The Laws of Nature
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Components of Collaboration
Gilbert & George, 1972
Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond
Chapter 3: "Life Support"
section 4: "Components of Collaboration"
Here, Richmond examines the "components" of collaboration. Her experiences in this area extend beyond creating works of art to include collaborative teaching at the university level. She begins a collaboration by identifying someone she'd like to work with and then designing a suitable project. The benefit of this approach, as she states it, is "that by exploring our common and complementary aspirations, we would be able to expand our own creative voice." This means finding someone who shares your goal.
After identifying an appropriate collaborator, Richmond engages in long, rambling conversations with her partner that result in the formation of an idea for their work. Personally, this could be a useful way to advance my own work. Frequently, I discuss my paintings with my husband (who is not an artist but is very intelligent) and those conversations provide me with insights and direction, even though we don't collaborate on the actual execution of my work.
Next, Richmond and her collaborator use a technique called "the interview." Initially, this involves intense questioning by her partner in an attempt to help clarify her thoughts. In fact, the author finds that this method of interviewing, or interrogation, is even more useful than the traditional technique. I have to agree. My mentor doesn't begin her critiques with her observations about my work. Rather, she asks a barrage of questions that require substantive answers to justify the decisions I made in concept formulation, composition, and technique. In a collaboration, Richmond and her partner conduct a series of interviews back and forth over time in order to develop a project.
Another effective technique is called "Yes, and..." Richmond learned this approach from an improvisational actor who taught her these rules: "first listen, and then say, 'Yes, and ...'" This means paying attention to your partner and then building upon that. It facilitates the building of ideas and a safe environment for the free exchange of ideas.
Now we arrive at something I was wondering about: the potential for a clash of egos. The author's solution to that problem is to view the collaboration as "great individual parts as well as a great whole." This eliminates the subordination of one of the artist's work, and is labeled "respecting individuality."
In order for two artists to collaborate, they must translate their individual vocabularies into a shared one that both can understand. That "vocabulary" could be words, techniques, or disciplines. This benefit of this approach is that it allows both artists to grow together and as separate individuals.
Finally, Richmond views the outcome of a successful collaboration as a "continuing influence" not only in her own future work, but also in future collaborations.
A solo artist, like myself, can glean some gems from this section of Richmond's book. Our conversations here on this blog, or in our own private realms, provide growth opportunities when we make the effort to exchange ideas and understand each other. These "conversations" inform my work and help me develop new conversations that are substantive and worthwhile.
What are your thoughts??