I wanted to start by saying that working with other people on projects or individual pieces is pretty much an issue of space. And by that I mean most specifically, social space. Once I understood this, collaborative projects began to make more and more sense in relation to the things I had been working on up to that point: history, democracy, everyday life, work and leisure... social activities in a public sphere. -ML
As a simple beginning, our collaboration was born out of conversations as friends. Through these basic interactions not only is valuable content realized and developed but also the importance of the act of the interaction itself. By engaging in a dialogue about an idea, the idea is developed much faster than if the idea is left alone in the hands of the individual. So in a sense, these collaborations are physical extensions of those conversations. -RO
The nature of our collaboration? I suppose we're in some way just a tag-team trying to wrestle with some problem of our own choosing. If one of us gets in a bind we stick our hand out, and whammo! Here's some fresh legs. Working with people during all phases of a project differs from normal studio work in that there's an active dialogue (not only verbal) that coincides with the actual decision-making and building of the work itself. I don't want to get too much into the per formative aspects of this next statement, but this dialogue becomes part of the work. It is integral. And moreover, through and within this dialogue, certain things happen that are not likely to happen when one has worked alone on something. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes not. It's fun to work with other people. The studio can be a lonely place.
On a very basic level, there is a great deal of energy created by 2 or more people working together. Just having conversations about work you have done alone or work you are thinking about invigorates and catalyzes the work because you are letting another voice into it. So, when making work from the get-go with others, the energy and problem solving is even greater. -RO
The kinds of projects we've been working on entail the construction of an additional architectural space within the gallery or what-have-you we've got before us and then proceeding to install work in and around this space in relation to the newly complicated spatial context. By having other artists involved in this process (artists invited to participate, mind you, not to just contribute a previously constructed element), the project has a potential to multiply and also confound meaning within a given space. -ML
Because of the form of our projects, each participant is able to maintain some individuality while still being part of a bigger piece. The individual works have a dialogue with each other as well as with the physical and ideological context. By creating these situations that somehow are a balance between individual and communal donation, an interesting thing happens with ego. Because the ego can't be so prevalent the work is released to be effective in more ways than perhaps originally intended. Thus the individual learns more about the work and it's potential. This is not to say that individual practice is negative or bad, but rather that working in a group or with another individual is a great exercise for the practice that does happen alone. -RO
The multiplicity of participants also has the effect of de-emphasizing individual works which can be especially liberating if one wishes to concentrate on some small nuanced thing. This is not to say that working in a crowd is not without rigor, just that there seem to be more chances to take and the risks perhaps do not seem so great. Collectively we can go and deal with some idea that would be a little daunting for someone to handle alone. Participation is the sole condition of membership. -ML
Personally, my practice as an artist has been greatly enriched by these collaborations. When artists leave a community like school, it can be a lonely world in your studio. By actively working with each other the dialogue that a place like school creates, is continued. There is also a "Go Team" attitude that really helps. We and the people we work with feel as if we are pulling each other along. -RO
After grad school, I feel the main issue was how to actually get the work made. I have the creative / critical / intellectual / etc. toolbox to get started, but, upon moving to New York, I suddenly needed to find the physical space and emotional and financial resources to actually make the thing. This is not something they teach in Grad school. Most of my friends came here without gallery representation and many still haven't gotten "picked up", so there's another problem, once you get the making thing out of the way how does this idea get circulated? With all the extra space we have in our lofts, it almost seems inevitable that we would team up on after-school projects to make and talk and show. -ML
So much of art making in the context of the "art world" is about constantly feeling on the outside of what's going on. So making these events happen is like making your own interior, your own inside. Instead of just trying to fit into the machine, you begin to make your own machine. -RO
While showing work in makeshift spaces was an obvious thing to do, it never occurred to me to replicate the conditions of the gallery space. Making fake houses or storefronts to work in and around is much more interesting than making a fake gallery. I think that working on projects with other people (not necessarily artists) often has a loosening effect on my individual practice.
This has mostly to do with a broadening of perspective and the relative ease with which groups can accomplish things. At other times the effect is the opposite where the collaborative work takes care of some ideas that don't necessarily fit so tightly with my private studio work therefore the studio work can maintain a certain focus. Some times the projects are like assembling an army and other times it's the Max Fischer Players. I think collaborative projects seem to materialize much faster than the usual individual shtick.Something about teamwork, let's not forget that I taught Pioneering merit badge at Boy Scout Camp... -ML
Rachel Owens is an artist living and working in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She and several co-horts have maintained the project space Project Green since spring of 2000 in Greenpoint. More information on past and upcoming events at that space can be found at www.project-green.com.
Matthew Lusk is an artist living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where he has maintained a project space called Weather Records since early 2001. Updated information on current, past, and upcoming installations and events can be found at www.weather-records.net.