The date of Alloway’s publication on British abstraction is pertinent since it occurred in the midst of IG activity, 1954. Alloway had therefore published, two years prior to This is Tomorrow, an important survey on abstract art in Britain entitled Nine Abstract Artists: Their Work and Theory. He stated that after the Second World War, those artists who had originally pioneered abstraction in Britain had ‘either become romantics or, like Nicholson and Hepworth, at least tired of their thirtyish purity’. The revitalisation of geometric abstraction during the 1950s was interpreted by Alloway as a consequence of the influence of Max Bill’s concepts of concrete art on Pasmore and his group.
One could assume that Alloway’s position on abstraction and concrete art as issues of central importance would change substantially during the following years, particularly with the increasing interest in popular culture among IG members. However, in 1957, one year after This is Tomorrow, Hamilton and Pasmore organised a collaborative project entitled An Exhibit, which would contradict such assumptions. Like Ivan Serpa in Rio de Janeiro, Pasmore acted as a great disseminator of ideas about abstraction through his teaching and collaborations. Such was the case of An Exhibit, an environmental exhibition (exhibited twice with some variations) that has a certain resemblance with Oiticica’s N?cleos installations being composed of ‘floating panels’ arranged throughout the gallery space at right angles to each other and placed at different heights. Alloway described An Exhibit as follows:
A fuller degree of physical participation than is obtainable with separate works of art tempts the constructivist to dream of public monuments. An Exhibit is a way of accepting the limited conditions of an exhibition and overcoming them to make a drama of space that involves the spectator.
Most astonishing of all was Alloway’s article on McHale, entitled L’Intervention du Spectateur (The Intervention of the Spectator). The article posits as central to twentieth-century art history and theory the developments of kinetic sculpture. Alloway described the intervention of the spectator as follows:
We can say that the artist maintains a long distance control over the constructions because he does the initial work, however, after doing so, all effective decisions are taken by the spectator. The play of forms, open or closed, free surfaces or shattered, colours apparent or hidden, etc., all these are under the responsibility of the spectator.
All these coincidences between the interests of British and Brazilian artists are not only unconnected but, in the British case, did not even influence subsequent artists and critics. Guy Brett, for instance, has noted that neither he, nor the group involved with Signals Gallery (responsible for the initial dissemination in Britain of Brazilian artists such as Sérgio Camargo, Oiticica and Clark), were aware of the Independent Group’s engagement with the notion of spectator participation. Although Brett had began his career as an art critic writing for the Arts Review, a journal that had also received contributions by Alloway, by the 1960s the IG had not yet been studied in any detail. It was then referred to primarily by ex-members, who naturally emphasised their previous role within the development of Pop. Brett has mentioned that he was aware of such exhibitions as Growth and Form, but it was the continental European exhibitions on abstract art that attracted his attention. Similar to the case in Brazil, each generation had in this sense to re-invent itself, based upon the impositions of the dominant culture.