Collaborative Art: Theory and Practice of Working with a Community

ARHA 310

Artist in Residence Wendy Ewald

Visiting Artists Harrell Fletcher, Eric Gottesman, and Fazal Sheikh

Spring 2012

 This course will examine the approaches of various contemporary artists to creating collaborative work.  Over the last two decades a growing number of artists have adopted a mode of working that is radically different from the usual modernist model.  These artists are working as collaborators with people or groups outside the world of art - with children, senior citizens, sanitation workers, or residents of a particular neighborhood.  The artists often create work with, not for a community, and share decision making with people not ordinarily given a place in the world of museums or other art world sites.  The results are artworks that express a variety of social and aesthetic positions. In general, the work is intertwined with progressive educational philosophies and radical democratic theory. 

 Some of the issues examined will be: What is the special attraction for artists of working collaboratively?  What are the roles of the artist, community, and audience?  How does one attribute quality or success to collaborative projects?  What is the relationship between process and product?

 This course will examine the work of artists working in various media, including Ewald, Gottesman and Sheikh’s methods for working in photography and Harrell Fletcher’s transformative practice of making collaborative public works.  The students will be exploring the concept of collaborative biography with residents of public housing in Amherst. They will partner with residents to make collaborative art pieces and complete several short papers.  Weekly class discussions will provide students the opportunity to reflect upon their own experiences and observations as artists.  They will also read about and discuss collaboration, and social issues, as it relates to the people they will be working with.

Collaborative Project

You should devote at least two hours a week to working in the field, interviewing or working with Amherst collaborators. At the end of the semester you will be expected to present a finished collaborative artwork in the medium of your choice and a narrative of the semester long process. 

Leading Class Discussion

You will be responsible for leading one discussion of the assigned readings.  This entails writing a brief summary of the readings as well as coming up with key questions for small group discussion.

The readings will be on the web.

Reflection Papers

You will be asked to write several one to two page papers about your reflections on the work you are doing and its relationship to the readings.

Assignment:  Read Declan McGonagle piece in Who Am I in This Picture:  Amherst College Portraits and Ewald’s introduction in Secret GamesJanuary 26th

Fayerweather 217

What is Collaboration?

View “Kids” a documentary about four artists’ processes

Discussion:  What does artistic collaboration mean to you?

Assignment:  Write one page reflection on what collaborative art means to you in relation to McGonagle’s ideas.

Read: Kimmelman, Michael, The New York Times, New York Times Publishing

Finkelpearl, Tom and Rick Lowe, Project Row Houses

 February 2nd 

Fayerweather 217

Amherst College Collaborative Projects - Building Community through Listening

View film on Project Row Houses

Discuss Rick Lowe readings

The interview:  Create questions for class members.

Assignment:  Read Who Am I in This Picture: Amherst College Collaborative Portraits. Record interview with one student in the class using questions generated.  Transcribe full interview and edit to two pages.

February 9th

Bangs Center Glass Room

Planning a Project for the Greater Amherst Community

Maura Plante and Evie talk about the Senior Center, a support group for senior citizens in Amherst. 

Meet with community members you will work with.

Make list of questions for interviewing your collaborators with Maura and Evie.

Assignment: Read Conversation between Tom Finkelpearl and Grant Kester, March 2007, and read Beuys, Joseph, Energy Plan for the Western Man: Writings by and interviews with the artist

Visit with your collaborator and write a 1-2 page paper of your initial observations.

February 16th

Creating community through Portraiture

Discuss Kester and Beuys readings

View Kutlug Ataman's video installation Kuba

Discuss Who Am I in This Picture: Amherst College Collaborative Portrait

Assignment: View Hunters and Bombers, National Film Board and Staging the Indian

February 23rd

Visiting Artist Eric Gottesman

Editing and exhibiting a collaborative project

Work with Gottesman and Ewald on editing raw material for an exhibition with the Innu people of Shehashit, Labrador

Discuss readings and film

Assignment: Write a reflection paper about Beuys’ notion of social sculpture and Kester’s ideas about collaborative art and how it relates to Rick Lowe’s work, the Labrador project and your Amherst project.  Read critical response in Dawoud Bey:  The Chicago Project. Complete at least one interview with your collaborator and edit for class presentation.

March 1st

View Dawoud Bey’s Chicago Project

Discuss Dawoud Bey: The Chicago Project

Present one interview and a plan for your artistic collaboration

Assignment: Continue interviews and make plan for collaborative art project.

Read excerpts from Hyde, Lewis, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property and Jacir, Emily Amoula il Majnoona,, 12/14/2006, Emily Jacir's Blog from Ramallah: Bus No. 23

4:30 Eric Gottesman lecture Pruyne Lecture Hall, 115 Fayerweather

March 8th

Addressing History -- Community collaborations 

Emily Jacir’s, Where We Come From

Jeremy Deller’s The Battle of Orgreave

Discuss Emily Jacir readings and Lewis Hyde, The Gift.

Assignment: Harrell Fletcher reading,

March 15th 

Visiting Artist Harrell Fletcher

Discuss Fletcher readings.

Discuss projects and process.

Assignment: Read intro to Anna Deveare Smith’s Fires in the Mirror. 

Harrell Fletcher lecture 4:30 Pruyne

March 29th Creating Community through Portraiture

View Fires in the Mirror

Assignment: Write a reflection paper addressing how Deveare Smith’s ideas about character relate to your project and the concept of artistic collaboration as it relates to portraiture.

Fazal Sheikh readings

April 4th panel discussion with Fazal Sheikh and Wendy Ewald 4:30 Pruyne

Discuss Amherst projects and process.

Discuss Fazal Sheikh readings.

April 5th Visiting Artist Fazal Sheikh

Assignment:  Read excerpt from Pictures from Home: Larry Sultan, by Larry Sultan

April 12th   

Discuss Anna Deveare Smith reading

Family collaborations:  View Joyce Kozloff, Larry Sultan and Julian Germain

Discuss Larry Sultan Reading

Assignment:  Write a two to three page paper about the Amherst project and what you have learned.  Include in your essay how your understanding of your collaborators has changed throughout the semester. Make appointment for individual meetings to discuss completed project.

April 19th

Your ideas of collaboration

Present the evolution of your thinking about collaborative art and how it relates to your project

Assignment:  Make appointment for individual meetings to discuss completed project.

April 26th

Present work to date and plans for final exhibition

Finish editing the documentation of your project. Write collaborative artist statement.

May 3rd