Perhaps it is the recent political climate: Brexit, Trump and a sense that people want something ‘other than’ which leaves me questioning my own motives for working on collaborations. In the process of deconstructing my thoughts and ruminating on whether I am, in fact taking advantage of the groups I work with in order to have multiple hands in my work. I am momentarily caught up in feeling that rather than bringing the world in, I am in fact USING every single one of them to make something which I can claim to have masterminded, calculated and conducted. It is MINE whilst it is being worked on by other hands. It is MINE when I decide to obliterate the marks I don’t like, or rearrange the style of it, from the decision of rotation through to how it is shared with the world. When I call it a collaboration, am I just emphasising some abstract quality in the work: that it has come together through the positivity of a large crowd of willing participants? Am I giving it more fundamental worth through this shared experience. Am I not just coordinating random responses, compiling them in a visual format and then refining it with my own vision of balance and composition? Am I essentially using friends, strangers, students, patients and children for my own personal and artistic benefit? It now worries me that I wrote a piece about the beauty of collaboration and of finding these unfamiliar marks in my work; of me searching for the next encounter, addicted to the state of raw unfamiliarity in the art: one night stands rather than rich relationships.
And then I think about their involvement. You are invited in. You have a choice. You know that this work is shared; that your marks might become buried beneath those of ten other people; you have no invested interest in your marks remaining constant or untouched. So, the collaborative element is the PROCESS. It is about being part of something: like singing in a choir, or playing in a team sport. It is shared experience and coming together: of being involved in something which asks only that you are an active participant. When I think about drawing with my one year old niece, the pleasure for her was all in the physical mark-making: in that moment of shared free-drawing, and of the playfulness of my crayon chasing hers around the page. That was what we shared. The drawing outcome was a consequential by-product. And it is the same with others. It was that moment of being together, in silence or in animated laughter and conversation. It was about being involved in mark-making whilst comforted by the motions of creativity. It is a state of bliss: of pleasure. There is agency between artists and a fortuity of the mark and where it takes you; building on, mobilizing the marks, always moving, always developing.
So, if I am using participants, I believe that they benefit from the experience. I don’t need to worry that I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or that I am wielding power and deviously taking advantage of my collaborators. The confirmation from so many that we “MUST do this again!” tells me what I need to know. The world is not a bad place. I have much to explore in these encounters and need to stop self-consciously psychoanalysing it.