The collaborative process isn’t always a smooth one. Many artists tend toward a solitary practice, and collaboration requires a certain level of interaction and negotiation that doesn’t always come naturally, to say nothing of what goes on in the work. Results of hours’ work can be mystifying, frustrating, and even unnatural.
To assume that all artists have the tendency, or even potential, for meaningful and successful collaboration would be a gross display of naiveté. Consider the sheer number
of attempts that not only failed as collaborative projects, but also as resolved works of art. The works of Warhol/ Clemente/Basquiat, sounded great on paper, but relied overly upon the trio’s taste for iconoclasm, denying any formal resolution or even balance. Conversely, the Lou Reed/ Metallica (aka Loutallica, widely considered an artistic shit sandwich by fans of both Lou and ‘Tallica), appears to revel in its complete and utter lack of integration or balance between the wildly contrasting contributors, a document of a fascinating, bloated, theatrical car wreck.
The collaboration between Min Wong and Talitha Kennedy has, fortunately for the artists, had a smoother production, and a more satisfying culmination. Coming together to collaborate after each relocating across Australia (in different directions), the project has anchored both women in a way that has been challenging but rewarding. We are all familiar with
the turmoil and exhilaration of finding oneself in a new state or a new city, but to throw in a collaboration may
be the cherry on top of the icing of the proverbial stress cake. However, both artists have worked through these difficulties, approaching their project with the understanding that collaboration can be a complex negotiation, treating respective components with a playful, but respectful and thoughtful, approach.
Considering the recent work of both artists, their pairing may not appear to be a logical one. Kennedy’s organic, dominatrix-meets-Labyrinth forms and Wong’s hard lines and luminous geometry are two very different approaches to sculpture. However, the marriage of these contrasting forms is surprisingly harmonious. The dark, sensuous organs of Kennedy’s sculptures envelop Wong’s shimmering Perspex and deeply glowing horns, implying some kind of expanding, consuming plant. I am reminded of the red weed of H.G. Wells’ 1897 science fiction classic the War
of the Worlds. The invading Martian forces colonize Earth’s botanical life by introducing its crawling, engulfing red
weed. Wong and Kennedy’s hybrid form has a similar effect in my mind’s eye; long after I first encountered it in the studio, it has taken a foothold in the earth of my brain, and expands in my imagination.
Collaboration requires the constant downplaying of ego, and the dismissal of any preconceived notions of the project’s outcome. A willingness to deviate from the beaten track is required, and an inventiveness to solve problems that occur along the way. Wong and Kennedy should be applauded for not only creating a rich, immersive exhibition together without creative implosion, but for reminding us that collaboration is a vital and invigorating aspect of artistic practice.
JONATHAN McBURNIE 2015