Today I will wait by the roadside – suitcase in hand – until the pale morning sun is welling up over the trees and my legs are patching blue from the stillness and eventually my heads will bounce down and my fingers will loosen. When this happens, the latch on the small suitcase will spring open – imbued with the kinetic joy of bouncing three times in the gutter – and I will stare at the clothes it reveals, sore and blinking from lack of rest, forgetting that I’m not supposed to recognise any of them.
Since last May, myself and the Brooklyn-based visual media artist Samantha Silver have been collaborating as two.5. One of the main ideas behind working together is that we will not only produce something we could not have done separately, but that the experience of collaboration will also change our practices and our perceptions of ourselves as artists. We’ve been friends for over a decade now and in that time we’ve given each other a huge amount of emotional and practical support. Our first official, public-fronted project is called Dirty Laundry: the premise is that on a loosely fortnightly basis Samantha posts a triptych of images from a staged photoshoot and I respond to them with a piece of fiction. We’ve been charting and debating the restrictions of this specific collaboration and the wider impact it has had on our other work on our two.5 blog, ranging from the emotional impact of developing a separate, professional relationship on top of our existing friendship to the technical difficulties of photographing a handcuffed woman in a low-lit shared staircase. The usual problems of missed deadlines, self-imposed silences and creative anxieties also feature.
Dirty Laundry is an aptly named project because we’re (metaphorically) airing our inner anxieties in public. On the Cargo Collective project website you see discussions raised by the art itself: the photographs and the written pieces. These range in texture, tone, length and style: how good can a piece of writing be when conceived, written and edited in the space of a fortnight? How do (or should?) the photographs relate to one another? What happens within a collaboration if one of you in unhappy with the style or standard of the work the other person is putting into the project? Rather than complete the project and present it as a cohesive, edited ‘final’ piece, we’ve elected to post it as an ongoing stage-by-stage piece, with all the mistakes born of experimentation exposed to the glare of the (online) audience. Over at our two.5 blog, we debate these anxieties in detail as each photoset and story go up, flattening out the details of what the boundaries of the collaboration are, when we’re allowed to talk about our work with each other, and how we feel about it.
Today I posted up my written response to Samantha’s 5th photoset, then blogged about the process of writing it, then blogged some questions about Samantha’s creative process. For me, one of the joys of posting the piece up is that – under the boundaries we’ve set down for this project – I’m finally allowed to read Samantha’s posts about the photoshoot, which I’m starting to see a little as an identification game in terms of both the objects used as props (I gave you that bracelet!) and some of the people in the shoots (hello Juliet!), but also in terms of seeing if the things about the photoset which were important to me were equally important to Samantha (perspective, lighting, narrative, colour, hands…). We’re separated physically by geography, but also communicatively by being in different timezones. We also both work a variety of jobs in the creative industries which means our schedules empty then overfill and we keep irregular hours with irregular priorities. Dirty Laundry is as much about learning how we can and want to work in partnership as it is about producing something beautiful and thought-provoking. In its current form I would say it is about pushing emotional boundaries and providing a space for light experimentation with form. Through learning about how each other works, we’re having to explain our processes in different ways. How our next project will work is currently under debate.