Incidental Futures (IF)

Having co-founded the APG in 1966, Barbara Steveni and other members of the IU have developed the Incidental Futures programme. It explores the ongoing relevance of APG’s ways of working through six public meetings led by artists at public institutions in Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. These events will be followed by a large-scale public gathering of 100+ artistic practitioners in London at South London Gallery with special contributions from The Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) of the University of Westminster. An online resource will disseminate some of the outcomes which are developed. Incidental Futures considers the impact of APG on recent practice while introducing a broader public to the group’s ethos of artist ‘placements’ to explore the role of art in society.

The project is supported by Arts Council England, CREAM, Flat Time House and University of the Arts, London. The project is managed and coordinated by the pre-IU, a core group that includes Barbara Steveni, Gareth Bell-Jones, Marsha Bradfield1, Neal White and Polly Wright.

  1. Marsha Bradfield is providing project management for Incidental Futures on behalf of Artfield Projects Limited. 

Incidental Person (IP)

The APG’s adoption of the term ‘incidental person’1 coincided with the expansion of negotiation of placements of IPs to encompass not just industry but also government bodies, including APG member John Latham’s placement with the Scottish Office (1975-76). APG’s shift from industrial placements to government placements was made possible by conceptual creator and APG co-founder Barbara Steveni’s negotiation of the seminal Whitehall or Civil Service Memorandum with the U.K. government in 1972. The role of the IP was further expanded by APG’s successor Organization and Imagination (O+I, 1989-2009) and their Southwark Education Research Project (SERP) with the Southwark Education Department.

Central to the APG’s notion of the IP was that they had an interest in organisational structures and operating critically and creatively in this context. Whether that organization be an industry, government body or educational institution, the IP commands their own language, material or approach. Within the organizational structure, the IP’s activity is not predetermined. In fact, it is importantly undefined. Therefore, the IP has the advantage of critically observing aspects of organizations that individuals immersed in their everyday routine cannot always recognise. While the IP’s objective will always begin as undefined, their intention is to critically question and prioritize long-term benefits over short-term gain for the betterment of society as a whole.

  1. We are grateful to Katherine Jackson for providing a description of the Incidental Person that we can crib and tweak depending on the context in which it is presented. Katherine is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. Her doctoral research explores the APG and industry. 

Incidental Unit (IU)

The Incidental Unit (IU, 2016 - present) continues the tradition of the Artist Placement Group (APG) and Organization and Imagination’s (O+I) concept of the incidental person (IP) and/or incidentality. It does so by creating a collaborative critical discussion space to support and define the role of and/or what it means to be an IP now. The IU seeks to encourage and foster IPs in their approach that interrupts existing institutional code and therefore create the opportunity to develop new patterns in education, administration, planning processes and more.

The IU is recognised by the APG and O+I as the practice’s current iteration. The IU provides critical support space in which to discuss and exchange ideas with artists, curators and IPs without the expectations or evaluative frameworks of an artistic commission, gallery briefing or social project. To this end, the IU draws out key ideas, methods, process and rationale for maintaining the independent and critical work of artists and curators, connecting the historical legacy of the APG with the complex nature of social practice now.


Although prevalent in the work of the APG and the IU, ‘incidentality’ is not a term that either iteration readily defines in a prescriptive manner. We can, though, get a sense of the concept’s significance in John’ Latham’s Event Structure and its description of the what an incidental person does:

Incidental Person is an individual who, when confronted by two opposing ideological fixes, ‘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 noise [. . . .] In doing this, (s)he represents people who would not accept their premises, timebases, ambitions, formulations as valid, and who will occupy the scene later.’ (Latham, 1981, back cover)

The IU also uses the term ‘incidental’ to mean occurring without a predetermined intention. In other words, incidentality is independent of special interests, namely commercial, industrial, government and institutional premise. Incidental refers to what Barbara Steveni identifies as the “not knowing” experienced by an individual who enters an unfamiliar context or chooses to critically examine their own.

The IU seeks to encourage and foster an approach that interrupts existing institutional codes and therefore create the opportunity to develop new patterns in education, administration, planning processes and more.