MFA YEAR 1 COLLABORATIVE WORKSHOP CONTINUED
PROFESSIONAL CASE STUDIES
At the end of the first session, we requested a list of materials to use the following day based on the ideas that we had generated:
1. aluminum foil and plastic food wrap
2. balloons and air pump
3. ribbons and fabric
4. found objects
5. fragile things
6. bubble wrap
We spent the following day attempting to create resolved works of art from the various materials collected by our collaborators. We split off into groups, or worked individually (as I did), periodically consulting our fellows. Over the course of the session we found that it was very difficult to collaborate with a large group of people and that we were more productive in smaller groups, often with someone in a leadership role.
One student who had taken on a leadership role expressed concern that she has been “too bossy.” We reassured her that it was necessary and productive for her to take charge. This also brought up a discussion about the role of gender in a group dynamic. It was noted that the somewhat pejorative term, “bossy,” is seldom used in reference to male leadership. The conversation inspired me to replace “bossy” with more empowering adjectives like “authoritative” and “decisive."
I spent the day arranging the fragile objects into a sculptural work with two self imposed rules:
All of the objects must be used.
Only the objects must be used.
Along with the rule inherent in the game:
The piece had to be resolved and installed in one day.
These constraints meant that adhesives couldn’t be used to stabilize the work, which would have detracted from the theme of fragility. I began by building precarious little towers out of the objects. When they collapsed, I incorporated the broken fragments. The exercise produced a state of mind that I recall experiencing as a child-- the seriousness and integrity of play, of being utterly absorbed in activity. There is a kind of even-keel satisfaction in making. In my practice, art making is an investigation or exploration of an idea or material, very much like play. The suspended objects and spires are forms that always captured my imagination as child. This piece became an homage to that fascination. It is overtly about fragility, broaching the subjects of error, slippage, and inutility. Although far outside of my usual media, somehow this sculpture was related to my more illustrative works-- delicate, and strangely whimsical.
During the viewing, people were so careful and concerned about accidentally damaging these useless and broken towers. They gingerly skirted around it as if the wind of their movements might cause it to collapse at any moment.
The Final Stages:
At the end of the workshop we came together to edit our show. We eliminated a part of the installation made of dead leaves and plastic wrap. The organic material lessened both the visual and thematic impact of the highly synthetic installations. The balloon piece and the foiled walls struck a chord while the dried leaves and sagging plastic wrap only added a sour note. Although the concept was originally born of a desire to juxtapose organic and man made materials, the discordance didn’t work within the exhibition as a whole.
Nell Sully took notes at our final discussion which became a stream of collective consciousness project statement:
"The (our) privilege of Irresponsibility"
A collaborative experiment workshop with Richard Layzell : psycho temporal
MFA year 1
24th November 2013
We are the stream...Colour/Interface/Found Objects/fragility/Sound/Interior and Exterior Intervention/ Tin Foil+cling film. We overlapped with each other. It was materials driven. Choices, Pathways, directions. We did other things. We started through playing. Time Limit. Materials limit. Making without planning. Letting it happen without over-thinking. Stretching the materials, lead by materials and spontaneity. Chance in Art. We gave the locus (?) of control to others. We made without anxiety, the collaboration removed anxiety. Free. Invitations to others to bring things in. Found clear conceptual frameworks and a set of intentions by chance. Party in a petri-dish. A parallel to putting on a party. Adds to expectation of 'event'. Hey it's close to Christmas and the end of term. Overall the workshop was a chance to work outside of our individual practices. For me, it was an opportunity to let chance and others input launch an idea, to separate from my usual sources of inspiration. It represents the possibility of fulfilling my artistic practice with methods that I hadn’t previously considered. At this point it’s a seed that just beginning to sprout, perhaps not yet poking it’s pale head through the soil.