The Hut Project is an artists' collective based in London, one that was formed in 2005 by Chris Bird (born Birmingham, 1971), Ian Evans (born Glasgow, 1982) and Alec Steadman (born Sidcup, 1983). The group's collaborative practice took shape through a shared sense of alienation from their studies at Middlesex University, and one of their first acts was to construct a temporary hut within the grounds of the university, from which they could offer an intellectual position from the 'outside'. Since then The Hut Project has been observing the art world with an absurdist eye, pursuing a brand of institutional critique that is invested with humour, but which also reveals the underlying pathos of the desire to make art.
For Nought to Sixty The Hut Project has created an exhibition, entitled Old Kunst, that constitutes a retrospective of their work – both collective and individual – assembled without qualitative judgement. The exhibits include all the creative output that they have been able to source, as well as indexes of works that they were not able to display. The project satirises the myth-making tendencies of the art world – and the emphasis that events such as Nought to Sixty place on the notion of the 'emerging' artist – while also providing compellingly personal narratives.
The strategy of self-deprecation is just one of the tactics that The Hut Project has used to analyse the base 'equations' through which the art world operates. The group pushes these formulas to an extreme, and there is always the risk that their self-reflexive project could implode, but their work also looks beyond these confi nes – and is characterised by the desire to understand the sources of a belief in art. The text accompanying Old Kunst, taken from correspondence with the artists' mothers, attempts to ascertain how the members of the group arrived at this juncture. It is a text with an emotional core, in which the work's conceptual exercise is set within the loaded context of a parent/child relationship.
Other recent works by The Hut Project include It's Not Me, It's You, a project exhibited at Limoncello Gallery in 2008. This piece involved a series of formulas and transpositions, designed to ascertain the relationships between the work of The Hut Project and that of artists represented by the gallery – including the conceptual and financial differences – and express these relationships as exhibits. The process managed to combine the most basic art market valuation with a kind of poetic transubstantiation, and was characterised not by finger pointing, but by a delight in the conceptual and theatrical possibilities within the structures of the art world.
Old Kunst develops such strategies, this time creating a comprehensive index of artwork produced at every stage of the artists' lives. By locating the origins of this production in childhood, and in the opinions and attitudes of their mothers, this research serves as an example of the wider questions posed by the group. Rooted in both aspiration and a necessary petulance, The Hut Project discovers the poignancy within the desire to produce art and to be included within its communities and value systems.