We were given a mandate to work within a group of three to discuss the aspects of our art practice that we most cared about and had in common within the group. Following that, we were to begin brainstorming ideas for collaboration for a creative outcome and to spend the morning working together to produce a piece of work.
Dong Hwan Ko, Drew Wallis and I quickly agreed that colour, narrative and space where things all three of us had in common in our work and that we would try to incorporate all three into whatever we produced. We then discussed what kind of work we would like to produce and how ambitious we wanted to be. We decided to make a short movie; shooting,editing and having it online to present in the afternoon within two hours.
This resulted in us having to make a series of decisions very efficiently and very quickly. We first went to the AV store in the college and got a camera and then went to the art shop and bought materials to build coloured flags. Then straight to the park across the road where we nominated Andrew as director after he lost a game of rock, paper, scissors.
We had our colour with our flags, and our space with the placement of the flags in the park, but we had agreed to let the narrative form organically. This narrative became the story of a blackbird that joined our film location taking a very vocal lead role in the movie.
'the story of death, colour and space'
by Conor O’Donnell, Dong Hwan Ko and Andrew Wallis
As soon as we had enough filmed (which was decided for us by the battery dying, because we had no time to charge the battery in the first place), we went straight back to the college to begin editing. Luckily, Andrew had been shown how to do this and we quickly organised our different frames into a way all three of us were happy with. Dong Hwan uploaded it onto YouTube and we were finished.
What we all learned from this process was how much you can achieve in a short time and with little experience. None of us had ever made a movie before but we discovered we had the requisite knowledge and skills necessary. It made us all re-evaluate the way we produce our work and appreciate how timelines and deadlines have an ability to focus the mind.
What we did was in a way a sketch through video and, like quick drawings or paintings, video has the ability to produce and lead you towards the unexpected and to reveal new facets to you and your work. It also showed us how art can be efficient and decisive and still retain its creative integrity.
Working in Groups
Most governments today accept the fact that at least four percent of the population will always be unemployed - either because of laziness or disabilities - and that zero percent unemployment is unattainable. I always try to remember this fact when I am working in groups as it reminds me to just accept that certain people won't or can't pull their weight and that focussing on this with negativity does not help you to attain your goals.
During this MFA course I have learned that the benefits of working with others far outweighs the negatives. Whether organising or collaborating on exhibitions, you can use and learn from other people's skills helping you attain goals that would be difficult by yourself. You get to re-evaluate your art practice by hearing a fresh viewpoint on how others see your art work and how you can see it a new when it is exhibited with their work.
In big groups, a core is always going to take on the majority of the responsibilty but in a way these are the people who will benefit the most. The more you put in, the more you get out. With the projects and exhibitions I have been involved in since coming to London, I have learned how to improve my people skills, timekeeping, and how to take more responsibility where in the past I would have been more inclined to take a back seat. Technically I have improved at using Photoshop, InDesign and movie editing. I am much more confident designing posters and flyers, organising a media plan for an exhibition and pulling a group together for a common purpose.
There will be always difficult characters in any situation in life but in the art world people can get very worked up about things, as their practice is often very strongly connected to their sense of identity. Being tactful and understanding is very important, but just as important is to try and stay calm and unemotional. This is something I probably still need to work on, as its easy for me to join in with the hysterics.
On our course we have had many heated moments and when I told my girlfriend about it she always referred to pedagology which she learned in college. I have looked into it and I think there are some very good skills everyone could learn from it. Its not just for teaching children, many of the skills are just as useful when working with adults. Maybe before my next project I will get everyone to watch this video below and if it doesnt help I will threaten to make them watch it again and again and again and again and so on..
It was a lot of fun working with Ana Milenkovic recently at the Autonomy exhibtion. It was refreshing to work with someone who was enthusiastic about experimenting without a pre-determined view of how the show would turn out. Sometimes you can work with people less interested in finding the best or most interesting idea, but who are more focused on getting their idea implemented, good or bad.
I think one of the main mindset changes I have noticed during this course is the switch from wanting my work to look the best, to thinking how can we put on the best show. This is not a decision made for the greater good but because I believe it is sometimes better to have one compromised piece in a great show, than one great piece in a mediocre show.
I suppose this change in attitude is really a result of the shows I have been involved with during the course and the subsequent analyses of them. I think this would be a good thing to keep doing when I leave college. To look back on shows I am involved with, and see what went wrong and where things could be improved.
In the shows I wrote about in my exhibition case studies I learned what can happen when there is no plan and no collectiveness. I have seen how divided a group can get when they pull in different directions and I got to see how much fun and how easy it can be to work with people who are on the same wavelength as you and keep a positive attitude even when things are falling to pieces.
There is no formula for success when exhibiting but experience does help a great deal. The more I exhibit, the more I feel myself let go of my fear of losing control and I find myself more open to the unknown opportunities collaboration can offer.