered in remarkably authentic bureaucratic language in a huge volume of correspondence mostly written by Steveni, which is a body of artwork in itself). The projects ranged from art education, on-site installations, public outreach, and creative uses of technology to, in some cases, direct critical reflection on company management and policy.
An Incidental Person takes the stand of a third ideological position which is off the plane of their obvious collision-areas. The function is more to watch the doings and listen to the noises, and to eliminate from the output the signs of a received idea as being of the work. In doing this he represents people who would not accept their premises, time-bases, ambitions, formulations as valid, and who will occupy the scene later.
Unsurprisingly, the least burrito-like situations are where everyone stops pretending that the artist isn’t working in some kind of service position, allowing the artist to go ahead and try to claim some kind of imaginative autonomy. For instance, calling oneself a designer rather than an artist helps lift the creativity-for-its-own-sake pretense that no self-respecting critical artist wants to bother with anymore, for the reasons mentioned above. But many still call themselves artists. Critical artists-in-consultance are fully aware that they are working on behalf of a client, and they own it—by flipping their corporate service work into the content of artwork for consumption in the art sector, and then flipping that critical success back into content that can be sold or reformulated for a corporate buyer, and so on. Examples of artists and groups doing this abound: if you want a list, you’ll find a lot on the 89+ roster. Rather than analyze specific examples, I’d like to propose some methods for evaluating this type of practice.
“Whether out of political conviction or paranoia, elements of the art-world tend to see latent fascist aesthetics in any liason with giant industries; it is permissible to have your fabrication done by a local sheet-metal shop, but not by Hewlett-Packard.”
Preserving the integrity of all three circles as separate entities is important because it allows the existence of cases when private interest and other interests simply do not align. The goal of the artist-in-consultance should not be to force the interests of business, art, and the planet to overlap, but to preserve their misalignment at all costs.
It distracts the subject because it pays a living wage. If the private sector didn’t employ artists, or create crowd-funding platforms through which they could marginally employ each other, then there could conceivably develop a critical mass of unemployed thinkers who might demand that humans organize cultural support in a different way.
In that sense, “complicit” is just a way of saying that an artist’s clients are primarily corporate, while “critical” is a way of saying that they are primarily from the art sector. The artist-in-consultance is always serving some combination of those two sectors. And here is the crux of the problem of the contemporary artist-in-consultance: it’s not that corporate consulting is service oriented, but that art-world criticality is too.
Rather than assuming that the re-conceptualisation of the bings could be maintained without significant markers, Latham’s study proposed simple markers such as steps or notice-boards alongside the preparation of historical records of the sites and further artist’s placements. Latham also proposed that Niddrie Woman should incorporate more recognisable forms of environmental renewal through artworks, rightly citing Finlay’s garden, Stony Path, which became ‘Little Sparta’, as the exemplar in this area.