Collaboration From Conception

Half the exhibition calls into question notions of originality and authenticity, but the other half undermines it

Arts Review

'Collaboration From Conception'

Creative Research Lab, through Dec. 16

In their efforts at audience outreach, museums and galleries are steadily increasing the amount of supplementary materials available for visitors to explore. At Creative Research Lab, an entire gallery is currently devoted to an astounding array of information related to the three projects featured in "Collaboration From Conception," including audio recordings of interviews between the artists and exhibition curator Jade Walker, an archive from each group of collaborators that encompasses everything from notes to knickknacks, a reading area with books and photographs, as well as a computer station that highlights work by each artist. This sea of information apparently aims to put visitors as close to the collaborative process as possible, but the artworks included in the exhibition in fact destabilize any such project.

University of Texas-Austin Master of Fine Arts alumna Katalin Hausel, Department of Theatre & Dance grad student Jaclyn Pryor, and School of Music grad student Leanne Zacharias present a portion of their communication with one another as an artwork. Correspondence and Fear makes public their virtual interaction via Skype – an online teleconferencing tool – which gallery visitors can watch live at scheduled times. Discussion follows an itinerary of pre-established subjects, and so on Nov. 27, the artists discussed Dissertation + School and Sexual Relationships, and on Dec. 18 at 3pm, they will turn to Regret + Technology. Although widely accessible, individual responses to these topics are deeply personal; however, we should also consider the extent to which this project functions as performance – and, perhaps, fiction – as much as it dissects communication in contemporary society.

This suspicion carries over into the work of Shea Little, Joseph Phillips, and Jana Swec, who have worked together for more than five years under the name Sodalitas. For the show, the group extended their urban wanderings around Austin on foot with a voyage by boat across Lady Bird Lake. The gallery installation based on this expedition includes an artist-built raft, photographs, and video, as well as a shelf full of glass-encased curiosities that the artists found along the way. Juxtaposed with Correspondence and Fear, we might wonder how much Sodalitas also perform for the camera, complicating the status of what they present in the gallery as authentic documentation of their voyage.

Art Silva and Stephanie Bonham problematize originality by recouping thrift-store paintings through the addition of their own marks. The two UT undergraduates passed each piece back and forth, working in dialogue with each other as well as the anonymous artist who made the original painting. The resulting collection fills a large part of one gallery wall, providing viewers with cues from across the different paintings that aid in determining which marks are Bonham's and Silva's and which were made by the original artist.

By calling into question notions of originality and authenticity, the collaborative projects featured in "Collaboration From Conception" paradoxically undermine the other half of the show – artist interviews become performances, the archive a carefully arranged bit of stagecraft. Although fashionable, it isn't always clear what such behind-the-scenes productions really tell us. Perhaps the best part of "Collaboration From Conception" is the extent to which this question is probed even further, pushing the tension between artworks and educational frameworks to its furthest limit.

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Collaboration From Conception, Creative Research Lab

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