Thoughts On Art & Collaboration

I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine, Derek. He’s a photographer and a skilled, accomplished one at that.

We got to talking about whether there was room for socialism in art – ie. collaboration over, let’s say, ego-driven art making.

My first response was that it really depended upon the discipline. For example, I felt that photography was inherently a first-person ego-driven art form, whereas theatre/film were inherently collaborative art forms.

However, in retrospect, it’s not that easy. For example, the collective General Idea utilised photography (though not exclusively), using each other as subjects in their art – even until death. [side note, please check out the work of A A Bronson, the sole surviving member]

Whereas photography has precedents for non-singular collaboration, I also realised from my own education in film that, even though I still feel that it (and theatre, from which it largely inherits its “legs”) is inherently collaborative, there are (truly) independent filmmakers such as Maya Deren and Phil Hoffman from whose works we can certainly feel a singular, personal vision at play. [another side note – because creating footnotes in HTML is a pain in the ass – there is a chasm of difference between what is popularly referred to as “indie” and what is truly “independent”. Without being overbearing, I encourage people to see the films of Deren, Hoffman, and others, such as Stan Brackhage – if only to understand the difference and to understand what a filmmaker truly is, in my books anyway).

There are multitudinous exceptions, of course, in either argument. I still hold that photography is inherently, nay naturally singular and ego-driven, and that theatre and film are almost beholden to a collaborative effort (regardless of who “stars” in said production, or who “directs” them).

I suppose the reason I bring this up is that it is so easy to fall into the habit of seeing art as being the work of only one person. This unfortunately leads to some artists holding an entirely false sense of reality. Sometimes collaboration is unavoidable, if only to complete a project. Also, there are some artists who take the whole “I have a vision” thing way, way too seriously. There is much to be learned from working with others, just as there is for those who are used to collaborating to be left on their own to create alone.


2 Replies to “Thoughts On Art & Collaboration”

  1. There’s collaborations between personal as well as professional partners, two of which have only recently been formally recognized: Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Both teams had worked together for years (its hard not to when you live with that person, I think), but each went under one name only (Christo, Cardiff), and the partners’ contributions were silent.

    I’ve tried collaboration pieces with an old close friend, but the push and pull of ideas – and yes, egos – made for more stress and less inspiration than we thought. We were better at bouncing our ideas off each other than contributing to a common art piece.

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