Keeping it together

Who still believes in cause and effect?

My arts practise has been a 10 year collaboration with my City, and the people around me. I can obviously opt to create art completely independently, but I’ve never really been a lone wolf. I work better when I have other people feeding in. Sometimes this can leave a bit of an existential crisis pecking at the peripherals. If I don’t create every aspect of the work then who is the true author? Did I create it?

wearexperimenting_sunderland_jo_howell_48It’s been a continuous question to me for many years, and rather than try to gain closure I feverishly pick at the boundaries of what this can mean. Artists who work with other people, no matter what the medium, are ultimately sharing the experience of collaborating to succeed in accomplishing a common goal. A glassblower may need a team to create a piece of work, but the credit goes to the Gaffer or master. A photographer may need many assistants or a lab. A journalist will surely need many subjects. Don’t all of these exist as a form of collaboration?

A lot of the most important things humanity has done as a species, and some of the worst, have been contributed to by many hands. No great invention or technology can exist without people or situations creating needs for other people to respond to. I want to understand my place in the world, and I think that it is folly to assume that I can achieve that alone.

culturalspring_cyanotype_jo_howell5846730675475002715.jpgAnd, why should I? I’m not posing that we are some amorphous blob or hive mind organism, but each and every single one of us creates a ripple that affects everything around us. I work with people because I think we still have so much to give to each other. I learn from those whom I teach. Each person helping me to see all of our individual universe bubbles colliding and reacting. It’s far too easy to sit in the echo chamber believing that all of my assumptions are right.

The systems I create for making art with participants engages them in a simple social contract. You will learn something or think about things in a new way, and in return the participants entrust me with representing their input. No one likes a narcissistic sociopath claiming all the credit. Everyone is a lot better off when we just slow down to consider each person, their input, and their value. Sometimes it doesn’t go to plan. But, that’s ok. Working together and rolling with the flow of water so that we can ensure every single one of us is waving, and no one is drowning.wearexperimenting_sunderland_jo_howell_20

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