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On Collaboration

I recently attended a symposium at Middlesex University, On Collaboration 2. After having attended the first of these symposiums and been interested in the variety of responses to the theme of collaboration and my own interest in it I decided to attended this second instalment. Here I want to discuss my own thoughts on the idea of collaboration and my intention for collaborating. After the symposium, my collaborator and I had a disagreement about the why for our working together; her thoughts on this may be found here: http://katherynowens.com/2013/05/19/thoughts-on-collaboration/

Firstly, I would argue that there is no such thing as a failed collaboration. Granted, there may be intensions that have failed or instances of things not working out between collaborators however, I do not think the act of collaborating can ever fail in the sense that there is always something to be learned from working together. Difference plays an essential role in collaboration, there is difference within the self and once these assemblages become multiple then difference proliferates. It is this difference that harbours creativity. Perhaps, as a result of capitalism, we feel that we are required to constantly produce and to justify our actions in order to show that there is no ‘time wasting’ happening as, ‘time is money’. This can be extremely damaging for collaboration. I recognise that in some settings, there must be clearly defined intention in collaboration in order for people to not be exploited (although, this would then not be collaboration at all) In the case of performance making however, I believe that collaboration does not need to be so clearly defined.

It is presumable that, when we enter into collaboration within a performative, context we come with our own intentions and reasons to the why for our collaboration. Because of this, it is not essential to make these intensions known to the person or persons that we are collaborating with as something will come through our working together. There is obviously always going to be tensions when we collaborate as a result of difference, these tensions exist when working alone however, they become more outwardly clear when working with others as we may (in my own case at least) find ourselves in verbal arguments. This is important, collaboration is the place where our internal arguments have an opportunity to be aired and worked through. In my own collaborative practice we have already identified that we have similar interests and concerns that is why a dialogue was ever formed between us in the first place. She argues that, we need direction, as we both want to apply for a PhD we need to be able to justify our working. Although I agree with this, I would argue that we do not need intension, we do not know what the outcome is and by identifying an intention this would limit a creative process and would place full intension on the outcome. And yet, here I am justifying our collaboration.

I am beginning to realise the negative outcome that being negative can have. The fear of failing and the need for creating a product go hand in hand, the irony being that so much more can be achieved once we get passed this fear as to fail is to of still achieved something in the sense that it can be defined as failure. This in turn can be related to negativity, as to be negative about the work you are making a collaboration means that you are identifying that any failings are not coming from you and that you are unhappy with the work so, if it is to fail you can identify that you expressed concern before hand. Through that it is a kind of diminishing of responsibility this also refers back to the pressure of producing.

During the conference there were a number of different issues raised about collaborating, one that stuck with me most was how difficult it was to work with others. On the other hand, I find it much more difficult to work alone. This may be because I have come from a performance background where working together played an essential role in how we created work. Often, we were forced to work together; I think that this is one reason that I find that choosing to work together is a privilege and something worth exploring within itself. 

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