“What does it mean to be creative as conscious social activity—to create a commons, rather than individualizing creativity?”—Joshua McPhee (in Schultz and Peters, 2012)
During around three years of different iterations, this project attempted to understand moments of collaboration by enabling artists to come together in residency and exhibition processes. These experiments, mostly to discuss the possibilities and reach of future artistic collaborations in digitally networked contexts, grouped artists and other practitioners to create speculative works around collective operation modes.
Iterations involved translating open source methodologies originating from the digital realm into analogue art-practices, e.g. the methodic recurrence produced a series of conflicts and circumstances that enriched the process of creation.
Seeking a common production, the experiments demanded particular group dynamics hard to isolate. Nevertheless, several patterns were traced and discoveries happened. When we analyse the different gatherings we encounter that each institution imprinted particularities in the creation process. On the one hand, each institution was in charge of creating a residency, and the process to invite/select the artists was different among them. From word of mouth to selection by open call, these different proceedings had a substantial repercussion on the output, that is to say, the process of coming together was determined by the selection, and by doing so, based on the institutional background. On the other hand, the different spaces impacted the process of creation by articulating materialities, and ways of production were determined by the in-situ situation. For example: the residency of Transformatorio that took place in Giampirelli, Sicily, Italy, was made in cooperation with the town, and the type of space and the public were intertwined in the type of propositions that appeared—theatre pieces, work in public space, concerts, tours, etc. Here the number of artists (around 40) made a “total” or common produce, a big compound in public space. In the case of Iterations Graz, for example, the residency took place among five artists directly selected by the institution, and two artists selected by the others (one from the past residency, one of the future residency). This iteration was more intimate, and so the products (iterations-0 and iterations-phase-ii), both in-situ exhibitions, showed a strong situated relation with the gallery space and a common production.
This double agency of institutional strength and spatiality needs to be seen necessarily as a political influence over the artistic product—coming together by decision into a space stipulates then a form of arrival with less freedom, at least, than in the natural conditions of a self-directed collective formation.
“Space-commoning is not, therefore, simply the sharing of space, considered as a resource or an asset, but a set of practices and inventive imaginaries which explore the emancipating potentialities of sharing. Common space is both a concrete product of collectively developed institutions of sharing and one of the crucial means through which these institutions take shape and shape those who shape them.” (Stavrides, 2016, p. 7)
Sharing depends on the surrounding and on the persons that articulate the situation of commoning.
During the iterative stages, it was possible to distinguish some conditions of the collective process. The contact or synapsis is the first approach that occurs among the artists, getting to know each other through activities of leisure (cooking, eating, smoking), and it seems to be fundamental to establish a minimal base of trust to start the co-creation process. This process is not a complete dilution in one another, it seems to happen as a sort of membrane by which information is being filtered. In this zone of exchange a cloud of knowledge and practices brings together the artists. It was interesting to see the use of resources of communication, e.g. the “padding”. Traces of working methods of one artist appear to be reaching another in a course that could be called contamination. Far from the negative connotation that this term acquires from religious contexts or the hygiene methaphors, in the artistic process, contamination is a two-way street. It requires the flexibility to understand the other and at the same time, the strength to keep individuality. Most of the time this leads to becoming another, by which the forces that encounter give in a part of themselves to construct a new individual or form, a compound that produces, by negotiation, very different creative output than the individuality. This form not necessarily loses depth, but it starts a completely independent way, which does not belong to one or another. But until now the process seems to be centred in a dialogical argumentation, that is contradictory to the collective process structured under Iterations. It is clearly understood that these processes are not between two forces, but multiple, and vary in intensity and form depending greatly on the group. We can denominate this stadium complex symbiosis, a place of coexistence where the bodies act in constellation, together but also in independence. As mentioned by Vera John-Steiner, a position from which ideas appear—“Generative ideas emerge from joint thinking, from significant conversations, and form sustained, shared struggles to achieve new insights by partners in thought.” (John-Steiner, 2000, p. 3) This step seems to be the most relevant for the inquiry of the common production, and it is fundamental for the question on simultaneous work.