Friday, June 11, 2010

On Collaboration

Collaboration can be hard!
Back at CESTA, the art center in Czech republic where I lived and worked for eight years, we hosted festivals of international, interdisciplinary collaborations. Every festival had a theme, and individuals or groups would apply to then be put into collaboration groups. We would choose team members from different countries and who worked in different media. Say, a German dancer with an Australian video team, or an American performance art troupe with an Estonian Free Jazz group (that was me, my first experience participating in such a collaboration).

Sometimes these collaborations worked splendidly. Sometimes long term collaborators were made. Sometimes there were fist fights. Literally.

There are many different types of collaborations, but I'll identify two models:

1) The pie-piece model, where each member delivers a predetermined, individual piece to fit in the pie.

2) The make-a-new-pie model, where group members scramble things up and invent a new recipe. A chemical change happens and the pie is a reinvented melding of the ingredients.

I find #2 to be a truly successful model for collaboration. In #1, rogue players caring for their individual slices of pie without considering the whole is a way to work, but does not make collaboration meaningful. In #2, every individual contributes to the whole while learning from each other, adapting her/his methods, letting go of egos, and making a new project.

Like I said, it ain't easy, but I'm curious what you think.

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