From Box to vitrine
8 years in the making and still nowhere near complete. The following is a document of my time working with Peter's archive. From unearthing the first dusty boxes in the back room of the studio to the installation of the archive room in the Imperial War Museum.
I first set eyes on the shabby, dusty boxes that were piled high in the back room of Peter’s studio back in 2010. The plan was to come along and find the background material and subsequent reproductions of the images that had been acquired by the Tate. That was all.
Seven years later, with still much more to do, Peter and I have become good friends. Whiling away many a Friday afternoon drinking black coffee and smoking cigarettes (although not so many cigarettes anymore) with me listening to stories of Peter’s life as an artist and campaigner, spanning half a century.
As the work began I soon realised there were things from the 60’s in with things from the 90’s, giving me a my first indication that this was going to be a deeply time consuming task that I would need to start from the beginning, if I was to achieve any progress what so ever.
So I started to take it all out from the broken, shabby boxes and make order to the chaos, photographing and cataloguing everything along the way.
I managed to capture a handful of images of the progress in the studio from the past 7 years, mostly with the camera on my phone, which gives an insight into the process and chaos of trying to bring order to things that had not really seen the light of day for decades.
This table is where I began sorting through the thousands of leaflets, flyers, postcards, invites and other smaller paraphernalia which had been collected over the years. Some dating back to the early 1970's, I found a visual feast of gallery shows, protest flyers and information, political pamphlets, book launches, student work, theatre shows, and many other unique and obscure moments of our history.
As the cold Winter set in and I couldn't feel my hands down the the freezing depths of studio 2 I moved production upstairs and abandoned the leaflets temporarily. I set to work sorting through the many magazines, newspapers, photographs, books, posters and other various specially designed anti-nuclear packs of the 70's and 80's, again revealing some fantastic examples of social history.
This photograph is of the the billboard commissioned by the Greater London Council (GLC), Keep London Out of the Killing Ground. The photomontage was to be found on the streets of London in the mid 1980's.
protect and survive
Is a government issued booklet 'Protect and Survive' which was produced in the late 1970's and early 1980's to inform us all of what to do should there be a nuclear attack. This copy was used for the photomontage 'Protest and Survive'.
The 1990's and the Gulf War is seen from both sides of the press in this photograph. The Sun ran this as their front page to gather the nation to 'support our boys' where as The Guardian response was asking 'how warlike are we?' using Peter's photomontage.
One of my favourite finds from the archive. Billy Bragg's statement in this Labour Party pamphlet from the 1980's is as accurate today as it was then. Peter's image of the Broken Missile was on the front page.
As the years passed, working mostly once a week on a Friday the archive started to take shape. Investing in some more appropriate storage, which is acid free and fit for purpose, the content of the archive is now, mostly, orgainsed, digitalised and stored that in a way that can be easily found and preserved for the future.
The archive room in the show Peter Kennard, Unofficial War Artist which ran in the Imperial War Museum from April 2015 – May 2016.
A special vitrine was built to house and display the items from the archive. As well as this the vitrine allowed the IWM to display many of the fragile early paintings from the 1960's which had not been shown in public before.
Many of the posters were also displayed in this custom made, interactive display unit.
As Peter continues to work there will always be more to archive. Every time I visit the studio there is an ever growing pile of unsorted documents, many of which I hope to add to this site when the time is right. This website is a work in progress just as much as it is an online archive of work. I will continue to update this site as and when the work is produced.