Barbara Steveni interviewed by Melanie Roberts
National Life Stories
The British Library

The account of the Hille Project by Barbara Steveni/APG Administration

"Then there were some... Stuart Brisley’s association with Hille International Limited, which was a furniture firm, and Leslie Julius, who was, and his wife, were interested in the notion of it very much, and they were at a point...

F6688 Side A

© The British Library Board
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"where their company was just expanding, and whereas before it had been a small company they, like, knew everybody, they knew that if they were going to go on to the bigger expansion of the company that they wouldn’t be this family firm so to speak. But they liked the idea of an artist coming in and, in the way, they seemed to understand the way that we were talking about, but there was the managing director understanding what it was we were meaning, but when the artist came to engage in the factory, he realised that he was going to have to make a sculpture or something that the workers and the staff and everything could actually relate to, because, why wasn’t he making something, why wasn’t he building something? So he then made a giant wheel out of chair parts, the legs of the chairs or whatever it was, and as he was making this and people were asking him, you know, what he was doing, he was able to link design and building of furniture and design and where that fitted into the social history with the fact that he was actually making this thing, and raising whole questions with the workers at all levels on what the activity of that factory and that company was about, like making chairs or whatever it was. So he raised a lot of issues and they would have been very social issues, being Stuart. And later on he moved, he noticed that there was no sort of, there was communication panels, and as this was an issue with Leslie Julius, how do we get the communication as the company is expanding and getting much bigger, how do we get the communication across, he noticed that in the working, you know, in the working canteen and factories or whatever it was, part of the factory, there were no notice- boards that were giving sort of messages, but in the sort of staff part there were messages. So he began to make notice-boards which connected both sides of the structure, or all sides of the structure up. And also he did what is a very sort of obvious thing, began to paint some of the machinery. Now, in a way one...again the idea was that we weren’t there to do that sort of thing, but when you’re in there, what do you do? And that is what...and it’s always up to the artist who, we know a good strong artist, they would have to be, because they have to be able to work from the context. So one, they must already have been able to have a track record of being an artist, but also have that interest in working in a context where you don’t know what you’re going to do, and it will come out of a context. And Stuart took that forward very much in the Stuart sort of way, as he did in his next one which he also did in a semi-Government placement later on. And so, although Stuart kicked against it a lot, because he, again that business about A.P.G. being political or endorsing the capitalist

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"structure, we have been accused, especially lately, you know, of being administrative, and endorsing capitalism that came back into the art from which Gustav Metzger was saying with his Destruction in Art, he was coming away from the art world. But by us going into the commercial premise and later into Government, it was seen as contaminating the artist role and, et cetera et cetera, and how, you know, there’s a big debate on how you, how a society encapsulates its artists, uses its artists, or suppresses its artists, you know, Jack Laings[ph] and, a particular thing in France, you know, in the way they talk about the artist, although given a lot of leeway and wonderful projects and everything, was actually contained by the Government by treating it that way. So there’s always that argument which has gone on right through it. So, and Stuart did do well, but again he made the irritant of the political thing, because, as A.P.G.’s chief co-ordinator, whenever there was a hustle between the organisation that we were working with and the artist, we were called in, or I was called in, to pull it together, or say, well we can’t do it, you know, whatever it is. And Leslie Julius was irate that Stuart in a way was making a political thing between the different parts of the structure of the organisation, which in a way I’m sure Stuart probably was, and he would like to do that because he always liked to be an irritant, and then he would like to be an irritant to us as well to say, look, you, A.P.G., haven’t worked out your premise yet of what is going on between the proletariat and, you know, I mean, rather old-fashioned politics actually, as I always say, with a small p. Anyway, it was an interesting one, and when it came to the Hayward Gallery, that great big wheel was there, and the wheel was put in front of the factory, and that was the sort of logo, and so it sort of in a way satisfied an old idea of the artist and the symbol and the stuff, you know, there were lots of big sculptures and things there...

"but Stuart has always held his particular political principles, which were not our principles, but he has spoken strongly for the A.P.G. and stuff, you know, on podium discussions and everything, but has always maintained his independence."
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