Past Project 2013


For the love of it* is a day long conference that interrogates what it really means to work as an artist today – unpicking the reality of an artists life from the professional, the romantic or the career development views of funders and government. It will be an opportunity for artists to focus their priorities, explore the realities of work, and reconsider the limits of professionalisation.

We’ll consider and question four key themes from the day in the run-up to the conference on 15 May: this week, Collectivity.

Collectives make us more aware of the vital role that others play in a practice and question the authorship of an artwork, considering a shift in the identity of ‘the artist’ and where we locate the value in arts practice.

Working collectively is a useful strategy for many artists in recessionary times – but given the low incomes endured by many artists, collective working remains a default even when the economy is performing well. A collective allows for shared skills and critique to develop through trust instead of capital, and its permeability encourages audiences and other artists to have an equitable say.

But it can be fraught with unintended consequences – artists working together may unwittingly share copyright and other intellectual property over their work, diluting their voice in what can happen to the work they make. And in a world of low or no fees, collectives can struggle to survive when sharing income.

Collectives also directly challenge the ‘individual genius’ model of artistic production – a notion of how artists work that is still prevalent in wider society, but which artists have long understood to be problematic, even inaccurate. With the rise of the ‘star’ artist, how important is an individual name when constructing a career? Or are collectives, by their very nature, ill-suited – or even opposed to – the branding and career-focus that comes with some individual practices?

Other interesting debates and resources around the internet include:

The 2004 case of Tracy Emin’s collaboration with pupils at a primary school in London, reported in the Guardian and considered in our Artlaw archive.
After a project between Emin and the pupils, when the school considered selling the work, Emin asserted her moral rights over the collaborative piece, but also refused to recognise the work as her own, thus making it worthless on the open market.

Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E)
An activist group of artists in New York, W.A.G.E advocates for pay for artists for the labour they produce. W.A.G.E try to be part of a solution, encouraging organisations to understand why artists should be paid, and providing the resources to help them do so through certification and research.

The vacuum cleaner, an artist collective of one.
Using a collective name to preserve their anonymity, the vacuum cleaner creates work through various legal and illegal activities – but this has not prevented numerous high-profile exhibitions and performances. What part does the use of the term ‘collective’ play in the vacuum cleaner’s overt political stance?