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Thirza Wakefield
Thirza Wakefield is a film critic. She writes for the British Film Institute’s international magazine Sight & Sound, the BFI online, and bimonthly film journal Little White Lies.

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Art

October 2015

Thirza Wakefield

Art

October 2015

In his 1992 essay ‘In Search of the Centaur’, the writer and critic Phillip Lopate described the essay-film as ‘a cinematic genre that barely...
ARTISTIC COLLABORATION, in all disciplines, is — and has ever been — the exception In its unmitigated form — taking place between two or more individuals working to one end, and with the particulars of responsibility dissolved in consensus — collaboration has proven to be a versatile and available mode of artistic production   So why is collaboration given so wide a berth? That, historically, so large a proportion of collaborative works come over apologetic — mollifying their collaborative character — would suggest that it is in the understanding of collaborative art, and not the undertaking, where lies the issue And for this reason: collaborative art overturns our perception of ‘the artist’, to which we hold fast, even if we don’t know it   It is important to clarify what I mean by collaboration There are media that necessarily utilise a workforce, the craftsmanship of others, that are inherently ‘collaborative’ but to which, for the purposes of this article, we will not apply the term collaboration A big-scale beehive of a collaborative endeavour, a film congregates large numbers of individuals, each a satellite contributor and specialist — in cinematography, animation, sound or wardrobe design But if a film’s achievement may be credited to individuals in titled, subsidiary roles, it cannot satisfactorily be called a collaboration How far can a film’s scriptwriter be said to have collaborated with its stunt man? There is no transaction of ideas, no arbitration; they are connected indirectly by an intermediary in the form or forms of director and producer Collaboration in film, and to the same degree, theatre, is contingent upon a selection or hiring process; ‘collaborators’ are delegated to and in most circumstances work apart In the critical theory of François Truffaut and other contributors to Cahiers du Cinéma, the success (or failure) of a film is attributable only to its director, Truffaut’s apiculturist ‘auteur’ If I am inclined to disagree with Truffaut’s solo-project take on the film industry, I am also unable to name his cameramen, his editors, his supporting casts Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds is a similar instance of the figure-headed or curated ‘collective’ artwork The Beijing artist employed over a thousand

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