When you imagine an artist in your mind you do, perhaps, not imagine a group of ego-less collaborators. In art, or at least in modern western art, the idea of the ‘artist’ as the individual, and art as pure expression of the ego has been heavily prevalent for so long that collaboration is often seen as necessarily lessening the purity of vision within the work. If art is best when it is a singular vision purely realised then collaboration in vision and realisation only lessens it.
When we imagine the artist as a raging egoist the idea of collaboration seems even more far fetched and ill advised. When artists are driven by an obsessiveness with their own vision and journey, why would they ever want to invite someone else in to shove their vision, perspective and practices in? It would, surely, end up in war.
Artist war! Not the most deadly of wars, but conflict never the less. In some situation though such a tussle of egos is a productive aspect of the artistic process more than a reductive one. Conflict can create great art just as collaboration can. When two artist collaborate in conflict they can create. As Arnulf Rainer and Dieter Roth did:
Dieter Roth, a German-Swiss artist and writer (1930-1998) was a serial collaborator, he worked with many great artists through out his life including, when he got older, his own son Björn Roth:
But it was his work with Dieter Roth, a self taught Austrian painter and photographer, that really took off. Working from Rainers studio in Vienna irregularly between 1972 and 1983 the two were prolific. They produced over 700 pieces of work during that period including photographs they would paint over, performance work, drawings, prints, collages and films. They had a fractious artistic relationship, as some have described it ‘more duel than duet’. Often they would make a point of this in their work, overly displaying the divide in their influence over a particular piece:
Rainer and Roth did not work by converging their styles and combining them, but by putting them along side each other in conflict. Roths controlled and lyrical draughtsmanship with Rainers angry, tough, chaotic black marks. The two perfectly summed up the way they practised as “Misch und Trennkunst(mixed and separate art)”. Mixed and separate, untainted and unbowed, but bouncing of each other and fighting with each other, making each identity more pronounced. This is what collaboration can be.