Working in a Collaborative Group

     I am really enjoying the process of collaborating with other artists. Collaboration is something that I unfortunately rarely do. Sophomore year at the Corcoran I had to do a collaborative project. I chose to do the project with a ceramic artist, Antea Roberts. It was actually a lot of fun. She had some really great ideas. At the time, I limited myself to two-dimensional graphite drawings. Antea was creating three-dimensional self portraits using clay. I can not remember how or why we decided to create a drawing but we did. We both began drawing directly on the 18 x 24 paper at the same time. Eventually the lines of our utensils began to cross and what once was an individual adventure became a collaborative work. We developed a narrative and tried to merge our unique styles and ideas into one. After we started working the composition became important. The work was very colorful and filled with line work. We both were very proud of our accomplishment. 

     This leads me to address the need for collaborative work in the education field. I laugh at the idea of being an art teacher, who never collaborates but constantly encourages students to participate in group work. I think the collaborative experience can be a little awkward for some but learning how to communicate with others and appreciate other ideas besides your own is imperative for educators and students. Educators need to become comfortable with the idea of teamwork. With the collaborative experience outside the classroom, educators can truthfully explain to their students the importance of group work. I have met many art teachers who do not collaborate with other educators. Sometimes the teachers really are not working with the students but dictating how they want the foreground and background of a picture to look. Having the experience of collaborating with others broadens the educators perspective on the creative process in and out of the classroom.

collaborative thoughts

It seems that since this class began, I have noticed so many mentions of collaborative art-making. I guess I am just more aware of it in general now that I am in a specifically collaborative class. I see collaboration referenced in terms of both artwork that is being currently produced and in terms of using collaborative work with students as a valuable art education tool.

As I think more about our project, and the different levels of collaboration involved, I am feeling like there are so many different directions that we could take it in. I have been thinking a lot about how to structure the collaborative art that I ask my students to engage in. It is more complicated than I initially would think it would be to design a collaborative project. There are a lot of nuances of participating in collaborative work, and I think there are different nuances for different types of participants. High school students, for example, will approach a collaborative art assignment very different than graduate students or working artists. It seems that collaboration can mean so many different things depending on one's perspective. It could be frightening for someone who might not have confidence in his/her artistic ability, or on the contrary, it could offer freedom of creativity and expression to those who feel less pressure when working with others. In thinking about designing a collaborative activity/assignment for others, I have been forced to consider many subtleties of collaboration that I wouldn't otherwise, or only on a more personal level. Some of these subtleties are logistical (how will all my students work together on a drawing--it can't all happen at the same time) and others are more theoretical ( will my students be open to the idea of collaboration? what will they think of de-authorization? Should I present ideas/examples of collaboration before they work, or not?).

I am excited to be both engaging in a collaborative work and at the same time, introducing a collab. assignment to my students. I think it will present a really interesting parallel.


French New Wave + Colab = NYC Punk

Last spring I took a took an art history class titled Post-Modern, Post-Hong Kong, Post-Narrative Film (PoMoPoHoKo for 'short'). One of the first movements we studied in this course was French New Wave. I learned that this style of filmmaking grew mainly by untrained young men attempting to fill the void caused from previous filmmakers who had stopped working because of World War II.

These men worked to capture the feelings of shakiness, uncertainty, and instability their societies felt during, and in the aftershock of, the war. From a desire to achieve this 'shaky' aesthetic, and the general lack of training by new wannabe auteurs, French New Wave films were built from quick-cuts, vibrating camera work, blurred images, and confusing layers of sounds and sights. The genre grew to dominate the film discourse in much of Europe during the 1960s.

A parallel style occurring in our parallel English-speaking universe seems to have been punk. Punk began in Great Britain and eventually crossed over to the United States in the 1970s. In the US the Punk aesthetic mutated into something uniquely grotesque and disgruntled. It incorporated the violent subjects like torture and bondage into the thematic and aesthetic template of New Wave.

I was shocked when I read about Colab's supposed role in integrating New Wave to the US and assimilating into/to become "New York punk." Sure, now that I have thought about it, I can see the similarities between French New Wave and British/US Punk; the suspense, the instability, a general feeling of always being disjointed and uncomfortable (either with the story being told or with society and politics).

I do not think this article gave French New Wave enough credit. David E. Little seems suspiciously attached to the idea that Colab coined the New Wave/New York punk hybrid aesthetic. If I read Little's description of Colabian (the imaginary adjective form of "Colab") punk outside of the context of the article I would assume the author was describing a French New Wave film. Descriptions of X Motion Picture Magazine and the NYC punk aesthetic as a whole include: "crude, unfinished, amateurish," "self-consciously pasted," "homemade," "authentic," "assembled... by hand," "thin, [and] inexpensive" with "cut-and-pasted construction with unregistered lines, blurred ink, tilted photos, and overwriting." Every single one of those descriptive terms could have been similarly "cut-and-pasted" from reviews of French New Wave films.

Little does mention that (French) New Wave styles are from the 1960s. While he indirectly admits that New Wave precedes New York punk, I believe he does not pay enough respect to its apparent influence on Colab's "new" punk style. The author claims Colab "quickly integrated" the style with punk to exhibit "a more gritty and violent punk aesthetic." While the phrase isn't inherently malicious, I wish it was reworked to give more credit to the great tour de force that invented that beloved yet "crude, unfinished, amateurish" genre of French New Wave.

In short, if you a) love NYC punk and want to round out you knowledge of it or b) like its general aesthetics but don't have an interest in S&M, check out French New Wave films. I recommend L' Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year in Marienbad).