From Critical Practice Chelsea
What does it mean to be a "reflective/reflexive collaborator"?
Having recently completed several long-term collaborative projects, I'm asking this question again - this time with the view of refreshing how I make sense of these initiatives in retrospect. I'm swimming in "data" - notes and emails, images and sound files. While I'm excited about archiving these projects and observing how they relate to one another, I'm also concerned with honestly understanding how my practice as a collaborator has developed in/through/around these projects.
There's also the small question of "evaluation" - an approach to making sense of experience runs the risk of doing violence to still inchoate understanding. And yet, there's also value in taking a position, even if it's just temporary.
What's the benefit of evaluation? Does it really enable one to absorb learnings from the ground up? Reflect - evaluate - apply - repeat.
Evaluation: How to make sense of data after the fact? Produce useful fictions? The art world(s) are littered with statements asserting that an exhibition or artwork does such and such, when in reality it doesn't. It's very tempting to write such a statement and them make the data fulfill the brief. If this isn't good research, at least it's creative.
So many of the collaborations with which I'm involved (and Critical Practice is no exception) become so preoccupied with doing that we lose sight of what's being done, how it's being done and why it's being done. I'm stuck by how easy for these concerns to become submerged. Granted, this can be appropriate. Sometimes it's about experimenting without a clear agenda - experimental learning can teach invaluable lessons, though exactly what these entail is not always immediately obvious. Art provides a vital context for this kind of engagement. And yet, it seems fair to say that a pivotal reason why non-instrumentalized art collaborations "fail" is because they lack coherence.
Coherence: It's been observed by my fellow collaborators that I tend to fetishize coherence at the expense of other aspects of collaborative practice. I think it's useful to consider the tandem forces that I believe give rise to this very fair observation. On the one hand, it's useful to ask how specific collaborators value (in)coherence and to what ends. Sometimes this a lack of coherence can benefit both individuals and the group. In the case of individuals, incoherence enables them to avoid taking a position and as a result, doing particular kinds of work (namely, work they don't enjoy doing). On the other hand, it's helpful to question why I personally need a sense of coherence when I'm working with others - why I need to feel like we're all on the same page. I think this relates to my tendency to view collaborative work as building something in common - something that's shared. Part of this process entails understanding what this sharing involves. It goes without saying that there will be different perceptions in play. But I sense these differences are something to cherished instead of hidden under an the holy grail of an overarching "goal". And so the question becomes: How to access these different perceptions?
This isn't always possible which begs the question: Then what? What are the possibilities for collaborating when there's generalized (in)coherence? This strikes me as an exciting question, wrapped up with that Bakhtin refers to as one's non-alibi for being - no one can live your life in your place. Ultimately, you have to be accountable for your contribution. Locating your self in the collaboration could be a first step in this process...and it's with this in mind that I aim to make sense of HTAP, UC/94% and Future Reflections.
Return to Reflections on Constructing the Thesis * Emergent Themes in my Research * Marsha Bradfield's Research Hub