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Even Simple Collaborations Provide a Necessary Paradox for Artists

A “study center” at the Cooper Union considers the dynamics of joint work efforts.

by Diana Shi
Oct 15 2016, 12:10pm

Project 404, Protocol of Inhabitation, 2016, practice documentation. Images courtesy the artists

Artists often fluctuate between working in solitude and choosing more collaborative routes, like working as part of a collective. Different skills are required for each practice, and working with larger groups necessitates a proper channel of communication. In a group show this fall at New York’s School of Art at The Cooper Union, artwork focused on cooperative work structures operates alongside free workshops aimed to address the conditions necessary for collaboration. The show is described as “a study center,” emphasizing the concept of listening when creating. Some of the included are Chloë Bass, Matthew Buckingham, Judith Leemann, and Dave McKenzie.

The show’s title, WOUND, is the brainchild of exhibit creator Caroline Woolard, who uses the dictionary definition of the word—“to mend time and attention"—to inform the overarching theme of the show. In addition to workshops on listening and collaboration, the show is a serene location for peaceful contemplation.

Project 404, Tools, 2016

Tool, dimensions ,
variable, 2016, Caroline Woolard

In one part of WOUND, a covered canvas frankly announces, “I propose we meet once a year every year until one of us can’t or won’t,” while another piece is a straightforward photograph of a technical manual written in Chinese.

Ultra-red, What is the Sound of the Border in Oporto?, 2011, workshop documentation

Next to these is an image from a workshop session: a drawing of human footprints, seemingly tracing out dance steps, which move left, right, and diagonally, as a numbered list reads:

“The negotiations of touching in public, five phases:

1) Only at the end;

2) Only when drunk;

3) Tentatively;

4) All the time;

5) Only when we remember.

None of these are saddest. It is all a struggle.”

Dave McKenzie, Proposal, 2016

Reflective of the theme of interaction inherent in the exhibit, the text unmasks the mind's silent hesitancies, which become skittish at the notion of overt human contact. 

Ultra-red, Listening Session, 2014, workshopdocumentation

Chloë Bass, The Book of Everyday Instruction, Chapter Four: It’s amazing we don’t have more fights, 2016

Project 404, 2016

Collaboration is a tricky task that is required in a myriad of industries and walks of life, and it drives what Woolard calls the “solidarity economy.” A self-described maker of “international barter networks that continue to grow,” Woolard is a 2007 graduate of Cooper Union. The Creators Project spoke to Woolard about her organization of WOUND:

"I see this study center as a demonstration of the future of art school. Art departments will be the places where interdisciplinary teams are formed, utilizing the practices of listening, attention, and collaboration that this study center honors. [...] Just as dancers take classes throughout their lives, WOUND aims to become a permanent practice space for group work in the visual arts."

Operator’s Manual: Publication Version 1.0, 2016

WOUND is on display at the School of Art at Cooper Union from October 14 to November 11, 2016. For more information, click here.

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