While contemporary debates rage over ownership, copyright and intellectual property, collaborative practices proliferate between artists, architects, designers and institutions. Today, even artistic practices that do not openly purport to be collaborative often, nevertheless, draw technicians, curators, performers, administrators and viewers into their production processes. Despite this, the dominant conception of visual art remains that it is made by solo practitioners, lionised individuals whose names title monographic exhibitions and texts. Due to the value of the artist’s signature and the cult of the artist-genius, the market favours authorship that is singular rather than plural. Fine art is privileged and interdisciplinarity is marginalised or viewed as anomalous. Consequently, collaboration has suffered critical neglect and historical analyses of interdisciplinarity are scant.
Collaboration can be defined as ‘the action of working with someone to produce something’ with notions of cooperation, collectivity and co-production encompassed within this broad definition. Whereas current scholarship focuses on the ideology of participation or the politics of collective action, my thesis addresses collaboration as a creative method. By investigating sites and technologies of collaborative labour, this research offers new insights into the artistic practice of ‘working with’. In order to interrogate the material traces of authorship, I ask how collaboration is inscribed in images, objects and spaces. A challenge in my project is locating co-authorship in a history dominated by solo works and celebrated names, I counter this by examining archival material that subverts the logic of single authorship: fragments, ephemera, recycled images, unsigned and unfinished works
In post-war Britain, a network of artists, architects, engineers and designers gathered at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. Loosely identified as the Independent Group (IG), their activities reimagined creative collaboration after the Second World War. Taking the IG as a nexus of collaborative and interdisciplinary practices, I map my research around them, examining the sites and technologies that engendered their collaborative work. My interest in collaboration stems from my work as archivist for the Nigel Henderson Estate. Henderson was of vital influence for the IG, acting as a point of convergence and distribution of radical ideas from academia, politics and artistic avant-gardes. Situating Henderson as the locus of my research, I offer new insights into collaborative practice and artistic authorship, grounded in my close contact with his work.