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.
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