STUART BRISLEY, Peterlee Project 1976-77

Peterlee Project 1976-77

STUART BRISLEY, Peterlee Project 1976-77

Peterlee Project 1976-77

A new book published by Museum of Ordure and Antipyrine on the occasion of Stuart Brisley's exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, 2014.

[…] Stuart Brisley’s pioneering archival The Peterlee Project (1976-77) — one of the first attempts made by an artist to ‘perform history’ and an acknowledged precursor of the archival art projects of today. Peterlee itself was a ‘town without history.’ Founded in 1948 to relieve the severe overcrowding in the nearby mining villages, it was intended to bid squalor farewell (‘Farewell Squalor’ was the title of the preliminary report). The original mining villages had been cheaply built by the companies and reflected the extension of economic imperatives into all aspects of life: housing, landscape, leisure, gender roles and family structures. Peterlee New Town, in contrast, was to exemplify social progress, rationalized urban planning and the push towards new industry in accordance with the Distribution of Industry Act of 1945. Yet even here the residents had little say in the final outcome, as the regeneration itself was managed by the Peterlee Development Corporation, a government appointed semi-autonomous corporation. Brisley’s intervention operated across two modes. The first part involved the collection and collation of documents to form a ‘living memory’ (roughly reaching back to 1900 when the first mines were sunk, and corresponding to the three generations normally associated with the transmission of oral memory). The second was to transform this living memory into a platform for future debate and, in the last instance, political action. 

The Peterlee Project offers a useful diagnostic tool to evaluate the current relations between ‘performance’ and ‘history’ because it was explicitly conceived neither as an archive nor as a work of art. The criterion for evaluating the success or failure of the project was practical and political, rather than aesthetic, namely to raise the historical consciousness of the local people, especially with regards to the impact of the Peterlee Development Corporation upon their lives. 

– Dr Sanja Perovic "Performing History: Some Keywords"


Table of Contents

Performing History: Some Keywords

Dr Sanja Perovic

Peterlee Project in Tate Archive

The Peterlee Project 1976-77

Edited from Stuart Brisley’s Peterlee Project notes

Peterlee New Town

Edited from Stuart Brisley’s Peterlee Project notes

Of Commune and Community

Tim Brennan


The Peterlee Project 1976–1977 is published on the occasion of Stuart Brisley’s exhibition State of Denmark at Modern Art Oxford, 19 September 2014 — 16 November 2014

Modern Art Oxford, 30 Pembroke St. Oxford, OX1 1BP, England

Supported by Arts Council England, Modern Art Oxford and Tate Archive