In recent years the APG has been publicly received on a variety of occasions. In particular, the comprehensive APG retrospective at London gallery Raven Row in 2012 significantly prepared the ground for the exhibition at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien. However, unlike the London curators, we decided to take a deliberately fragmentary, selective look at the history of the group and to discuss further the current interest in their activities. Our aim is to create discussion around both the progressive, critical aspects of APG’s strategy, but also more problematic aspects, and to provide for a productive encounter with the realities of artistic practices today. We have made a selection of six of the total of around 20 implemented APG projects, in which the potentials and pitfalls of context-based artistic work become apparent. Indeed, APG’s practice seems highly relevant for a number of current discourses: the cooperation of artists with scientists and people from other disciplines (under the umbrella term ‘artistic research’) is no longer a rarity today, nor is the establishment of ‘creative corporate cultures’. Artistic projects with particular social groups and in areas of urban decay have since become institutionalised by specifically established funding schemes. In this respect, it is often criticised that social practices are used as political solutions to problems that in reality result from social and economic inequality. Looking at examples from the present one can also clearly see the differences that emerge between APG’s work and contemporary practices. The open brief approach, process-based and committed to open-endedness within the placements, defied attempts to functionalise artistic action. Rather, the APG insisted upon the strong-mindedness and autonomy of artistic research and production, whilst giving rise to unpredictable or even ‘useless’ results, it was precisely this that could offer genuine artistic gain in other areas of society. This could be summed up in the words of a concept paper the APG released in 1980: ‘The proper contribution of art to society is art’.
The exhibition presents documents and results from the six placements, as well as correspondence from the archives of APG that make the often difficult negotiations around artistic autonomy, finance and the realisation of the placements visible. This shows the great challenge for every APG exhibition: more than the material results, what remains in the foreground is the group’s idea of the ‘social process’, the conceptual re-evaluation of the artists’ role and the revaluation of artistic potential for society. The documentation of the discursive APG events and their written manifestations must therefore be read in accompaniment to the artistic results of placements.
As the title suggests, the exhibition will not bring together the often conflicting narratives into a harmonious singular narrative, but will offer one of many possible representations of their history, filtered through our subjective selection. And this history no longer belongs to solely its protagonists; as one of the most researched sections within the Tate Archive in London, the history of the APG has become public property, a resource for the future. What can be learnt from the APG for today’s art practices that operate under radically different social and economic contexts? Was the goal of the ‘long march through the institutions’ – as interpreted by the APG in their own way – ever reached, or does every new generation have to take a completely new approach?