Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Collaborating Potential

A while ago I wrote on my blog about collaborating with Monica Oppen. People seemed very interested in the whole question of collaboration and keen to discuss the idea further here on BAO. I’ve just published a new post on my blog looking at collaboration, particularly in relation to the book arts.

I thought I’d hop over here to stir up the topic in this forum i.e. the BAO blog space, which is a place where collaboration is already happening. However, judging by people’s comments to my original post it seems like there is interest in developing this aspect of BAO.

As a little catalyst, I thought I’d start a list of ways collaboration could work for us, but of course this is purely a conversation starter and I know that you will all have some fabulous ideas of your own.

For any readers who aren’t part of the group, I thought I’d begin by highlighting the collaborative aspects of the group, so far.

  1. When its time to choose our source material, every member is encouraged to make suggestions.
  2. The group selects the text/s to be used as inspiration by voting.
  3. We make our books or objects individually, blogging about the process at our own “comfort level”. The blog is “maintained” (ie posts are published) as a collaborative effort.
  4. Finally, the works come together as a group when they are exhibited, and so the final impression on the viewer is a cumulative group impact. Members are also free to publicise, exhibit or sell their own works apart from the group of course.

So when you write it all down like that, it looks quite an impressive, collaborative effort. But the potential is greater…if we choose! Or, if some of us choose – it isn’t necessary for everybody to start madly collaborating just because some would like it.

The obvious area where collaboration may (from time to time) be increased is in the actual making of the works. Here are a few ways this could happen:

1. Some form of “round robin”.

Group members contribute to the same physical book/s. It could just be one book that is passed around for each artist to add their bit, or we could each start one, do our bit and then pass it on to the next person in a pre-determined order.

2. Individuals pair (or trio?) up to create a single book.

There are so many ways this could be decided – members could invite another group member (who you choose would be based on whatever basis inspires you. It might be the person’s aesthetic, skills, “online personality”, common interest, star sign! whatever); names could be randomly paired;                        perhaps you have an idea for a book but can’t manage a certain aspect yourself – you could invite someone else in the group who you know has those skills. There are so many ways to work this.

3. Buddies/mentoring

With this way, I was thinking that a group member might want to learn specific skills which they know another group member has. It may be something practical or it may be more about working with someone to learn from their “process” and approach.

I’m aware we have a range of experienced and less experienced artists in the group. Some people have a way to approach their work which is well-established and seems fail-safe for them, and I think BAO is  a terrific forum with the potential to “capture” some of this artistic wisdom. We can all fall into the creative doldrums, and a lot of artists cycle in and out regularly. Its an occupational hazard, and I for one am keen to learn ways around the problem.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject. I hope you’ll all chip in with your thoughts in the comments, remembering that nobody will be forced to collaborate!!!  (it’s just as if we were at war – the choice is yours!)


Ampersand Duck said...

Fantastic post! I love it. I like especially the idea of picking a text and then all contributing to the same book as one of our BAO projects.

One way of doing this might be to pick a text and then negotiate a structure (say, a concertina book) and then each artist takes a line/chunk of text and makes a section of the book that is then constructed by someone like Monica? Just a thought...

ronnie said...

I've just read this post in relation to the other half of the collaborative story on your blog amanda - and it throws up sooo many ideas that I hardly know where to start....

maybe one way of answering this might be to actually write a full blog post in here as response?.....
hmmmmmmmmm..... thinking whilst typing (can't you hear the whirling sound of my brain trying to make headway...)

I think the only thing I'd mention in the comments bit here is how I've discovered the collaborative process of BAO extends beyond the processes of group decision making (and then individual booky making) - to include an organic group effort toward things like - exhibiting/ explaining/ contextualising what this project is..... (eg the impact 7 proposal, the effort to get edition one included as part of SCU acquisitive award) and that has been a very interesting thing to watch unfold and to experience.....

Sara Bowen said...

I agree about the potential for increased collaboration. I'm not madly enthusiastic about round-robin books, mainly because the ones I've seen have been real dogs-breakfasts of things! Perhaps I'm prejudiced: BAO has a wonderful group of artists so our quality would undoubtedly be higher! I've wondered about doing a project where we agree on a size and format (e.g., accordian binding, hard covers, 10cm x 15cm landscape or something) and one of us creates a box for the set..? I guess I see a lot of potential within the group for teaching and mentoring, and also for engaging in wider discussions about making art and making artists' books.

But behind it all, I am so impressed by what we've all produced: there is a core of activity here (and dare I say, a core group of people from Editions One and Two) who have made/are making fabulous artists' books and even when the collaboration isn't evident in the sense of deliberately working together, being a part of that collaborative circle is influencing all of us.

On a personal level, I would love to do a project where we pair up with another member to collaborate on a book. And I really like the way we've defaulted to a description of our work as "Edition One", "Edition Two" etc. In a couple of years' time there will be an impressive body of work and I can imagine someone writing about the group and commenting on how we buddied-up for Edition Four, or did a round-robin as Edition Five! Sounds good, doesn't it?!

Fiona Dempster said...

I'm on the road again (Changi Airport) so commenting will be intermittent - but I love the idea of different collaborations as well, even tho I feel as if there is a strong sense of collaborating already - the differnt roles folk take on, the sharing of knoweldge nad expertise. I guess collaborating can operate at a deeper level as Amanda suggests and all of the above sound interesting - somethign about the unity of format with options for variations on a theme by individuals...or two or three working together on a set text. I'm up for and open to them all. Thanks for starting the discussion Amanda.

Amanda said...

It's great to hear your ideas about ways we could structure future collaborations.
I know what you mean Sara about some round robins looking like "a dog's breakfast". I think it is important to set some parameters - certainly a theme or text as usual, but perhaps in terms of colour scheme or something to tie the whole thing together? At least it is pretty important that each page "respond" in some way to the preceding one/s. I think we can do it though! I like the Duck's idea of having it bound at the end, although if the end result is a single book, I think we would have to pay.
You're right Ronnie, I had forgotten about those other aspects of collaboration, but of course they are just as important.
Fiona: It's good to hear your comments as a newer member. I feel thoroughly embedded in the group so its a bit hard to judge, but its interesting to hear that the group gives off a strong sense of collaboration as it is functioning now.

moreidlethoughts said...

And tossing my little pebble into the pond...
I've been involved in a few round robin swaps (sketchbooks and poetry) and, while mostly light-hearted fun, there were, sometimes, hiccups and disappointments.But if guidelines are firmly set and adhered to, it can work.
The idea of working with a "buddy" is appealing. It's also another way of bridging the physical distance, although nothing quite beats being able to be hands-on together!
But all most certainly worth further discussion.
Could we have a show of hands of members able to undertake letterpress work for other
members? We may be moving into professional (ie, day job!) realms now.

OK. That's enough ripples from me!

Late Blooming Bohemian said...

As a bit of an outsider :) I'll be interested to see what you all come up with. I'm currently beginning a collaboration with another artist I know. We're living several thousand km's apart right now. She is in central Australia while I am down south along the coast. We're planning something based around the concepts of the vasteness of our country, distance and collaboration. It's so stimulating working with others and as artists life can be lonely chipping away in our studios if we don't at least occasionally connect and work with others!

Amanda said...

Hello LBB! Welcome! Your collaboration sounds very interesting and worthwhile. The aspect of distance sounds like it will be fascinating to explore. Will you be blogging about the experience?

Angela said...

Great ideas Amanda it all sounds very exciting. I have no experience of round robins so cannot comment. Funny, I would say dogs dinner and now I am trying to imagine which would look worse... Very interesting observation from Fiona - we are already collaborating quite well but maybe not aware of it.

I wonder if we could combine some of the collaboration ideas into the next project. For example we say it will be a sculptural book and then people who had no experience of this book format could buddy up with those that do? I am not sure where I would start with a sculptural book and have a feeling it would end up looking like a dogs breakfast, dinner and tea!

Personally I think the next project should be a sculptural book which incorporates Japanese stab binding and we use buckram. We could also present the detractors of these methods with a copy of the books ;-)

Amanda said...

A-ha! that must be that rebellious Irish spirit coming through Angela - I like it!

Angela said...

No more rebellious than your comment on Sara's trying to hard post ;-) Oh but then again you said you were being 'perverse' so now I am not sure... ;-)

Abigail Thomas said...

As another 'newbie' I can safely say that this is very much collaboration right here. Just look at all these responses! I think just the quality of the group of artists can convey a feeling of a collective. The replies and responses we get from each other here on this blog as well as on our individual blogs is so encouraging. Its like having a huge international shared studio with intermittent group critiques. I love it.