A multi-faceted process of exchanges, recognitions, realisations and discoveries, I AM AN ARCHIVE (IAAA) was initiated by Steveni in 2002. The project traced her role within APG and its successor O+I, through a series of performances, walks, revisits, conferences, slide-shows, exhibitions and interviews. This performative archive project is concerned with involving new generations of artists and thinkers in revisiting APG’s history, and in discussing the legacy and potential of the group’s activities for their work today and for future action.

The first event was a performance at the London Institute in February 2002. Steveni picked out documents from her archive boxes, and read them out with contextual stories. Another performance and exhibition followed at the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton as part of a group exhibition, ‘Potential: ongoing archive’ which explored the role of the archive in current artistic practice. In 2005, Steveni made a performance based on a banner she had created of the Civil Service Memorandum for Produkt und Vision, Berlin, 2005. The Banner was originally made for the exhibition ‘Borsht’ in St Petersburg, 1993. It incorporates original APG texts that were translated into Russian. With artists at the exhibition, Barbara then painted the words ‘INGREDIENTS, RECIPE, METHOD, PREPARATIONS’ in Russian on the Banner to suggest a strategy for how artists could negotiate with government and industry. The Banner was shown in the Antaonismes show, MACBA, Barcelona , 2001. It was returned in a conservation standard crate and Barbara made this part of the work, to reflect a new context in terms of value which this had added. Barbara unpacked the Banner from the Crate as part of the performance, Produkt & Vision.

Between 2008-2015 Steveni started a series of walks, in which she, and invited ‘participants’ (including artists, film-makers, curators, writers, academics and archivists), returned to the original sites of significant aspects of her practice. Steveni described the walks as ‘spontaneous group storytelling, interviewing, filming and recording, setting the past against the present’.[1]

‘How to journey from and through “not knowing” to “finding out”, how it was to have travelled - then, and again today through the risk of “not knowing” to a new vision of what can become, and be.’[2]

Participants of the IAAA walks shared in this ‘risk’, being invited in an open manner to contribute to events that were not scripted or pre-determined.

There were six walks, the first was the ‘Beginnings Walk’ in July 2008, started at the Talbot Tabernacle and continued around Notting Hill and Portland Road, retracing events around the start of APG. The second, the ‘Scottish Walk’, took place in August 2008 and revisited John Latham’s placement at ‘Niddrie Heart’. The ‘Southwark Walk’ in October of the same year, explored places which formed part of the ‘Southwark Educational Research Project of the 1980s-1990s as well as Latham’s Flat Time House. The ‘Westminster Walk’, focused on APG’s government and industrial placements.  A ‘German Walk’ was based on APG’s work in Germany with Josef Beuys at Documenta 6 in 2012 and later Steveni did a ‘Chelsea Walk’ that focused on her time at Chelsea College of Art in October 2015.

Following the 2012 APG exhibition at Raven Row in London, Steveni became more aware of the invisibility of the women involved in the avant garde scene during the 1970s and 1980s, and also within the APG network, and undertook a series of conversations to give voice to these women, alongside her own. Conversations Between Ourselves featured: Sarah Wedderburn (Riverside Studios), Julie Lawson (ICA), Anna Ridley (TV Producer), Felicity Sparrow (Circles), Laure Prouvost (Artist), Deborah Brisley (APG), Jane Trowell (Platform), Jo Melvin (Curator and writer) and Carlyle Reedy (Artist/O+I).

[1] ‘An Interview with Barbara Steveni’, Barbara Steveni and Victoria Lane in All This Stuff: Archiving the Artist, eds. Vaknin, J., Stuckey, K. and Lane, V. (Libri Publishing, 2013) p.70

[2] ‘Being and Becoming’, a discussion between Professor Chris Isham, Imperial College, Barbara Steveni and John Latham, 2001

Text by Victoria Lane and Judy Vaknin