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Guest Blog: Working Title – When Collaborating Means Letting Go of Your Work

by Spencer Brown-Pearn 15 May 2012 11:46 AM

Guest blogger and visual artist Spencer Brown-Pearn talks about what it’s like to see your work altered or even completely covered up in a collaboration like “Working Title,” the evolving show at Ro2 Gallery Downtown.


Members of the artist collective called Solvent have been guest blogging during the creation of their 3-week, 30 artist experiment in collaboration called Working Title, on view and under development at Ro2 Gallery Downtown.  Saturday was the second of three openings. The final group of 10 artists will work in the gallery this week. The final opening will be this Saturday.

Here, Solvent member Spencer Brown-Pearn shares some thoughts on the nature of collaboration.  You can follow the artists’ work as it happens at ro2 here in this live stream. And here are some previous posts on Art&Seek from participating artist

For me, and I assume many other artists, creating art is a very personal act. We force ourselves to dig deep and find topics worth discussing. We meditate on these topics, spend hours building theories and creating worlds around them, writing statements, making sketches. Eventually, we produce artifacts of this introversion and we turn around and display our innermost selves to the public. If that’s not scarring enough, we collaborate with other artists.

In order for true collaboration to succeed, a relationship needs to be developed between the artists involved; you can’t simply paint on this after I’ve drawn on that. Discussion must unfold, ideas must be shared, battles must be fought, and wounds must heal as two (or three, or ten, or thirty) artists who may have never met, open themselves to one another, share their deepest secrets, give a little here and let others take a little there. It’s a painful process – forcing yourself to see your work from another perspective, to step back from introversion and consider how an entirely different universe than your own can coexist in the same space and time – but in the end you learn something, you appreciate someone, you create something.

Working Title celebrates this. By bringing ten artists into a space and asking them to build on top of the work of the ten artists before them, who built on top of ten more, we are developing a lot of relationships. With limited space, works are inevitably repurposed, altered and occasionally covered up entirely. The first reaction is to recoil, to defend your creations from this outside force, but once you realize the temporality of the the project itself and the inevitability that your specific, individual contribution will be lost, you recognize that something greater might be occurring than a typical chance to display your work. A dialogue is developing, discussions are taking place, and, hopefully, a community is expanding.