The collective started in 1989 after the murder of a progressive political critic and artist, Safdar Hashmi. His death made him a symbol for the collective and according to this review,"the driving force behind its leadership in the worldwide activist art arena."
The Collective exhibit moved from Chicago to North Carolina. The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago has a good web page dedicated to the exhibit with a number of short clips about the Collective. Here's a clip abort Sahmat's beginning.