Remarkable and Curious Conversations

Curated by Cally Trench

Martina O'Shea
Cake and Art at Martina's

R&CC: The ArtistsR&CC: The Interactions

Martina O'Shea was joined at her studio in Hackney Wick by five other participants in Remarkable and Curious Conversations for tea, cake and conversation from 7pm to 10pm on Thursday 6th May 2010. The other artists were Philip Lee, Steve Perfect, Cally Trench, Imogen Welch, and Mary Yacoob. Many thanks to Martina, who writes: I thought it was a great way of getting some constructive feedback on projects we are working on in a relaxed setting.

Sketchbook working drawing by Mary Yacoob

Mary Yacoob
Sketchbook working
drawing for a vinyl modular
floor maze
, 2010. 42 x 30 cm
Ink and graphite on paper.

Pool by Steve Perfect

Pool by Steve Perfect

Steve Perfect, Pool, April 2010
Ink, emulsion, plant juice, plaster, glitter on paper
Approx 1.5 x 1.5 metres

Camouflage: Dazzled by Judy Goldhill, 
Philip Lee and Cally Trench

Judy Goldhill, Philip Lee and Cally Trench
Camouflage: Dazzled, 11th December 2009
Colour photograph

Quantitative Easing - Briefcase by Imogen Welch

Imogen Welch, Quantitative Easing - Briefcase, 2009
Briefcase & money rubbings
Height 12cm, width 45cm, depth 34cm

Mary Yacoob writes: I presented to the group a working drawing and some printed background research relating to a floor piece I'm making for an exhibition at Payneshurvell gallery in Old Street this June. I will make an A3 drawing of a circular maze which will be scanned and enlarged and printed on vinyl. The drawing is inspired by Dante's circles of Hell; the circular maze in Chartres Cathedral, which pilgrims would follow on their knees as a penance; and the use by the architect Corbusier of the Modulor man to measure the ideal proportions of man and architecture. I got some very useful feedback from the group, particularly Philip and Martina, about the scale of the piece and the colour and texture of the vinyl.

Steve Perfect writes: I very much enjoyed the get-together and have been wondering what to write that might be a bit more interesting than a summary of what happened and a general statement of appreciation. I thought I might focus on the brief conversation we had about how collaborations actually work, and, as a result of some completely coincidental reading this evening, I found a passage that I think makes an interesting starting point.

The Politics of Collaboration: At the recent meeting, as we talked about the various pieces of collaborative work, particularly the current work that involves Judy photographing Cally painting Philip performing, I began to think about how collaborations work. As artists we're used to making our own decisions and making our decisions work. Our work is often (though not always) an act of personal expression. When we collaborate we come up against a similar force or forces and while we may, in principle, have a similar view in sight, we all know that two people standing in the same place facing the same way will still not see quite the same view. As the work progresses it may be that each artist takes up an individual role within the project, as is the case with Cally, Philip and Judy. This reduces the potential for conflict, as each person sticks to their own role, but it still allows everyone to affect the outcome and possibly take the project in an unforeseen direction that may be unwelcome to the others. Discussion and negotiation can overcome these issues and I'm sure it plays a major part in many projects. But then there's the time when each person goes away and continues to think about the project alone. There is also the question of hierarchy, particularly tacit hierarchy. How often will one person acquiesce to something quietly on the basis that it's not their project as such, and that they're just helping someone out? Under these circumstances does the first person realise that they are being ceded leadership in this way?

In some ways this is an uncomfortable area to consider because it deals with relationships and so much to do with relationships is unspoken. However, relationships are special and the work that comes out of them is special too: more than the sum of its parts, if you like. My reading today took me here: 'I do not produce meaning, or knowledge, or thought, on my own. I do not produce my life alone. It is always with. So often, however, this with becomes forgotten. Indeed, so often, far too often, this with becomes annihilated as the power of hatred pits us against the world. Yet it is with that furthers my becoming.' (Yve Lomax) I think an analysis of with in the context of Remarkable and Curious Conversations could be interesting and valuable.

I'd like to write some more about how collaborations work and would welcome thoughts from collaborators. I feel that the more instant and less thought-through these are, the more valuable they could prove: less opportunity for revisionism and nachtraglichkeit to affect impressions of events. It may be that misunderstanding and disagreement are part of what makes collaboration materially different from the work we produce alone. And if there are experiences of perfect harmony, how valuable to discover under what circumstances they occur.

Cally Trench writes: We took along some of the photographs taken during one of the Camouflage shoots, which are a collaboration between Judy Goldhill, Philip Lee and myself. There are a lot of photographs, and they have different impacts; some emphasise Philip's body, some seem to create a narrative, and others create confusion about where his body starts and finishes. It was useful and interesting to see them through other people's eyes, to hear what they felt worked best and how the photographs could be shown, and get suggestions about ways to move forward.

Philip Lee writes in response to Steve's comments: For me collaboration is as varied as fingerprints! I think it is best when it's taken as 'working with others' in any way. It is much better not to restrict its meaning. It occurs to me that collaboration may also change from minute to minute, and possibly from session to session - I wonder whether it is dependent on the mood of the participants? There is always a sense of anticipation when working collaboratively because you never know what will happen. At its best it is dynamic.

I 'try' to approach collaboration with a 'fully' open mind, in the hope that I will at least be more receptive to others' ideas and needs, aspirations, creative processes, as a result. I confess that I never completely put aside my agenda/ego but by 'trying' to 'fully' I am more likely to do what I hope for in collaboration, which is:

- to go somewhere I could not go alone
- experience that which is unexpected
- to be braver in my actions, ideas and aspirations and ambitions, performances, object making etc, anything!
- to enjoy the process of working more
- to make better work.

While the body and mind are essential to my work, working with others is a must. I have to work with others because I can't physically, mentally and, perhaps most importantly, emotionally work alone. I need people, one way or another, in every aspect of what I do: to develop ideas and use materials; in order to be able to perform, record and re-present stuff. There is very little I can do alone except think and write, and even these I do with others in mind! Isolation in art is unthinkable. Ultimately, we all need people to look at and engage with the work, thus completing the art-making process.

Imogen Welch writes: I received some valuable feedback on the piece of sculpture that I took along and contributed to stimulating debates on work in progress by others in the group. Particularly interesting and relevant to all group members - a debate on authorship and accreditation in collaborative projects, or 'Whose art is it anyway?'.

Cake and Art at Martina's Cake and Art at Martina's
Cake and Art at Martina's Cake and Art at Martina's

Philip Lee
Martina O'Shea
Steve Perfect
Cally Trench
Imogen Welch
Mary Yacoob

Cally Trench's homepage