The Fine Art of Collaboration

Words: Abi Goodman

Participation. Appropriation. Ruins. Chance. Memory. The Everyday.

These were the themes that curatorial teams pitched to artists in a ‘speed dating’ session arranged for first year students of BA (Hons) Fine Art, BA (Hons) Fine Art & Art History, BA (Hons) Art History & Curating and BA (Hons) Art History last week.

The room was set out so that the students with a fine art practice circulated to meet a new student curatorial team every 8 minutes. The nature of each theme was discussed, images of work were shared, and by the end the artists made their choice of preferred themes.

The artist/curatorial teams will now work together towards the Unit X exhibition in central Manchester between Thursday 12th and Saturday 14th of May at London Scottish House (on Mount Street, opposite Manchester Convention Centre).

This was not the first time that students from the different disciplines had met. They were first challenged to think differently about making work and how they could work collaboratively through a series of 3-day workshops led by contemporary artists. Students had the choice of 5 different workshops led by practitioners who focus on collaboration in different ways. These were:

  • Fluxus with Mark Greenwood. A workshop that examined the significance and influence of Fluxus on contemporary arts practice.

“Throughout the process, the students were very engaged and positive in their feedback, commenting on how the workshops not only developed their skills in a creative, artistic sense, but also in a personal sense; raising their confidence in the context of performance based works and adding extra tools to their production techniques. I was deeply impressed with the quality of the students’ work which easily surpassed my expectations. This was a very positive experience for me as a teacher and facilitator and I look forward to collaborating with the University in the future.” (Dr Mark Greenwood)

  • Mail Art with Justin McKeown. In which students adopted pseudonyms and started to correspond with other workshop participants and then the wider mail artist community.
  • Collaborative Drawing with Chara Lewis. Where students played with the idea of the exquisite corpse and used shadows to make drawings/ paintings, montage and photography.
  • Doubles with Magnus Quaife. A workshop in which studenrs were invited to seek out spectacle in their everyday surroundings within Manchester School of Art and to use technology (e.g. mobile phones, tablets) to document their double(s) on campus.
  • LandGuage with Tim Brennan. A walkshop which introduced students to working in non-gallery settings and getting them to critically consider the function of exhibition, performance and studio within contemporary contexts.

“I had the opportunity to engage 25 BA Stage 1 students in a 3 day Unit X workshop. The itinerary introduced students to the use of walking in contemporary art since 1970. It involved them in journeying through the city to gather their own observations on spatial aesthetics and performance.

I have taught in most of the UKs art schools over the past 25 years as a lecturer, senior lecturer, HOD, AD and Director of Doctoral studies and I can say without hesitance that this teaching experience was one of the best I have had. The students were totally immersed and critically engaged from the word go.” (Dr Tim Brennan, LandGuage)

Whilst first year students are working on their curated exhibitions, second year students are either engaged on one of the Unit X option projects or taking part in a unit called Art and Audience where they curate an exhibition in the city. Third years are also engaged on Art and Audience as they work towards the final degree show.

You can see the results of the Unit X collaborations between Thursday 12th and Saturday 14th of May. We look forward to seeing you there!


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