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Photography: Justin Farrelly.

Learning - Generosity and Exchange - Create News 4 (March 2008)

Michelle Browne reflects on the Inter Art College Placement Programme

'What matters is the exemplary character of production, which is able first to induce other producers to produce, and second, to put an improved apparatus at their disposal. And this apparatus is better the more consumers it is able to turn into producers – that is readers or spectators into collaborators'
- Walter Benjamin – 'The Author as Producer'[1]

Create, as the national development agency for collaborative arts in Ireland, has an interest in this notion of an improved apparatus that Benjamin talks about. In their promotion of a genre of art making that engenders cultural inclusion and through the Inter Art College Learning Development Programme, Create invests in the development of skills around collaborative practice. In 2008 they are managing this programme for students from National College of Art and Design, Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire,  Dublin Institute of Technology and Tisch School of Performing Arts, New York University.  Beginning at an early stage in the career of young artists and engaging with a variety of groups, Create is equipping both artist and community to explore the possibilities of collaboration.

As many of these young artists are coming from a studio based practice, which focuses on the development of an individual mode of expression, the move into collaborative practice will pose many questions and will challenge received notions of individual expression. Much contemporary art practice in Ireland and internationally embrace notions of co-authorship of work and revel in the dynamics that it brings to the creative process. As philosopher Michel Foucault proposes in his writings might we be moving to a future where the artist is not considered the indefinite source of meaning in a work - a future time when we would:

No Longer hear the questions that have been rehashed for so long: who really spoke? Is it really he and not someone else? With what authenticity or originality?[2]

These issues are charged and of great importance to those engaging in collaborative practice. The participants of Create’s Learning Development Programme have the opportunity to actively explore and negotiate some of these ideas and to test out approaches to collaborative arts making. With this testing is the possibility of failure. This is an important luxury, where trust can be built up with the communities as they take a journey into the unknown. This generosity in exchange is fundamental to the success of the programme.

So where does the learning lie in collaborative practice? For those arts students engaged in this programme it is through doing. Invaluable experience is being gained through this opportunity. Participants are asked to think outside of the traditional modes of art making and to consider a variety of issues that are of importance to much contemporary art practice. More and more we see calls for artists to engage with 'communities' through public art commissions and residencies. The Inter Art College Learning Development Programme creates a space for students to gain experience in this area enabling them to confidently work in this field in their professional practice in the future and thus enriching the experience of all collaborators in this arts practice in Ireland.

Create’s Learning Development programme provides a template of inter college collaboration, community collaboration and a model of experiential learning that equips students with a practicable knowledge and skill set to consider the arena of collaborative arts as a viable professional arts practice. Moreover it provides a genuine opportunity to test out the theoretical terrain – from Claire Bishop’s 'The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents'[3] to Miwon Kwon[4] and Grant Kester’s[5] contested readings of ‘community’ and the politics and ethics of an artists collaborative engagement -  in ways that are unexpected and surprise, and ways that cannot necessarily be guided by theory alone. In this way the experiential learning of the placement programme enhances and emboldens an arts student's study, providing a critical and supported pathway to professional collaborative arts practice.

As a former placement student I value the experience garnered from the programme that has provided me with building blocks from which to develop my professional practice in this field.



1. Benjamin, W. 'The Author as Producer' in Walter Benjamin Selected Writings Vol.2 1927-1934 (ed.) Jennings, M. Eiland, H. & Smith, G., 1999, Cambridge,Mass., Harvard University Press , p.777.
2. Foucault, M. 'What is an Author?' (1969) in Foucault A Reader (1984) (ed.) Robinson, P. New York, Pantheon. p. 120.
3. Bishop, C. 'The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents' Art ForumFebruary 2006, pp.178-183 Claire Bishop
4. Kwon, M. One Place After Another: Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.
5. Kester, G. Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, Berkley, University of California Press. 




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