3.4.2010 "Do it Together" by Creative Ensemble


Throughout the article “Observations on Collective Cultural Action,” many different models of how systems work were presented. These ranged from government institutionalized systems such as schools to CAE’s preference of Nettime, which is a coalition that allows large scale collectivism to occur without it becoming a bureaucratic procedure needing to be carried out. This article reminded me of the comment made by the woman at West Bank Social Center. She said that many people don’t like the word collective, but prefer the term collaborative. In class last Thursday we discussed why people would prefer the term collaborative over collective and we ended up with many of the same conclusions made in this article. In “OCCA” the term collective had a bureaucratic connotation that seemed suppressive and hierarchical. This collective they spoke of seemed to allow a few powerful individuals to rise to power and take over becoming more of a business than a collective where equal parts are shared by all. Nettime, in comparison, assimilated with the role of collaborative in our discussion. It seemed to hold true to the notion of all do the work together; if someone tried to upset this cycle then self-destruction would take place. This allowed equilibrium to be a part of the collaborative structure. Being able to see that a collaborative can actually work in the real world was eye opening to me. Upon the explanation of why many fail it made more sense: all individuals have to set aside their egos and work together for the betterment of all. If this doesn’t occur, an institution takes place creating a suppressive atmosphere that is drained of creative freedom. After this description of how a collaborative works, I can see why collective is a term many people connect to negative groups.

One thing that I was unsure about throughout the article was what CAE meant. If anyone has insight…

By working as a collective group, artists have an increased intelligence due to the combination of creative minds put together to work for a common goal. I found it interesting in the article that when working on a project "Due to collective strength, CAE is prepared for any cultural opportunity." Although many people may prefer an individualistic artist I believe that working as a collective group gives the art full potential because of the collective intelligence of many individuals. Each individual brings their own ideas and views to the art and the combination of all views creates a collective feature that would not have been possible without the help of each individual. Sharing the ownership, benefits and risk of the business implies a common business structure rather than a hierarchical company where certain individuals take rise and power over others. They are able to work as a group to meet each of their individual goals without losing their sense of collaboration.

I agree what you have written as a response. Extending from your perspective, I feel that DIT/CAE culture is like a family: they work together directly and become relatively close. This family-like bond is extremely imporant because, like all families, they have to be able to pull through and deal with problems together, not individually. It seems to me that if one member falls, then the other members must be able to help each other and pull them back up. I have a big family myself, and I can really relate to this CAE culture.

I was very intrigued while reading this essay. I was a little skeptical of the proliferation of focus on the individual in art until the essay began talking about Art schools. The first example that caught my attention was of classrooms where each individual is working on their own separate project/s, not at all collaboratively. I had to agree with this statement, having seen numerous art studios wherein each individual is so focused on their particular painting, ceramic or photograph that they are literally cut off from those working around them by an ipod and headphones. It was sad to realize this, and the call for more collaborative art seemed more valid once I had realized how much we shy away from collaborative work in the art world. I do not know if it would be easy to work as a completely cohesive group on an art project, but I am excited to see if we are up to the challenge with out zine!

I can also relate to that scene. I've been in 2 ceramic classes and an art class, where everyone was just doing their own thing. Now that I think about it, a lot of people didn't ask other people how to do things, getting opinions from others, they just went their own way. I definitely agree that some people in the art world tend to not work in a collaborative group, but in my opinion that should change. I just feel like if someone in one of my classes did ask another person for advice/their opinion then their artwork could've turned into something completely different (not saying their work wasn't good before). I always think it's nice working with others because I learn so much more and I'm able to see from another perspective. I'm also looking forward to our group project! I do agree that some times it can be difficult working with other people, especially not knowing them too well and everyone has an opinion. But I always love challenges and I think group projects are a great way for preparing for the future/making yourself a better person in a way (especially since I'm going into the business world where I'll most likely be working with others constantly).

From time to time, or on specific problems/projects, working with a collaborative could be very interesting. But I hardly think that the art world needs a revolution towards the many.

Working in and amongst a group of peers pollutes your concepts and ideas with their input. That sounds harsh, but in a discipline that is so based on self-expression, it is true. The product of a group of minds should not be looked down on, but the achievement of a single person should not be belittled because they did it without the help from others. Thinking back to those same 7th and 8th grade projects, how many times did your group have "that one trouble maker"? You can't trust them to do the research because they aren't reliable, you can't expect them to bring materials to class because they aren't responsible, and you don't want to assign them any of the work on a paper because you'll do so much proofreading you might as well have done it yourself.

Granted, this is the professional world we are talking about here where people are by no means FORCED to collaborate, but the premise is the same in my mind. Those who flaunt their lack of contribution to the group effort are better than those who wrongly claim credit for something that they had no hand in creating. I feel that I may have digressed slightly from my point, but what I am trying to say is that were a group atmosphere forced upon an art class, there would be situations where the truly gifted would be forced to pull along the hangers-on through the process of creation. I am not opposed to collaboration, but I advocate that it should be by choice, not mandate.

I was really captured by the same part of this essay about art school. I believe the author did a really good job of planning out his ideas making for a strong and cohesive statement. I also enjoyed the part about CAE, which ran through the views and critiques of collaborative art. I have always been an advocate for group projects because of their usefulness of explaining and being explained to, and of course the collaboration of views and design. The part about art school really made me think about and question our institutional style of education. I think that by limiting and down playing the use of collaboration can really subtract from the experience. I am actually in a sculpture class right now with Bart Vargas, in which he purposefully turns away from the common style of class as he helps in building a sculpture community.

Well I don't know if it's just me, but did this article remind people a lot about school experiences? Whenever the article mentioned projects, working together, and conflicts, the first thing I thought about was working on projects in high school. By having this school idea in my head, I was a little confused when the article said, "Rarely can a classroom be found that has a space designed for face-to-face group interaction." I was confused because, well depending on what type of classroom the article is talking about, I thought of my 7th grade classroom and how the whole room was set up in groups. We had our desks in groups of four and we'd all be facing each other. So of course we did do a lot of group projects and discussions, as well as individual work. Also, going back to the beginning of the article when it was talking about mingling with the the proect's sponser; for me I thought of when athletes have sponsers and are on a team, without the team it would be hard to win. Then I thought of that idea along with art. I feel like with a team involving art it would be good because you would have all these great minds coming together, coming up with good ideas, and if you didn't have a group working together then maybe the project wouldn't come out the way it was planned. But then again I guess it depends on the project and the group of people because like this article said a lot of conflicts can arise, especially when so many people have all these ideas. Also, people might not agree on certain things and that can cause problems. From reading this article it's clear to see why most people tend to work alone or in small groups. However, the article did talk a lot about working in large groups, how to deal with that, commit to the members, listen to others, and so on. I also feel like by working a large group you can learn so much more and experience new things. So whenever someone works in a group it shouldn't be about whose idea is better. It should be about trying new things and figuring out what works best for the project and group members- adjusting to the situation, like working in a collaborative group.

I can understand why it is hard for many individuals to not comprehend the idea of a “collective.” Our society (especially America) puts so much emphasis on the ‘self’ and individualism that any deviation from this is considered not normal. This is reflecting greatly in our society as the first half of this article describes how institutions perpetuate the idea of individualism such as the art schools that develop studios that create spaces for working individually. While the idea of a collective is a novel idea, it can often times get out of hand. It is unfortunate that groups that encourage everyone to come together must have to restrict their numbers or at least the article gives this suggestion. I do agree, however, and I believe that if a collective gets too big, there will be an unequal division of labor and many could begin to feel marginalized and alienated which is the exact opposite from what a collective wants to create. One thing that did confuse me about this article was when it talked about how “the project leader makes the final decisions.” Maybe I don’t know that much about collectives but wouldn’t the idea of a project leader be counter-intuitive despite the fact that it may lead to collectives running smoother and easier?

I think the only thing missing from this article was a big picture of Uncle Sam pointing his finger out at the reader saying "We don't want YOU!". A collective (which is what I must assume CAE stands for- Collective for Artistic Expression, perhaps?) writing an article on collectives is self-defeating. Throughout the article they brought up numerous examples of failed attempts at organizing artists only to trumpet their own success in a micro-collective mode of expression. Even more frustrating is that thir secret to success is the maintenance of a small membership, so they aren't even trying to sway readers to join, just talking about how awesome they are. Though not the focus of the article, the chest-beating prevalent within definitely got to me after a bit.

The author did, however, raise some interesting points. As much as it did bother me for CAE to speak so highly of themselves, they did seem to discover a system that works at not just organizing artists into a cohesive group, but maintaining a steady membership and a remarkably quick workflow, putting out a piece a week or so. This is certainly an indicator of their relative success.

I agree with you. Through trying to give the reader a positive view of a collective, they mentioned many different situations in which it didn't work or didn't last for very long. It was interesting that they spoke so positively of themselves and the awesome work that a collective can produce, but then said the successful collections were somewhere around 3-8 people. Through out the article, it seemed like they were not sure if they wanted to say collectives were good or bad, because one paragraph said a collective brings so many different intelligences, yet on the next page is said there is a short burn out rate.

I completely agree with you pertaining to the tone this article was written. The CAE group seems to be very egotistical by saying they essentially are awesome. This article was basically written to show off because (by what you said), "they aren't even trying to sway readers to join." With the futility of this article, it is uncertain if there is a clear point trying to be made. It seems to me that the author doesn't even know why he/she is a part of the collective.

Before reading this article, I didn’t know that “Do-It-Together” culture could be so complex and difficult. I didn’t think that the DIT culture had so many different kinds of branches of community. I find that collaborative work between different artists seem to be more engaging than just individual work: “Even ‘community art’ has its stars, its signatures, and its bodies. This final category may be the most important. Even a community art star must do a project that includes mingling with the ‘community’ and with the project’s sponsor(s). Mingling bodies is as important in the progressive scene as it is in the gallery scene.” But I find it sad that the more members within a community increase, the more problems it will face due to lack of organization, leadership, and messages. It is sad because there could be so many ideas that could flow with one another. Yet, this is understandable because the more members/artists there are, the more complex it could be because there could be miscommunication and lack of leadership/purpose (because the group doesn’t want a leader). Although CAE seems to have a small amount of members (3-8, I believe), this creates a good sense of community and relationship bonds between artists. This is just like my family because I have a big family and we find it really easy to communicate and bond with each other. Although we may have issues, we find it easier and calming to discuss problems face-to-face because of the comforting atmosphere. I think this same aspect and perspective is what CAE wants for their small community.

In the beginning of the article, it reminded me a lot of a musical band. A band can be world famous, known as one of the best, but the lead singer is normally the one people associate with that band. If you asked someone to name the drummer of that band, they might have a harder time with that than the name of the lead singer. Most groups still have a "star." When we first learned about collectives, i seemed to get the impression that most people thought they were just fun side projects that people were a part of, not using the collective as their main source of income or production. On the contrary, these collectives become family-like units that depend on each other. One thing i disagree with, though, is that each member must have a completely unique set of skills. If only one person knows how to work with or produce and certain type of art, there is not someone else working with them to improve it or come at it from a different perspective. Sometimes overlap can help to build an aspect of the project up even more.

I was impressed by your example of a collective functioning a lot like a band. As you pointed out, you cannot have a band without multiple members, and you also can't have the music that is collaboratively created without all of the band members, but I know, from personal experience, that there is often one member of the band that stands out more than the rest. I believe that in bands, and collectives, sometimes this occurs because other members would prefer to remain more anonymous, or because we naturally tend to want to have someone leading a project, no matter how subtle they are about their leadership. I tend to think that this is a very good plan, there is no reason why leadership can't be relaxed and even shift from person to person depending on expertise and/or willingness, but I have found that groups I am in always really want someone, not to tell them what to do, but to act as an organizer, unifier, and mediator for conflicts.

I agree with the last thing you said, about each member of a collective/collaborative not necessarily needing their own specific skill set. That almost seems counter-productive, again, separating artists by their different skills/mediums, not working with each other and learning from it. I suppose they can collaborate on the finished product, but if everyone had a specialty, a lot of the work would still be done at an individual level

I definitely understand what you mean. Splitting up artist depending on what skills they have is not embodying the do it together culture. Although it is not ideal, I feel like it happens more often than not. I think it's because they want a better understanding of their skill and develop it further among other people who share the same interests.

A band is a perfect example of this, a few different people collaberating together to make one big thing out of their talents as oppose to something smaller alone. In a band each person has something different about them that they can add or bring to the table. This is the same way with art but like you said, art can be a little different. If the artists are stronger in completely different areas, it becomes difficult for the artists to assist one another. I would imagine the atmosphere in a collaberation of artists would be very similar to a band with the ups and downs.

It interested me that artists would actual come together and share thier ideas to make art altogether. I've always thought of artists as somewhat selfish in that they protect their art a lot of the time and don't want everyone to see what they have made. The selfishness is only normal. These artists coming together as one is a large risk for them because they are sharing their ideas and passions with eachother to produce something great. On the other hand, coming together could be a complete flop too. Also, I think it would be hard for artists to fully express themselves when working on a piece with other artists and intimidation may become a factor. Overall, it is a risk but a risk that could turn into something fantastic by collaborating together.

You bring up an interesting point. I agree that artists face the challenge of being able to fully express themselves. When having to share a piece of artwork with many other artist who have different ideas when creating collective work. They really need to work as a collaborative group to be able to produce a piece of artwork that incorporates each individuals artistic ability.

I can't say I enjoyed this article very much, but it did have one point that provoked some thought for me. The author mentions how people's attention moves from the art itself to the individual artist: "The individual's signature is still the prime collectible, and access to the body associated with the signature is a commodity that is desired more than ever." Why is this the case? Why is that line always crossed, the line between being able to appreciate art in itself and obsessing about the artist? It reminded me of Banksey, and how people try to snag photos of him and figure out everything about him. I guess I understand it kind of, people admire work, and it's a natural progression to be curious about where it came from. But when the majority of the attention goes to the artist instead of the art, I feel like there's a problem. Artists shouldn't have to be the "renaissance man" that the author described- making art, being able to write about it, speak about it, etc. Their art is their contribution; it should be all that is required of them.

I think you bring up a good point. It is true that "the individual's signature is a commodity..." When people talk about art and its value, you will rarely hear people mention an individual art piece. People will talk about Monets, Okeefes, and Picassos in reference to the artwork instead of the artwork themselves. So I agree that it is ok to admire someone's work but when the line is blurred between work and artist that is a problem. After all, isn't that somewhat demeaning to the artist by having all of their artworks lumped together as a whole without any distinction. Working as a collaborative would get rid of this notion and the focus would be placed on the artwork as oppose to just the artist. I think that is one of the more important aspects of working in a collaborative, to get rid of the idea of the individual and spotlight the work itself.

I agree with you. Many people are either trying to get to know or judge artits. In Korea, there is a pop artist I respect called Nancy Lang and she has a very original style of art. She also dresses very uniquely, which is apparently disturbing to many people. Some people think she's crazy and literally call her "psycho" just because she is so different from others. The thing is that most of those people don't even know what kind of art she does.

Before reading this article, I didn’t know that the "Do it together" culture had so many different branches. I think DIT is good in the sense that many artists with different styles can "collaborate" and create an unique art work. However working in a group sometimes might affect the concepts or intention of each artist. It is very hard to not get influenced by the people you hang around with. It might be irrelevant, but I had trouble working in a group for one of my classes last semester. We were supposed to make a poster about an alternative for a certain product, and it was hard because there were disagreements on every single detail. Then we tried to persuade eachother why we should do it in a certain way. This is why I personally prefer working by myself; I can do whatever I want.

I thought the article was quite dry to read. I thought the part where studios where compared and contrasted to classrooms to be really interesting. I think it's quite ironic that they are so similar fail to accomplish the same thing. I think it's really hard to find a single environment where an individual can work on their own, and also in productive group environment with out time consuming distractions.

I agree with you. Many people are either trying to get to know or judge artits. In Korea, there is a pop artist I respect called Nancy Lang and she has a very original style of art. She also dresses very uniquely, which is apparently disturbing to many people. Some people think she's crazy and literally call her "psycho" just because she is so different from others. The thing is that most of those people don't even know what kind of art she does.

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