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Introduction
1975

2B Butlers Wharf is set up to present video, film and performance work on a regular basis until its closure in 1979.

As an artists-run venue 2B Butler's Wharf deserves a mention in any history of time-based work and regularly presented video work by British and overseas artists in the late 1970s. (Kevin Atherton, quoted in Julia Knight, Diverse Practices, 1996)

Between 1975 and 1979 the artist-run gallery 2B Butlers Wharf provided one of the most innovative and vital spaces for performance, installation and video art in London. As David Critchley, one of its founder members, asserted in an 1977 article;

…At 2B, we decided to invert the prevailing emphasis by which forms of art work are given precedence and gave priority to time durational work like music, expanded cinema, video and live performance. Because no long term installed work has to be taken into account, the demands on gallery space and time are such that no rigorous selection of artists is necessary, and working about six or eight weeks in advance, a broad spectrum of performed work accommodated. If an artist working in the field of 'one-off' events feels capable of organising their own show, then there is really no reason why they shouldn't show at Butler's Wharf…

Situated in what was then a run-down area of London's Docklands, 2B Butler's Wharf's fluid working conditions encouraged participating artists to use the space as an experimental platform to develop new work in front of an audience. Lack of financial support from funding bodies such as the Arts Council and Greater London Council meant that the gallery was self-supporting, and whilst the 2B members paid the rent and organised general publicity such as listings and a monthly invitation, the artist was responsible for all further organisation. This meant that although shows were produced on a shoestring it freed artists to experiment away from the commercial constraints of more conventional gallery systems. With the emphasis wholly on live and time-based artwork, the gallery space was flexible to a diverse range of proposals which had a predominantly 'live' component. Critchley refers to '80%' of the shows being live performances, some of which were music, 'others have been structural and others theatrical, and the remaining 20% of the work presented has been either film or slide pieces.' Many young video artists at the start of their careers benefited from 2B Butlers Wharf's open and flexible approach, indeed it was the positive response from audiences and artists alike to 2B's inaugural show, a performance by Kevin Atherton in November 1975, that encouraged the founding artists; Critchley, Mike Duckworth, John Kippin, Belinda Williams, Martin Hearne, Keiran Lyons, Kevin Atherton, Steve James, Dave Hanson, Alan Stott and Alison Winkle, to turn a shared studio space into a gallery. Thus, the structure of 2B Butlers Wharf continued to have the loose experimental approach of a collective artist-run studio space and also provided an opportunity for its founding members to show their own work, notably in the October 1976, 'Group Show' in which all eleven artists showed in the same evening at an event followed by 'refreshment and entertainment'.

When the space was finally repossessed by developers in May 1978 2B Butlers Wharf had hosted 80 shows which included; film projections, video, sound works, installation, performance and combinations of all of the above, greatly contributing to developments in British video art and showing the work of artists such as Keith Frake, Stephen Partridge and George Saxon.
LR.

For a more detailed picture of the history of 2B Butler's Wharf go to:
www.studycollection.co.uk/2B/curator.html.

Lucy Reynolds

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Poster for 2B Butlers Wharf Group Show, October 1976.

Courtesy: David Critchley.
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