OCD Crow woke at 4 am & couldn’t get back to sleep. Thrashing around in her brain was the strange animal: artistic collaboration. In North America, our individualistic mind set and our frantic lifestyles often seem to preclude the option of collaborating with other artists. The grant & jury system for exhibits and shows don’t make it any easier when it comes to painters or photographers, say, collaborating with writers. While when one is a musician, it’s nearly a given that one must or at least hopes to find another musician to collaborate with, even in these days of virtual recording & mixing programs, when one is involved in creating what is thought of as a more solitary art form, collaborating is looked at askance. Granting boards are hesitant to give financial support for collaborations – they question – who is responsible for what part? who will spend what percentage of the money? are both artists equivalent in experience or acclaim? Similar questions are asked by juries determining artist-in-residence positions or exhibit contenders. Publishers find it particularly hard to know what to do with two writers who want to collaborate, or even a poet and a visual artist. How will this work be presented, marketed, toured, sold? Where is the budget to present visual work alongside writing in a way that honours the craft and materials required? What do we DO with this beast?
OCD Crow has collaborated quite a bit. With musicians of course, which isn’t so much of an issue, apart from how the little amount of money made from shows or merchandise will be distributed and how to cope with each others’ disparate personalities or lifestyles. With other writers, leading at times to a compositional process which is a bit tense and weird and definitely leaves granting juries confused. With photographers and multimedia artists, which has led to beautiful projects but a definite lack of funds and an unease as to how the work will be presented. A writer working with visual creators can have the sense that their words readily become absorbed by the more tangible and consumable visual art forms; that they are catalysts but not integrally embedded in the final creation. How are poetry readings or small press books presented at an art show, at a musical event? Awkwardly & usually pointlessly, in my experience. The audiences, schooled in other modes of artistic appreciation, often don’t know what to do with texts, however artistically compelling. One aims to rise above oneself, have no ego involved ever and to detach from end results, asking nothing, expecting nothing but the act of mutual creation itself. A stringent, stoical demand, possible perhaps but immensely challenging. It’s exhausting though. One just wants juries to “get it”; for audiences to be receptive; and for your collaborators to continually engage in exciting, energetic and mutually respectful sessions of making things with you. I know. OCD Crow is living in dreamland.