Art and Lang

Above: A work by British collaborative art group, Art and Language, from 2013. Credit: Lisson Gallery.


What does collaboration mean in art? It means that you work with another person, or perhaps even as a cooperative group, to make your art. Collaboration changes one quite basic idea: that art should be just whatever you want, done your way--your unique way. If you do art as a collaboration there has to be some discourse and dialogue about what the artistic output is going to be--What colour? To be a photo of what? etc. That is, the artistic process will now be one defined by language and negotiation. And therefore very different to art made intuitively. So, collaboration in art tends to push away from intuitive unique mark-making, and resolves instead to produce art in an atmosphere of the discursive (SOED: proceeding by argument or reasoning; ratiocinative; not intuitive).

A piece of art made collaboratively has usually been made rationally--the result of discussions, the setting-of-parameters, agreements reached. Collaborative artists and artist groups in contemporary art often come together primarily because they are seeking to react against the egomania that the free-reign of personal artistic expression can invite on. There are some artists who can only make work that is all-about-me, and all-about-the-way-I-work-and-my-experiences. The cooperative approach tends to snub this all-about-me attitude, in favour of an art that is well-thought-through--brokered, deliberate, consultative, considered.

Of course, the obvious pitfall of the let's-talk-about-this approach to art-making is that, among others, egomaniac-type artists are also very much drawn towards it--they sense (correctly) that it is a suitable domain for them to enter and assert themselves, generally dominate proceedings, and if possible, take-over. In other words, collaboration in art is as much about managing group psychology as it is about production.

(21 September 2018)