A colour photograph of students from the FACP Archive Research meeting the Design Archives on the South Downs in Brighton

In 1971, a group of art students working in photography and film, interested in questions of visual perception and new practices of conceptual art, set up a studio at Brighton School of Art and called it Experimental Studies.

By the mid 1970s the students and early conceptual artists who taught in Experimental Studies – including John Hilliard, Roger Cutforth, Bruce Maclean and Roy Grayson, established Alternative Practice – a pathway in BA fine art. Late in the 1980’s the course was rewritten and became known as Critical Fine Art Practice, and then, most recently, Fine Art Critical Practice.

FACP Archive Research is an investigation into the history of Fine Art Critical Practice, one of the four fine art courses at University of Brighton. Our research to date identifies FACP as the first conceptual fine art media BA in the UK. Having survived the shifts from Art School to Polytechnic and then to University, FACP is now one of the few remaining and longest running experimental fine art BAs set up in the UK post war.

On 8 June 2016 FACP Archive Research organised a course reunion at Roundhill campsite on the South Downs, near Firle. Over fifty people managed to find their way to an unmarked field up a farm track, to meet and exchange stories about their time as students and staff on Fine Art Critical Practice. A film and sound recording was made of the event, which is now being edited by Naomi Salaman, the artist leading the project.

Mick Duckworth, one of the students who set up Experimental Studies in 1971 was able to join us from Nottingham. He offered a valuable window into Brighton School of Art/Brighton Poly in the 1970s. Also present were former course leaders Peter Seddon and Mick Hartney as well as current course leader Matthew Cornford, and artist /lecturers Mary Anne Francis, Susan Diab, Alex Templeton and, Naomi Salaman; and archivist Sue Breakell.

Establishing the archive

Sue Breakell of the University of Brighton Design Archives has welcomed FACP material as a component of the Brighton School of Art archive. With this institutional home at the Design Archives the FACP archive is now physically secure and more accessible, while still continuing to operate as a community archive involving current FACP students and staff.

In 2015 Naomi Salaman received APPRI funding to plan an event and gather a community of interest to search for historical information and documents to form a picture of the course over time. This archival initiative comes from Salaman’s PhD (2008) and recent research, and feeds into a common interest in the art school that FACP staff share.

Developing the FACP archive in collaboration with Design Archives furthers a productive engagement between the Design Archives and the FACP course, that Susan Diab has generated through teaching and organising artist placements. Lizzie How (graduated FACP, July 2015) and set up Fine Art Critical Practice Archive, with Tilly Sleven in 2014, as a second year studio art project, going on to volunteer with the Design Archives. This relationship has continued with 2016 FACP graduate Nika Narkevicuite, who began the cataloguing process on the initial deposit of materials as a volunteer during her final year, having had an artist placement at the Design Archives during her second year.

For the Design Archives, the FACP archive contributes to their strategic enquiry into research-informed stewardship, in this case the practices by which material is selected for retention in archives. Documentation of the FACP archive’s origins as a student studio project, and the on going processes through which material is gathered, is therefore an important component to be included in the archive.

Future plans

The documents acquired from ex students and staff will help to build a time line of the course and map transitions between course names / staff / students / studios spaces / technicians / issues in art education / political and financial policies and frameworks.

Mick Hartney, who came to the FACP archive research reunion, is an important figure in the course’s history. He began working at Brighton School of Art in the early 1970s, retiring in 2009. He has a wealth of important information about the course we hope to be able to bring into the archive, as well as documentation about his experimental film and video courses.

Professor Charlie Hooker has been a key source of information on the origins of course, as he was himself a student at Brighton School of Art and joined Experimental Studies. Through Charlie we were able to contact Mick Duckworth, Dave Cubby and other students who claimed the studio in 1971. From these early participant inventors we are now receiving important information and images.

The next FACP Archive Research event is on 14 September 2016 2-6 pm, in Brighton, to coincide with a visit from Dave Cubby, fellow student from the beginning of the course in 1971. Keep the date.

We are keen to find out what documentation exists out there, in paper or digital formats: course outlines, lectures schedules, session hand outs, students notes, as well as staff and student out puts such as exhibition catalogues, ephemera or photographs. So please do get in touch.

Contact the project: Naomi Salaman N.Salaman@brighton.ac.uk

Sue Breakell: s.m.breakell@brighton.ac.uk

FACP Brighton Archive Research (facebook closed group) by emailing a request to: N.Salaman@brighton.ac.uk

FACP Archive Research and University of Brighton Design Archives