Collaboration and Engagement

This morning we continued working on the bottle sculpture, using pva glue and coloured tissue paper to decorate the plastic bottles. The groups were working so fast we had to keep running around the building to scavenge bottles from recycling bins! there were only four participants in the first session, and the participant I usually work with wasn’t there, making the class feel very quiet. There was, however, a new participant that I had not worked with previously, and his practise was very exciting. It started with him placing my hand on the page, and telling me what to draw. This slowly morphed into him holding my hand as we drew together, negotiating who was leading and what marks we were making together. Sometimes he worked by himself with me watching, and then we’d morph back into collaborative drawing. I was interested by the blurry line of collaboration created here – was this his, my or our work? If he told me what to draw and I drew it, whose artwork is that? Does he gain more satisfaction from others drawing his images than he does drawing them, and if so, why? These are all questions I would like to ask him in the future. Even before that, I shave began to think about performances that use this morphing collaborative style to question audience/artist creative roles and agency.

In the afternoon we continued working on the bottles. Rather than getting bored, the group attacked the task with real vigour.. We had to make quite a few trips to the recycling bins! A member of the art team who has just started working at Sense said that in her sessions she doesn’t shy away from doing the same tasks over several weeks, claiming that it is important for the participants to realise the time and effort that goes into creative projects, as well as giving them a greater sense of achievement and ownership with the finished project. The way the group were engaging with the bottles supported her point. With this level of commitment to the task, people’s individual styles began to come through very clearly, which you might not expect with such a simple activity.

Today has lead me back to my many questions around collaboration and ownership, particularly within the context of working with adults with learning difficulties. I am interested in how the collaborative style change when working with the participants at Sense, and if this is a good or bad thing. I will continue to ponder these questions over the coming weeks.

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