‘Assembly’ is an exhibition that includes works by Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth, The Hut Project and Charlie Woolley. Mining the art historical veins of collaborative practice, we can say that ‘Assembly’ is very much of its time, at times zappingly new, and also thoroughly old-fashioned. It is sometimes startlingly clear, and sometimes a riddle of contradictions.
For example, while ‘Assembly’ is in one sense a show about artists working together, the most obvious thing to point out is that they are not in fact doing so collectively. Each artist/group is a separate entity: there is Woolley (who works with radical protest groups, and me and you, the general public), Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth (who collaborate with each other), and The Hut Project (who collaborate with each but are rather more prickly about collaborating with the audience).
This is a contradiction full of potential. I think that artists like to bang on about collaborating, but in the grand old history of art, most have singularly failed to do so. There’s an honour in trying though. For example, back in 1968 a bunch of very interesting and then-radical young artists hung out together in Amalfi, Italy, to make works together for ‘Arte Povera + Azioni Povere’. They installed works in the sea and on mountains. They performed on the streets. And then they went back to the real world and made works that now gets shown at Tate Modern and innumerable commercial art galleries.
Or how about Colab, whose very name invokes ‘collaboration’? This new York band of punkish upstarts kicked a revolution in the dust of Downtown degeneracy and promptly cleared the way for a great property boom that priced them out of the area.
The point is clearly not whether people collaborate, it is why?
More information on the ‘Assembly’ exhibition here.