Thursday, November 06, 2008

Author, Author

The first time I ever collaborated with another artist was on a painting for a group exhibition. It was a modest work and because of an unsurprising imbalance in our relationship – I was young, female and less well known, then, than him – my contribution, both conceptual and physical, was gradually erased under layers of paint he added against my wishes. The experience put me off both the artist himself and the whole idea of collaboration.
Reluctantly, I agreed to try it once more with another male artist. I began by posing for him, naked, but during the course of a two hour photographic shoot, he drew me out of the submissive, passive role of model and encouraged me to contribute to the unexpectedly fast-moving process of isolating the 'moment' that was to become the single image from the session. We signed both our names to the limited edition print.
I collaborated again when I 'performed' in images of lesbian sex for my first solo photographic show, this year. For that same show, I also asked a handful of acquaintances to allow me to view proof sheets of their photographs of casual sexual encounters, from which I chose images I would then print to my own specifications for the exhibition. In the exhibition itself, no differentiation was made between the works I shot myself and the works others shot of me or of situations that had nothing at all to do with me (other than my printing the resultant images).
These various photographic collaborations raise intriguing and maybe unresolvable questions about the nature of 'authorship' and the artist's influence – as model, photographer, director or curator – in the final images. For me, the 'right', such as it is, to a claim of authorship, sole or shared, derives from the fundamental decisions I impose on the final work. In some of the collaborations, decisions were shared and so was the credit. In others, including ones not shot by me but which I edited and printed and gave some 'meaning' to by creating a context for them, it is not.
There are other examples of 'shared' authorship: in several of my watercolours, the use of handwriting as texture is at the expense of various, uncredited short poems and passages of descriptive prose that I have excerpted – with permission – from the works of others.


Anonymous said...

I think someone else taking a photograph of a a person which image has been constructed/thought out by the said person then he/she is the artist/author as well as the subject regardless of who finally clicked the camera. However, putting someone else's work in a reconstructed context of an exhibition makes that person the curator not the creator/author of the work. I can't see any other way to deal with this issue.

Enter Miles said...

thank's for sharing your thoughts on the creative process.
It's been nice to follow your blog.

TET (David) said...

Personally I prefer to give credit to anyone who is a collaborator on a final piece of art. If I didn't take a photo but added to it with my own ideas, creativity, process etc. I'd still credit the person who took the photo.

I wouldn't feel comfortable claiming sole authorship of something I didn't create entirely myself, or giving people the impression that an artwork was entirely my idea if another person had also worked on it.

Even if I had assistants that helped prepare my work I'd have a hard time not acknowledging their assistance on the piece.

Anonymous said...

tet, worthy thoughts i am sure, but could you imagine the amount of space they'd have to leave for names on a work by Koons or Kapoor if they followed your lead? :-)LOLOLOL And what about Richard Price who rephotographs old photographs or recreates a scene exactly in his studio, probably with the help of numerous assistants? as for Kostabi, he never touched a canvas bearing his name and even had a committee that would meet once a week to generate ideas (and titles) for new works he would have his studio paint and sometimes, somebody else to sign.

I'm glad Hazel has opened this can of worms. there is a hell of a lot to discuss within in.

Anonymous said...

kinda undermines the idea of artist as heroic figure.

TET (David) said...

I'm well aware that many professional artists past and present rely on assistants to bring their work to realization.

It's an old argument is authorship in the idea or the execution or both?

I think it's fine to claim authorship of a work (top billing perhaps) but if you had assistance, input, creative additions from another source, at least acknowledge that in a byline once, somewhere, just so it's on record.

Give a little bit back to the people that helped you along the way. Where's the harm in that?

I once had a group of under 12 year olds help paint a mural that I designed and drew all the outlines for. They just helped fill in the blocks of colour. They got a real sense of pride in their work when I let them all sign their name to it.

Anonymous said...

If an artist is using existing artwork they are under an obligation to note/quote the source. It is otherwise called plagiarism regardless of whether permission from the original author/artist has been given or not, the source has to be named and credited. The practice of appropriation is quite common in contemporary art and people often quote from others' writings within a new context but the source must be acknowledged. In visual art an appropriated source is often simply recognised such Duchamp putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. It was past the expiry date of copyright at that time and legal even without permission of the artist's estate and also so well recognisable the appropriated source would not have needed to be stated. There is a lot of litigation in the music business when unknown writers hear their music/lyrics being performed by well known artists without their permission and recognition of authorship.

Danielle said...

I personally wouldnt hand out the money for work from an artist that wasnt entirely created by them. It's less authentic.
As an artist Im with David,any collaborators should be credited.

Anonymous said...

Julian Schnabel didn't acknowledge anyone else when he exhibited his recent Navigation Drawings, even though the production of the artwork on which he drew was the effort of several dozen surveyors and draughtsmen. No photographer – from Robert Mapplethorpe to Bruce Weber and David Lachapelle (who employs background painters, stylists, hairdressers, lighting specialists etc) - and certainly not Robert Longo, whose assistants traced up his large 'paintings'from photographs (and do we know who the models were)? Roy Lichtenstein did not credit the assistants who cut out and sprayed on the stencilled Ben Gay dots that are elemental to his work – nor did he credit the cartoonist from whom he adapted his frames (just as Richard Prince does not credit the publications, advertisers and photographers he copies). And what about the schools of Renaissance painters, including Michaelangelo, who were utilised to paint in backgrounds of what are acknowledged as major works? Yes, these are murky waters – and it should be noted that Hazel has been very upfront about her methodology for PORNO – but the answers are far from clear-cut.