Synergy describes the fact that two heads can be better than one. When two (or more) people work together the results, as they say, may be greater than the sum of their parts: 1 + 1 = 3. It’s the mathematical conundrum that drives the collaborative process. The group exhibition, Greater Together, presents eight projects that make the most of synergistic energy.
“Despite the myth of the singular artist as genius (a concept that emerged during the Renaissance and that is continued by the media), collaboration, as a working method, has been a relatively common strategy since the 1960s,” explains curator Annika Kristensen. “What I am interested in, for this exhibition, is looking at the work of collaborators, collectives, or even individual artists, who consider their practice as a form of united labour in which a conscious effort has taken place to consider the benefits (and occasional challenges!) of working together.”
Greater Together features works by Courtney Coombes & Antoinette J. Citizen; Field Theory; and Clark Beaumont from Australia, alongside international artists and collectives: Bik Van der Pol; Céline Condorelli; C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowka; Goldin + Senneby; and Patrick Staff.
But she also insists that “Australia has a very healthy culture of collaboration. And it’s something that I am interested to see more of, not only in art practice, but also between arts workers and institutions.”
Although the works in Greater Together are diverse, something of a sub-theme has emerged. “Of the eight distinct projects, four are new commissions,” Kristensen says, “and it’s interesting how, independently, each of the groups have chosen to make works that in some way reference ideas of apocalyptic or existential threat.”
Interesting, but perhaps not surprising. After all, we live in trying times. Yet there remains a utopian undercurrent in collaboration: the buoyant hopeful energy of achieving something collectively.
“In 2004, shortly after the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq, US writer Rebecca Solnit published her manifesto, Hope in the Dark, which made a case for maintaining hope in despairing times. In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, the text has enjoyed much renewed interest,” says Kristensen. “Solnit writes about the importance of understanding how extraordinary our current moment is, despite it also being a ‘nightmarish time’. And that hope lies in the capacity to grasp, and to use, the knowledge and tools that the 21st century has brought us to address the more devastating realities that have also arisen.”
And one of those tools is art. “I’m interested in hope, but also in practicality. And in thinking through how we might work better into the future,” Kristensen points out, “So I want to consider how and why artists collaborate to share their labour, and how we might learn from these ideas and methods in our everyday lives.”