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Double vision: 9 NSA collaborations

The Exchange, Penzance 17/10/09 - 9/1/09


Alessandra Ausenda & Ruth Wall,  Jessica Cooper & Richard Hawkins, Gareth Edwards & Liz Le Grice, Bernard Irwin & Howard Silverman, John Keys & Graham Fitkin, Jesse Leroy Smith & Paul Becker, Ken Turner & Julie Kitchen, Bren Unwin & Helen Cornish, Kate Walters & Karen Lorenz

Collaboration is not a new idea. From the early 20th Century, close artist-friends like Braque and Picasso produced collaborative works. Surrealists, exploring the sub-conscious, also produced works together, whilst conceptual artists in the 60s used collaboration to question misapprehension of individual art genius.

Contemporary collaboration is rarely used to question the nature of authorship. It stems instead from practical necessity. Firstly it enables artists to more consummately fill all the roles, from maker to conceptualist, to networker, to curator and manager. Secondly the shift towards hybridity in contemporary art means that it is increasingly eclectic, and a process of synergetic forces. One thing rubs up against another and becomes something more.



Most of the challenging work in this NSA show is produced by the tensions and meeting points not of two distinct people, but of two distinct fields of expertise. The experimental nature of the work is supported by a detailed programme of talks and exchanges, and much of the show follows the spirit of dialogue and critical discourse initiated by the collaborators.

The first thing you notice is the amount of work that has been packed in. The very striking, colourful sculpture and wall painting  Armoured Piñata by Bernard Irwin and Howard Silverman (picture above) greets you as you enter the space. Working with architecture, and site, the two artists have engaged in a dialogue of practice and site to produce a highly theatrical piece.



Site was also key to Tidal 28 Minutes (above), which followed ‘intensive seven day periods’ on Treen beach during Spring tides. John Keys’ tidal drawings on the ramp are illuminated by the light from the windows, and also by music written for the experience by Graham Fitkin. Both animate, and express the idea of the time and rhythm of spring tides. The work shown is a mere trace of the process of making.

At the opening large crowds gathered to watch Ken Turner’s ‘gymnasium of the mind’. Thai food was served to visitors who were invited watch Thai boxing in a large ring. Turner invited audiences to draw the spectacle, as a ‘means to thinking’.



Now that this same space has become a library - Gareth Edwards and Liz LeGrices 'Exchange of Ideas' (above) - there is a sense that the gallery is increasingly being turned onto the outside world, shifting boundaries, and initiating new mimeticism and participation. The documentation in the engine room evidences this participation as well as the critical discourses behind a project that has the intention of ‘re-start[ing] thinking in shaping life’.

The opportunity to join in regular dialogues with a series of local artists about the way in which the Penzance Arts Library feeds and supports the arts community here in Cornwall, is brilliant. Librarian Liz Le Grice has long deserved credit for providing non-academic based artists with excellent research material.



Edwards' and LeGrice's exploration of the relationship between research and practice in their collaboration is more obviously appealing and accessible for the average visitor than Bren Unwin’s presentation of dense dialogue in her Media and Meaning made with Helen Cornish (above). Unwin’s churning video-sound fills the space, corresponding to her interest in the imagery of the redundant tin-mining industry. She also shows prints.

The most curious collaboration is that between Leroy smith and Paul Becker (picture below and 'webprojects'). Two fine artists, they present a bizarre collection of texts, images and video about Palmer White, allegedly a local ‘outsider artist’.



Collaboration for these two artists has led them beyond their typical practices, and freed them to work conceptually and imaginatively. Weaving fact and fiction, any examination of the texts raises more questions than answers. It is a thoroughly engaging project, that like a detective novel with no villain and no resolution, it leaves you bewildered. Beautiful and intriguing, it will be interesting to see what happens to the shamanistic Palmer White.



There were some real departures for many artists. Especially for artists Jessica Cooper and Kate Walters. In Along the Same Lines, Jessica Cooper works with surfer Richard Hawkins. Together they have installed a workspace with surf related material, and like Kate Walters and Karen Lorenz produced a collaborative artists’ book. Walters' and Lorenz’s work Death of an Author, includes small-scale installation-sculptures on a table into which are integrated small video screens (picture details above and below). They use the opportunity to ‘unpack … experiences’ in a cathartic and personal way.




It will interesting to see how artists use this experience, or are inspired by it. Will there be a spate of new collaborations or new artistic pairings? Time will tell. Certainly in producing a show of this kind there has been a huge amount of collaboration between all the artists involved, the NSA team and Newlyn Exchange. This is a collaboration of ideas, and energy which the public is invited to join.


Delpha Hudson 6/11/09

Alessandra Aussenda and Ruth Wall‘s opening event for the Operators is schedules for 18th December, with a collaboration that engages with a critical exposé of sweatshops and the fashion industry.