I’m often found reflecting on the nature and effects of collaboration on my practice.
I am essentially a lazy person. I follow the path of least resistance in many areas. I’m not really driven by money, as long as I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge, and a bit left over to splurge on second hand clothes, I’m ok.
Without collaboration I wouldn’t be an artist I don’t think. I would make stuff… I made stuff for years, quite happily on my own, without any of it being art.
Collaboration is my kick.
Collaboration gives me access to other people’s toy boxes. There is no way I would be recording sound and no way I would have wrestled with GarageBand, or become this megalomaniac event manager without collaboration with Dan Whitehouse. There is no way I would have survived with sanity intact from my recent injury without the input from Bo Jones. No way I would be using digital media… I would still be just stitching – great though that is, it was never challenged. Bo challenges it, coughs the words “comfort blanket” and makes me review my processes and output. Because of that, every stitch now counts. The exhibition that we are working towards approaches… I can’t wait to see this work up, all together, his and mine. It’s been a really good year.
Any ambition I have comes from the need to collaborate. I have to be honest, it comes from a confidence issue too… on my own, my self esteem takes a bit of a dive. If I surround myself with people I value, it goes up. My recent involvement in the group of artists working together to get to New York is not so much about my ambition as an artist, (“How good will this look on my cv?”) but from a desire to talk to different people. To get the work out there, get it talked about. The conversation, as always, the impetus for further development.
The skills I collect, are collected out of necessity. Nothing is spare, all accumulated out of need. If I want to make a song, I need to learn how to use GarageBand. If I want to work with digital images, I need to learn how to use PhotoShop. By exposing myself to different collaborative experiences, I acquire new desires, then new needs, then new skills.
For me, the ideal collaborator is someone completely different… well, no, not completely, but sufficiently different to make an impact. There should be mutual respect, and no fear to say what you think. You develop a way of being explicit about your work and theirs, you have to explain yourself clearly.
Collaboration is my kick. Again I use language that alludes to addiction. Collaboration provides the medium, the atmosphere, the right conditions for validation when done well. If it is a good partnership – I don’t want someone to just say “that’s nice dear!” – I need to feel I’ve worked for it and it is valued. I need to feel they are getting as much out of it as I am. This is rare. I have had a few collaborations that haven’t worked. I was dead against them for a while. But I think I didn’t understand them. I looked for someone the same as me. Big mistake. Having a partnership with an artist similar to me just provides competition, and no spark. There is nothing either can offer the other. It was only when I started talking to Dan that this changed. We were working in completely different fields. We had a completely different language. We were complete strangers at the beginning, and decided between us that we had to be completely open and honest with each other. I learned the skill of very kindly and politely saying no, and for something to be explained for a third time please, as I didn’t understand. There’s nothing like spending time with someone, working hard, coming away from the day exhausted but exhilarated by what has happened, inspired to do more, seeing new ways of working that wouldn’t have occurred to you before.
Collaboration is addictive.