I have been thinking a lot about collaboration lately, in part as a way to justify my thieving of others’ language, but also as a practical phenomenon. I have always enjoyed working with other artists and writers to stretch my own comfort zone, to rejuvenate my practice of writing and art-making, and to get to know others’ work intimately–from the inside out. It’s a way to transcend one’s own limits, and to find new ways of expression. This has been a major part of my practice since I started creating as an adult. I used to worry that I needed collaboration because I didn’t have enough knowledge or skill or cleverness (or whatever) to make art out of my own inventive mind, but now I see this form of practice as serious risk-taking. It would be easy to stay within the boundaries that I create or learn–in fact, I love creating formal structures as a way to limit my language–but what fun to get messy and maybe fall flat on my face with someone else!
I do this with other writers’ work all the time (without their knowledge, usually). I have been scanning some old visual pieces to send to Christophe Casamassima, which got me thinking about appropriation as collaboration. I have used a lot of different texts in a collaborative way–works on fire suppression techniques, the Salem witch trials, the function and nature of the eye, and works by Freud, Cotton Mather, and Susan Brownmiller.
Christophe suggested the possibility of collaboration–a prospect that excites me–of course there is the question of what would that look like? I haven’t completed a collaborative piece with another writer since Deborah Richards and I wrote the chapbook Cut and Shoot together in 2001. I enjoyed the work, the back and forth, the getting-out-of-my-own-mind that the collaborative space provided. I have been looking for ways to explore that space again. This is an example of how I’ve been comfortable with collaborating (from my maybe-chapbook “No Delicate Flower,” which employs Susan Brownmiller’s text Femininity),
In my work-life, I wanted to create a collaborative blog where researchers could comment on the organizational structure and description I provided for the Chew Family Papers, but I never quite had the time to make it happen. In retrospect, however, I’d rather save that energy for collaborative poetry. I’d love to hear about others’ projects, collaborative desires, or the logistics of collective work. Leave a comment, or just email me at deliciousginger at gmail dot com if you’re interested in exploring this kind of work and/or conversation.