A DIFFERENT DEFINITION OF COLLABORATION.

Monday, 30 April 2012 posted on the Cooper Gallery Blog: 

 

To undertake in some kind of collaboration does there have to be a kind of commonality among the participants? There is a tendency in collaborations that those involved have agreed some kind of end, or interest in common subject matter leading to some kind of final product or event closure. Or is collaboration more about doing things in reaction to each other, where the end is more open, as opposed to working towards the same point. The inclination of the directionality of a collaboration, the common movement towards a point leads to an ending and stifles the movement of thought into organic directions throughout the process, and worse still can lead the agents to preforming the same actions in order to fulfill some kind of expectation for an outcome.

John Dummett refers to collaboration as being a moving apart from a common starting point as opposed to moving together.1 In this way there is no end point, it is a process of knowledge, it continues into various different directions after the life of the initial collaboration. This seems like a more genuine collaboration if you consider that within your average collaboration, some thought is put forward in the initial development (generally for reasons of funding) and from that instance the point is chosen in which everything is moving towards. Leaving this end point undefined allows the space in which the agency of the collaborators is left with free reign. This mirroring in fact, the way society constantly evolves and our understandings are shaped, not generally from a predesigned trajectory to a point determined by another.
This type of predesigned collaboration does however allow for reactionary collaborations. By setting the inclusion criteria for a certain collaboration, those that do not identify with that criteria form their apposing action or view; this way, the collaborative action causing the creation of other interactions in opposition to that. So it seems we are still collaborating in a way- just not crediting or credited for it.
This leads to the question of the nature of agency within collaboration. If you take the opposite standpoint and decide on inaction, do you become a sort viewer/spectator? If you take no action within a collaboration; if you give nothing back, if you bring nothing to the table, are you seen as to not in fact be in collaboration at all. With the initial thoughts or discussion, does it seem like you are mute. I suppose this answer lies in whether or not you see the spectator as having agency; whether or not you assign an influencing importance to the viewer.
Having the ability to react to a work or not is a power, one which I believe undoubtedly shapes consciously or unconsciously how we make. If we zoom out a bit and consider the space in which these relations take place I think we can afford ourselves the distance to consider how these dynamics between spectator and the agency which they excerpt on an artwork, form.
boiler starts up,
clock tick, fridge hum
chair is uncomfortable.2
Henri Lefebvre, in his seminal work The Production of Space argues ‘any space implies, contains and dissimulates social relationships – and this despite the fact that a space is not a thing but rather a set of relations between things (objects and products).3These objects and products are in constant relationship with each other. In the work of Micheal de Certeau: ‘Space for him is a frequented place: an intersection of moving bodies: it is the pedestrians who transform a street.’4 
So in theses slightly differing views on the nature of Space one theme remains, the agent within it. For Lefebvre the agent is the object, for De Certeau they are the pedestrians but it is these participating agents that are the influencing contributors here. Not singularly the space, program of collaboration, or subject being collaborated around but the interacting factors around it. I think John Dummott summed up the nature of collaboration extremely well when he quoted Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet, in the introduction to the interview with Bruce McLean, on the Thursday of the events in the RCA. Pessoa by way of describing what it is to collaborate makes the point that ‘From that moment when an event enters perception it becomes collaborative.’5
If we consider cinema by way of example of spectatorship, we see an interaction with an art form and the public – in the realm of Artist Cinema, but also by way of main stream cinema. Here it is an interaction with an artform on a massive scale. Cinema speaks to and for society, propaganda has often been employed within this medium for precisely this reason. But in fact I think there is a good example here of how seemingly passive consumption can evolve into an active collaboration between the viewed and the viewer. Our contemporary society has been shaped by the past 100 years of cinema. Shaping our opinions, influencing our thoughts, encouraging new cultures, then sub cultures. The screen writer views and reflects on society and holds the mirror back up to it., all be it subjectively and with their own agenda’s, which is the case with all art forms. We see this with the best of cinema, but even with the worst; sub cultures and conflicting arguments evolve from a dissatisfaction and/or disagreement  with what is portrayed and a reaction is formed. It is an organic collaboration, a movement from a defined starting point, moving outwards in other directions. Even in the case of mainstream cinema where blockbusters have been churned out to give the audiences what they want, (what will make money), there was a huge degree of interaction between media and culture to begin with to figure out what that is in order to capitalise on it.
Sean Cubitt  describes the cinema as ‘a special quasi – social space governed by ritual where the crowd is addressed as individual.6 This individual engagement within a public realm is extremely empowering, the viewer feels related to, directly addressed, whilst his neighbour is also addressed, perhaps in a differing way but there is empathy there. Empathy between the object viewed, the viewer and their fellow viewers. The cinema addresses the human desire to come together, to collect in one place, and experience. A feeling of inclusiveness which harbours down to the very nature of the notion of Place and the re-imaging of that, this which lies in at the centre of a cultural democracy.  Within contemporary society, cinema exists within a context which is shaped by mass media, particularly by television.The interplay between these subject’s and their complexities would take up a whole PHD, and divert me slightly from my point, but it is the instance of the gathering in the cinema, the seemingly passive consumptive act on a mass scale, in which the performative action of specatorship is demonstrated clearly. It is an actual action where there seems to be inaction.
The argument calling for a rethink of the agency of the spectator is well trodden ground, there has been a whole wave of artist and philosophers calling for a rethink of the notion of the audience as passive consumer, aesthetically and politically mute.
cluuink of gmail chat
Jaqcques Ranciere in this text The Emancipated Spectator, describes ‘emancipation’ in the terms of spectatorship as meaning: ‘the blurring of the boundary between those who act and those who look; between individuals and members of a collective body.’7 He goes on further to describe; ‘It (Art) requires spectators who play the role of active interpreters, who develop their own translations in order to appropriate the ‘story’ and to make it their own story. An emancipated community is a community of narrators and translators.’8 Within the context of A Cut A Scratch A Score and An Event we the artists played the role of the viewer/user/spectator. Existing on the fringes, but very much involved. We reacted to what was being viewed both in situ and with the space of time. In fact the time it takes to respond to event’s such as theses and then to draw your own expression from that can be seen as an analogy for how the viewer responds, or in fact how we digest any kind of knowledge in general. It takes time to sink in; knee jerk reactions are the territory of the consumptive viewer.
fridge hum, clock tick.
In a sense we were the emancipated (albeit from the privileged position of art educated) spectator invited to interact with the events and then left to our own devices in which we had the space to open up our own discourse. In this it was a true collaboration because the material generated became something of its own, not a documentary, a regurgitation of what was seen, but a subjective response to actions leading to other actions and in it that the communication of knowledge. All documentation is subjective, particularly those made by the viewer translating from their particular perspective, a sort of collaboration of thought. Documentation made of an action by the agents themselves gives a closer view of their own particular point of view and so perhaps this is more suitably included within the body of work its self. Not forgetting the role of the critical response, which lies halfway between both, or perhaps runs parallel, as an informed view (often given by the artist or researched by the critic themselves) and the subjective, creative response of the critic leading to text, a work of their own, and collaboration.
These dynamics are at the center of Ranciere’s thesis regarding the emancipated spectator, the critique of the artwork by the spectator, and he places responsibility at the door of the artist to create work that cannot be simply passively consumed as it has to come from a society in which the spectator is in fact engaged and so should be given back something engaging. The rhetoric for collaboration permeates so many different spheres, whether they be social sphere’s, political sphere, economic sphere or service sector,9 in none of which the artist solely exists, so within the questioning of our modes of collaboration we can review our spaces for thoughts, as social and discursive entities and within that re – imagine the art world and artistic inquiry, to extend into wider spaces of interest to society as a whole.

1:John Dummott from transcriptions of A live ‘interview unlike any other’ with the acclaimed artist Bruce McLean featuring two of his films.An Action of words: Writers in residency, John Dummett, Ajay Hothi and Christina Manning Lebek,29/03/2012 Royal College of Art, London. Lecture theatre. Transcriptions by Sinead Bligh. 2012.
2:Text in red indicates interruptions to the writers train of thoughts whilst writing in her flat.
3:Henri Lefebvre, The production of Space (Blackwell, Oxford and London) 1993 p78
4: Marc Angue quoting Micheal De certeau in his text, Non-Places, An introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity.Marc Angue.1995. translated by John Howe.)
5:Sean Cubitt, ‘Projection: vanishing and becoming’, Media Art histories,ed (NewYork and London: Routledge, 2007) pg 412.
6:Jacques Ranciere, The Emancipated Spectator, Verso 2009. pg 19
7:Jacques Ranciere The Emancipated Spectator, Verso 2009. pg 22.
8&9: Paraphrasing John Dummott from transcriptions of A live ‘interview unlike any other’ with the acclaimed artist Bruce McLean featuring two of his films.An Action of words: Writers in residency, John Dummett, Ajay Hothi and Christina Manning Lebek,29/03/2012 Royal College of Art, London. Lecture theatre. Transcriptions by Sinead Bligh. 2012.
Advertisements

a plural association

Saturday, 28 April 2012 posted on the Cooper Gallery Blog: 
 

The human dynamics which make up our interactions are the life blood of our creative practice. As so with making the tea, making work, or making thoughts and then letting them mix in the wash. If people think visually with senses in tuned to their surroundings then perhaps they need to be taken away, at some point, from all the stimulants in order to order. The distance is needed to make sense of what is experienced in order to form a subjective output, in whatever medium they so choose. In the arena of visual culture the scrap of an image connects with a sequence of a Film and with the corner of a billboard or the window display of a shop we have passed by to produce a new narrative formed out of both our experienced journey and our unconscious.1 It is often in this state that something is observed, that ‘incidental incident’2 which connects the dots. This only half looking, when you want at be concentrating on something else, paradoxically can be a state of vigilance.

We are in constant collaboration. I enjoy Irit Rogoff’s diverse everyday approach to the sublimation of knowledge and in it we can draw parallels with Jane Rendell’s text Site Writing – the Architecture of Art Criticism.3 Rendell’s work like Rogoff’s suggests collaboration with space and the objects within that space as shaping our thoughts. These innumerable influencing signifiers which exist in that space being an integral component of writing, as it is with art, so this in its way becomes a collaboration between the body and the space.
Ashling Molloy has come online for skype. 4
The interchangeable possibilities are endless.
We need to collaborate. We are social animals and through interaction we learn. Through new spaces and experiences we are stimulated, yet we crave the space to spread out in whatever direction thought wishes to take us and to manifest that in an individual way. We look for the situations to retreat into which enable this; The quiet place to write, the solitary artist studio. It is a paradox, in small succession this bombardment is a fertile territory yet at some point it becomes stifling, prohibitive even to the making of work.
Bruce McLean sits centrally just in front of the stage, Christina and Ajay to his right, John Dummett to his left.. Behind there is a video projection of the events of Cut a Scratch a Score.. To the right of Christina there is a long rectangular blackboard vertically leaning against the wall. Written on this are the questions the writers wish to ask McLean.5
Bruce McLean doesn’t like the audience. He tells us so. You would tend to agree with him, not many people like to be peered at. He is uncomfortable sitting centre stage in an RCA lecture theater. Yet there is a controlled theatricality to the setup. Rightly so considering the previous events of A Cut A Scratch A Score. And this feels like the final performance re-staged, but with writers, not a choir. We’ve gathered because we have been intrigued by the previous work and events so now we want to see what will happen, what McLean will say. It’s a shame McLean doesn’t like audiences, they like him. We realise early on into the interview that it is indeed as billed ‘unlike any other’ Dummott, Hoti and Manning Lebeck move around, switch seats, interrupt each other, say the wrong thing right. The audience is enthralled. It is extremely refreshing and that is disheartening, in hindsight when you think how infrequently this kind of audience engagement normally accompanies an artist talk, or interview as this case may be. But these actions lie somewhere in between sculpture and performance. Sculptural performances. Performing sculptures. So if this is the case does this type of performance need an audience with which to collaborate and would the energy be the same if the interview were conducted among just these four?
Sssssssshissing of heavy rain.
Heat rising from the bed makes me wonder are my eyes playing tricks. It is however just the electric blanket.
The interview is focused on the many different manifestations of collaboration which McLean has been involved in over his long career.  He refers often to the ‘incidental incident’, an action or interaction which directs his thoughts and creative output. McLean speaks of these incidental incidents as if they were collaborations which are not set up. It seems in these incidents you can be passive, active, instigator or victim. They are described as instances of interactions that evolve into something big or to nothing big, but they seem to give direction. To McLean “Collaborating could mean anything”.This is very interesting, honest really to credit those who influence you, to embrace that from all angles however it is clear in his action and his words that McLean is very thoughtful about who he is (intentionally) collaborating with. It is in his awareness in the general direction in which he wishes the collaboration to go. He is also aware of the roles which we fall into within collaboration, or any kind of social interaction, and so in a sense he turns to curating a space to create the circumstances, specific to his interests and subverting roles, in which these interactions take place.  He even tries “to create an incidental incident everyday” Perhaps that is tongue in cheek, perhaps not, but his interest in the incidental incident and the disinterest in the audience is an oddity to me, when adding all these agents into the mix would suppose it to be the kind of climate conducive to any sort of incident. An audience or any gathering of people will always bring an influencing active element be it engagement or disengagement.
As we inhabit public space we are delving into collaboration with public and environment, bringing our presence, and noting the presence of others: “Collaborating could mean anything” and to ignore either is to miss an opportunity for an incidental incident, but I don’t believe McLean really does. He feeds from his audience, from his critics and commentators, how could one not. He has made art works commenting on the pretensions and hierarchies of the art world in works including, Postmodern Minestrone, 2012 and Urban Turban (A Moving Picture) 1995, and dealing with hegemonic structures within society as a whole, as in the Dowry Secondary school project completed 2007, to take just a segment of his career by way of example. Certainly it may be uncomfortable but it is within these discomfort zones in which McLean seems to be at his most productive. Perhaps that is the entire point. He doesn’t like audiences, but he is definitely drawn to them.


1 : Irit Rogoff., Terra Infirma, Geographies visual culture, Routledge. 2000.pg 30.
2: Referenced from transcriptions of A live ‘interview unlike any other’ with the acclaimed artist Bruce McLean featuring two of his films. An Action of words: Writers in residency, John Dummett, Ajay Hothi and Christina Manning Lebek,29/03/2012 Royal College of Art, London. Lecture theatre.. Transcriptions by Sinead Bligh. 2012.
3:Jane Rendell, Site Writing – the Architecture of Art Criticism., I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd.2010.  
4: Observations marked in red indicate disruptions to the writers train of thought whist in her flat.
5&6: Referenced from transcriptions of A live ‘interview unlike any other’ with the acclaimed artist Bruce McLean featuring two of his films. An Action of words: Writers in residency, John Dummett, Ajay Hothi and Christina Manning Lebek,29/03/2012 Royal College of Art, London. Lecture theatre.. Transcriptions by Sinead Bligh. 2012.