Community. Engagement. Advocacy. Humor.
This is less about collaboration and more about the hazards & joys of opening artwork up to communal imput, by way of an extension to the question.
'The Yearning' was a large scale textile installation for Sculpture by the Sea, Sydney, Australia in November 2011. The proposal was for a 'migration' of textile sea creatures to cluster on the rocks, cross the walkway, head up a watercourse & cliff area and make it up the side of a set of units above. About half a million people view the exhibition every year (with about 110 artists selected by jury) and for a long time I had wanted to make at least one of the artworks a communal one, which involved members of the public and helped 'demystify' sculpture as being an elite, inaccessible artform. I proposed to complete the bulk of the work myself but to include works from people responding to a call-out.
Via social media, word-of-mouth & leaflets in local shops I invited people to make their own 'slug' sea creature. I worked out the acceptable parameters for inclusion :they had to be yellow with a pink mouth, and to follow the general form in order to fit into the herd. Modifications were ok. I set up a blog with instructions on how to download a pattern for both sewn textiles and knitted forms, which had step-by-step photographs & directions.
So, how did the experiment work out? From a fairly small scale call-out we ended up with about 40 slugs, which greatly added to the 100 I was able to complete.We had a very competent knitting group turn out a small army of beatiful baby slugs, families who made slugs with their children and then brought them down to see them, a slug all the way from Germany (made by a friend with his wife's underpants as the mouth parts..?!), one slug who had to be gently disengaged from a tutu on arrival (inappropriately dressed), and some slugs which were ..um...a little clumsily made. The latter pieces threw up some interesting questions : did they bring down the work as a whole? Were they interesting as a way to look at repetition, copying a central idea? Perhaps for me, perhaps in a different context, however in this context without many of the public knowing that the work had involved a communal element (most people didn't have catalogues, which credited the makers communally) these peices looked a little shabby in comparison to the rest. However I did include them, and the person who had made them (a 40 year old father) said the joy his 3 & 4 year-old children expressed upon finding them in the show after seeing them being made on the kitchen bench was incomparable. They lived nearby, and insisted on going down to visit 'our slugs' as often as possible. We also had a drinks night for the makers generally where they could meet & talk to exhibition attendees about making the works. The peice was widely featured in the media & won the 'Director's Choice' award. It was a joy to meet all the different people who became involved in the project.
So, in conclusion, what did I learn?. Well, I'd definitely do it again, but I might veer in either of two directions & with a clearer delineation...an open call where I was facilitating the process more & stepping back from the making, or a finite call to skilled makers where we worked on a piece together. I also now have the beginnings of a database for some red-hot knitters, so who knows what big projects we might tackle!!....( see if you can spot the works by the knitters in the video..) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwO5dk-PBDU&feature=share
Fantastic outcome for your project, they look amazing. I love the slugs, and I can see an army of them slowly heading towards Tamarama and taking over the whole waterfront.
Thank you. Actually, they are taking over my backyard at the moment, waiting for a wash and de-stuff!!xx