Pairings Conference, MMU
I attended one day of the two day conference at MMU called 'Pairings: Conversations, Collaborations, Materials'. This two-day conference sought to make a significant contribution to expanding knowledge on collaborative practice in craft, design and art environments.
The conference stemmed from a project called 'The Pairings Project' at MMU which was set up to explore the potential of collaborative creative practice. It was initiated not only to make new work, but also to engage in conversation and establish links with other makers and institutions. The participants came from a variety of backgrounds in the craft, design and art spectrum, engaging with materials ranging from clay, glass, textiles, metal, wood or paper to new technologies such as digital and film media. They were all lecturers (some part time) at a number of educational institutions in the UK.
Paired up across both disciplines and institutions, there was no brief only the deadline of a booked exhibition space in the Special Collections Gallery, where it was hoped processes could be shown, even if there was no finished work produced.
I wanted to attend the conference as I am interested in the idea of collaboration. I think it can be a great way to get you out of your comfort zone and exploring fresh ideas. The artists involved exchanged works with the intention of developing the other person’s art by adding to it in some way. In doing this they were exposing themselves to unfamiliar working practices which in turn lead to exciting explorations and experimentation.
They then had to put their collaborative work within a context; an integral step in all practice, although importantly for me, they talked about this contextualisation not having to take the form of words, but instead suggested it could exist as pictures or objects etc that support the final work. I picked up on this in particular as I often find myself too immersed in books and theories, to the point that the visual research that I used to really enjoy gets forgotten. This is something I would like to try and address in future work.
A blog was set up for the participants to communicate via with the intention being that it would be a good tool to record the progress and development of the collaborations. It was however underused and discussion was had on why this might have been. People spoke of not wanting to put their personal thoughts online in the public domain, especially whilst they are still developing. I think this is a problem I have. Rather than a flow of consciousness as I make work and think about it, it always feels like more of a chore. I am also very selective about what I put on here, and it is nearly always about stuff that has already happened, rather than ideas I want to take forward. For me then, the blog is more of a formal diary of key things I have done. Perhaps my notebook of sketchy ideas would be more interesting but I would not feel comfortable exposing all.
In the afternoon I attended a talk called 'The Making' which is a strategy that has been set up to try and re-address the gap between the way art is taught in schools and the way professionals approach art and crafts. They want to help train teachers and give them more confidence by putting them in contact with arts professionals, galleries, craft workers etc and encourage issue based work. I think that this is a very interesting project and something I would like to keep my eye on and possibly access in the future.