Stuart Brisley’s pioneering archive, The Peterlee Project, was one of the first attempts made by an artist to ‘perform history’, and an acknowledged precursor of the archival art projects of today. Peterlee was ‘a town without history’, founded in 1948 to relieve the severe overcrowding in the nearby mining villages, it was intended to exemplify social progress, rationalised urban planning and the push towards new industry in accordance with the Distribution of Industry Act of 1945, the regeneration being 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’, the second was to transform this living memory into a platform for future debate and, in the last instance, political action. The Peterlee Project 1976–1977 was published on the occasion of Stuart Brisley’s exhibition State of Denmark at Modern Art Oxford.