Month of July, I've spent in New York City, in the most amazing artistic environment of the Columbia University. The Arts Collaboration Lab was a course organized by Columbia University (The School of Arts) and performance space P.S.122.
As the name says, the topic of the course was collaboration, and we had the opportunity to learn from some of the most brilliant contemporary artists and collaborate with them. David Levine was one of them, with whom we've developed a work in three weeks time - a rehearsed and prepared round table discussion where we've examined depiction of a profession (any profession and especially artistic one) in movies, and mostly Hollywood movies. We made a lot of preparation for the discussion, and we were guiding it (sculpting the conversation) with other guest participants. The event took place at P.S.122.
Apart from that, we were all involved in group projects with the aim to COLLABORATE and try to create a work within a group we were assigned to.
It all resulted with some more and some less successful projects, and also with the thoughts on collaboration that we had to submit as a part of the final assignment. Here is what I think/ learnt about it:
- Collaboration is very often based on: a personal relationship with another artist or mutual interest in a specific topic. Another case is a situation where two or more artists are brought together to work on a project commissioned by someone else, where the goals of collaboration have been set by someone else but themselves. While there is a big chance for failure in the first and last case, the second case in my opinion, gives the most interesting and unexpected results since both (all of the) artists are individually inspired to work towards the same goal, inspite of the fact that their approach might differ.
- An artist with developed artistic practice who is collaborating with another artist from a different field, is ready to modify his/ her way of working influenced by another one’s, only if the newly proposed approach is clear enough and understandable to him/ her. Therefore, artists who are starting to collaborate, have to be fully aware of their own artistic practice, be able to analyze it and describe clearly to others the way they work, the tools they use and the processes they are going through when creating an art work.
- Importance of each individual artist in creating a collaborative work, is not necessarily the same. The hierarchy is revealed after a certain period of time, based on the project demands and skills and personal engagement of each artist, and this should be accepted as is, each artist being ready to understand, define and accept his/ her own role in the project and contribute the most within this role.
- If the end result of a collaboration is unsatisfactory, than all aspects of the project should be questioned from the beginning and ready to be abandoned or modified - topic, working methods, chosen artistic form, chosen artistic tools, etc. If the collaboration was grounded in conceptual thinking, than the group should leave that on a side and start producing material. Than, in combining the two approaches (conceptual and practical), new ideas can emerge.
- Improvisation is a good starting point in collaboration, which can generate the material which is to be used in creation of work, or which can help artists understand each other’s practice better. It brings artist closer together (personally, artistically) in the act of creation, since they have to observe carefully and understand intentions of each other while improvising.
- Collaboration is not possible at all times/ with all people. When there is no common ground between the artists in the mere start of the collaboration, it is better to abandon the project than to keep searching for ways to collaborate, because there might not be any.
- Very often, the general idea of the project is interpreted in different ways by different artists who collaborate. Therefore it is very important to discuss to a smallest detail, main objectives of the project, to define them together, and build the collaborative methodology for the creation of work.
- It often happens that intuitively, artists can find a perfect way of working together without too much talk and analysis.
- The way of working in collaborative project, must always be a comfortable zone for every artists, and although it may be challenging, it should always be a positive experience for everyone involved in it. If it isn’t so, the basis of collaboration within the group should be questioned.