Wednesday, September 06, 2006

These discussions belong at the blog…

These discussions belong at the blog…
I don’t want to say that this has been an easy project,

I don’t want to have any censoring…

(If you are interesting to follow this, start in the end and scroll it up…)

Från: Marie Asbjornsen []
RE from Paula Lindblom 2006-09-06 9.29 Skickat: den 6 september 2006 09:29Till:;;; marticas23@hotmail.comÄmne: RE: SV: SV: VB: hallo autumn and good bye summer...

Good morning everybody! Thanks for this mail!!!

I hope you have had some good sleep, Paula, even though your head was full
of thoughs after my mail. I have a good sleep, when I finally closed my eyes.
I am not sure if I understand what you mean about being "one" person, but I
think you mean that I speak for both of us, maria and me? I undserstand that
seems strange. The thing is that Maria is in the north, putting up a big
exhibition, she has lots to do and she does not have internett access there.
She has had a very buissy summer, participating and putting up a big number
of exhibitions, and she was so tired yesterday. She did not have much energy
left, so I said I would write and tell what we had been speaking about, to
take that part of work away from her shoulders. Something like that, yesterday
I was a little bite angry about that’s you “complain” and haven’t answer my mail either.
I really really understand that you have a full schedulers, I have it too…

And I think the organizying through internett is one of the things that has
been difficult for all of us, speaking for myself, I am not good enough to
use internett often enough and in an easy way. And I think that is what has
happend to Maria, Anni and martina as well, since it has been quiet. It is a
new way of working for everyone, and it has been a bit difficult, but the
idea is great! This is a new way, and I don’t think it easy either.
I’m not so very good at computers, but I got one at home witch is easer and quicker…
My biggest problem is my English. I can’t express my self the way I want, that’s my biggest problem. But I try and I think I’m on my way…

I am not going to leave the project if everybody want to do the exhibition,
then we do the exhibitions we have planned and we do them well! Maria said
the same on the phone. Phu! Absolutely, we will do it well!!!
I’m glad that you don’t “jump” and leave me in this…

I am waiting to hear from anni and martina as well, and then we go from
I think skipping the catalouge could be a way of redusing the work of this
project, but I am open for discussions.
I don’t want to do a publication any more; it’s to much work… IF we want, we can do one by our self.

Wish you all a nice day! A good day to you to!!! No bad feelings from this end of the world!
Now I will go out shopping some nice food and wine, I got flash visit from South Africa today!
Best regards, marie All the best Paula, say hallo to Maria also!

Marta, this has nothing to do with your work and your place in the group, I think your stuff is interesting in this on-line project! So keep on working and don’t take this personally, I see this as a discussion. I think it’s nice, interesting with discussions, even if I don’t have the time just now, to think deeper in to this…

If I got some more YES from places, I say NO.

I will also put this conversation to the blog, because this is what I have as an intention with the cooperation, good and bad things… Discussions etc.

You are free to use the blog! To write, put some images in and so on…
May be I will put in Love Jönssons text too?! Would be nice to show people that this wasn’t easy.

From Paula Lindblom 2006-09-06 9.43

I don't think anyone has done anything wrong, that's not the problem. The problem has been the communication and silence from "all" the once who are in this...
I think the silence come from everyone, even the people who ask a question about to cancel it, BUT I also think that it is GOOD that this question is coming up. Under the time this project has been going on, I have must end up deadlines, at lest 2 times or may be it's 3 times? I think that shows that people have a hard time to follow the "rules" and be in time etc. Now we are there again, but this time I don't like the idea of ending it like this, because I can't tell the places who has said yes, that we cancel it. I can't! This was my biggest fear when I contacted the galleries and so on, that someone gone get cold feet and don't show up... But I trust all of you who are in this project!!! I thought that this not gone be a problem, we all know the rules and agree with it...

I understand that my English was terrible in the last mail, tired, confused and sad... And I want to write back as soon as possible. Sorry, sorry, I hope you understand my Muppet show English.

All the best, Paula

From Marta 2006-09-06 9.40

Hi Marie
Well I think that to do a catalogue is good for us but I´m sure that all the people has a lot experiencie than me doing exhibitions.
I think too the idea and the resolution of this proyect it has been really great ,people say this about it.
It was difficult to talk by internet and think that the comunication changes a lot but we did it

I´m going to work and I will think about your letter.
I don´t has a lot experiencie but I believe in Paula and on me and the group.

well see you to night on mailing

best regards

and you could tell me what do you think about me ,my work and if I can continue because in some how you don´t agree my way to do.

no problem the life is a chance to learn and do an feel


Från: marta miguel []
Skickat: den 6 september 2006 09:17
Ämne: RE: SV: SV: VB: ops !!

ops! too
I don´t understand anything
what´s happen?

I read it now in the moorning and I surprise for the words of Marie

I am going to think during the day
if you believe that I must go out well It will be an opinion really important for me because I respect your decision all the time.

be quite
and think
I´m going to do this

I hope every one is happy with the work

sorry for my fault
if you think that I made it

From: "paula lindblom"
To: "'Marie Asbjornsen'">,,>,
Subject: SV: SV: VB: hallo autumn and good bye summer...
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2006 22:49:47 +0200


I have been working this evening and I saw a phone call from Norway on
my cell. Sorry, I haven't my cell with me when I'm working.

I don't agree with cancel this project! I will that we all show our
things at lest on the galleries who have say yes for this. I can't
cancel it, I can't!

I have asked around for some other places too, but I haven't got any
answer jet, and if I get a YES, I cancel it, I promise! It´s in Belin,
in Stockholm and in Malmoe here in Sweden.

I agree with you that it has been so empty from all of the others...
But I know that Anni has computer trouble. I and that she will be on
the line in a couple of days.
I also agree with Love Jönsson about the critic he give us in the
speech, but I have no problem with that, I think he has right about the
critic, but this is the first time like this, so it has some child
sickness... No a doubt about it, but I also know that he look forward to see this live.

Way I haven't use the site, the blog is that I will work out my things
for the coming exhibitions.
My thought was that we have ending it on the blog for some time, just
to end it up in this coming shows.

I have no problem with that we are still five in this project, because
I think quality is better than quantity... I like all your things you
have done and what you have been doing.
It's not a big show we are travelling along with, but for me it's okay
for this time.

So please, be with us in this final!

I hope everyone with write back to everyone as soon as possible and say
what you are thinking... But I can't cancel the exhibitions we already

Now I gone sleep very bad, rolling around thinking of some solution,
and for the moment with a lot of other things in my mind, I'm really
sure that I don't come up with some good ideas about this. Sorry.

Nice to here that you have a good time Marie.
Sorry to hear that you and Maria don't believe in this project. I
thought that you have been a good craft and energy in this project, and
I'm sorry that you turn in to be "one" person in this, if you
understand what I mean?!

All the best Paula

And YES I have put a lot of energy and time in this project, but I
still want to end it! I proud of what's coming up and I have spoken
with a lots of people who are working with jewellery's and they say
that they think it's a good an interesting idea.

May be we do the shows and give a dam in the publication idea?!

Från: Marie Asbjornsen []
Skickat: den 5 september 2006 21:37
Ämne: RE: SV: VB: hallo autumn and good bye summer...

Hi everybody!

I am back from amsterdam, and it was a nice trip and opening!

The summer has gone very quick, and now fall is here..

First of all; Thanks for the critic you sent this summer, Paula. I read
it again today, and I have to say I very much agree on the critic coming up..

I spoke with Maria on the phone earlier today, and I tried to call you,
Paula, just to discuss everything a bit, because I find it harder on
internett. But I could not reach you, so I will try to write.

After talking with Maria, it turned up that both of us feel lack of
energy aroud this project. Maybe some of the reason is that both of us
have many exhibitions we are working with, and a lot of work to do. But
I also think it has to do with the fact that it seems like it is lack
of interest in the group aswell (except Paula). The whole project feels
a bit thin, after so many left, few of us have been active on the
blogsite, and it seems like Paula is the only one who is carrying the project.

After reading through the critic, Maria said she wished that the
project did

not end in an exhibition, but that the plog was an open and alive site
for everyone to put out pictures, as long as it was interest out there,
and that

that was it. (The intension of having exhibitions all over the world,
is a good idea aswell, but ofcourse a lot more to organize.) How it is
now, it seems like no one is visiting the site, and making comments,
not even the five of us, and the thing that is waiting now is the exhibitions.
So both Maria and I are wondeing: is there enough interest in the group
of continuing the blog and to actually do the exhibitions?

I know this is coming late, and I know that we have said yes to take
part in exhibitions. Both Maria and I will sty in and take part in the
exhibitions that are booked, if the three of you really want to do
these exhibitions. I just want to check out what you all really think,
because I still think there is time to cansel.

When it comes to apply for more exhibitions, maria and I are not really
interested in that. We do not feel comfortable with sending the
blogsite around as an application, it is to much mess and we do not
find it profesionel enough. (that is also comments we have got showing
it around)

I hope this is not making anyone angry, and specially not you, Paula,
because I know you have put so much energy into this, and I really
respect you for that. But I just find it important to check out what
you all think about this, because it has been so little communication
through this period,

(except with you, paula.), and it is still a lot of work to do, if we

I hope to hear from all of you.

Best wishes from marie

From Paula Lindblom 2006 08 31 10.56

Hi again.

I don't know if it's necessary to have a catalogue... But I think it would be nice, and from the beginning it was my intention to do a publication and exhibition "after" the cooperation over the internet. I like the idea to do a publication and we also need invitation cards to the three shows...

I really want an answer about this and also if you know some other place to show our things.

Have a nice weekend!


Lots of luck, Marie.

I got answer from Marta and she like the idea and thing that A5 horizontal would be nice, and I agree, like the size too. May be it's possible to use the front page as invitation card later on?! Just to change the text about when and where... I want to have some kind of easy way to do this...

Från: Marie Asbjornsen []
Skickat: den 31 augusti 2006 09:11
Ämne: RE: VB: hallo autumn and good bye summer...

hi everybody!
This is very quick from me.., I am on my way to the netherlands today, in half an hour, to take part in an exhibition there. It has been lots to do these days, so I am sorry I have not had time to think about these things.
I am still a bit unsure if I really think we need a catalogugue, but if everybody else think so, I am in. I do not remember if we decided to do it, or if we where thinking of if we should do it?

I have to read through everything again when I come back, monday, and answer later, I am sorry, because I still have to pack my things now..
Have a nice weekend!
Best wishes,

From: "paula lindblom"
To: "'marta miguel'"
Subject: SV: VB: hallo autumn and good bye summer...
Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2006 10:42:20 +0200

Hi Marta.

I thought that A5 horizontal is good too.
You can e-mail me the text before if you want. No problem.
I will write some text by my self to and some kind of text for the whole
project, send it further to you all, so you can look and think about it.
Nice that you are going out and take some photos about recycling things, I>will do the same today...
It's no hurry with the money, I will talk to my friend tomorrow, and then I
know more about "all" this.
Have a nice day and I'm happy for you that you enjoyed the Finish workshop.
And that you meet Pernilla and Miro, did you see Gila too? I think she was
there to.
I look forward to end this on-line project, so something "new" can start. I
think this has been a nice way to work, but some has to been better done in
the further, if I'm doing this again.
I will look for some other places to exhibit in too, I haven't drop this

Hug Paula

Från: marta miguel []
Skickat: den 29 augusti 2006 09:42
Ämne: RE: VB: hallo autumn and good bye summer...

Hi Paula

That is ok for me
I began writing first in spanish the text ,and today is probably a friend
help me taking a photo

the money is ok too,when do you prefer that I send it to you?

well The size is ok A5 on position Horizontal

and I´m going today walking around to take photo about recycle material

well this summer for me was work and work but in finland I was very happy
and I saw Pernille and Miro ,good experiencie.

well keep on tounch

before I send the cd I will send you a mail with the text
and the photo

best regards


From: "paula lindblom"
To: "Anni Jonsson">,,,
Subject: VB: hallo autumn and good bye summer...
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2006 20:43:52 +0200


Please answer me… as soon as you are able to do it.


I will see my graphic design friend this week and I have to know how you
All are thinking about this…

Från: paula lindblom []
Skickat: den 21 augusti 2006 23:25
Till: Anni Jonsson; (; Marie Asbjornsen
[] (; (
Ämne: hallo autumn and good bye summer...

Hi dear jewelleryfriends!

I hope that you have a great summer.

I have a nice and calm summer with lots of nice small and bigger trips in
Sweden… A really good summer with lots of SUN! Love it! My last swim and
sun tanning I have this last Friday, and it was 20 degrees in the ocean.

Now the autumn is here and we have to start thinking about our further
About the on-line project. I haven’t got any more answer from places… Sorry for that. I will contact some other places and I hope you all will do the same…

We have some publicity in Germany this summer, in the beginning… Love
Jönsson the hand craft critic has talking about the project in a big
convent. (I hope I was sending this text to you???) It was not only good
words but I think it was good that he wanted to use this project in his

Now we have three exhibitions next year, and I hope that everyone can be there…with 3- 5 objects, jewelleries each.

We have to think about how we should do with the publication and “all” the
invitation cards too.

I have a purpose… That everyone of you are sending me some information in
English about your work, and may be how you have been working in this
project and what you think about the cooperation. It could be nice that
people can take part of our work, together over the internet and not only
by saying; that it looks great or nice.

Its a little bite tin in the end on the blog with comments about the work
We have done etc.

And the in the same time that you are sending me the text, you also send me
photos who you want to be in the publication, may be one, two or three
photos in high quality.

If some one of you have a nice photo of some kind of recycling thing that
We can have on the front, would be nice…

Text and photo sending to me on a cd.

Paula Lindblom
Oljekvarnsgatan 7b
414 65 Gothenburg

And send me also 500 Swedish crowns (about 50 euro), so we can pay my
friend to do the lay out for this publication… To print it we will check around to find some good and “cheep” place, may be in Spain, Norway or in Sweden…

May be some of you know someone who can do this “better” and for less
money?! Please tell me and the other if you know someone.

I don’t know how you will have this publication?! In A-4 or may be in
A-5??? Standing or laying … Etc.

I think that it would be nice to have a front with some photos, who
our work and some who telling what we have been working with… And a back
with contacts may be we all or the blog address will stand on the back of
the publication.

So keep on thinking and contact everyone to tell each other what you are
thinking and when we have to start with this… Just to have it finish in the
end of this year.

Is it possible to do the invitation card on the same idea?! I think that we
may be able to come up with some clever idea about the publication and the
invitation card. Just for the moment I have NO idea about this… But I will
absolutely think about it!

I have done a fast sketch about my thoughts about the publication… You can
see it and tell me what or who we gone do this.

I’m a little bite out of energy after this summer, but I will start with
this thing, so we are prepared when we are going to show our things.

Keep in touch and good luck with all your other things too!


Anni, I hope everything is okay with you.

Marta, I’m not going to Spain with my friends this autumn… I jump it!


paula lindblom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
paula lindblom said...

Looking at collaborations

Lecture at Schmucksymposium Zimmerhof, June 16, 2006
© Love Jönsson

My starting point is the considerable growth of collaborative practices, both in the crafts, design, and art that have been noticeable during the last five to ten years. I will approach this issue from a number of viewpoints, including the idea of the possibility of a socially or collectively determined design process and the difference between this idea and the notion of individual authorship. The lecture will also touch upon the question of the artefact as something changeable and constantly developing rather than something static. I will also make some comments about whether a collective work process might be considered an artwork in its own right, or not.

I will be talking first of all about the Swedish scene, which – of course – is the one that I am most familiar with. However I do believe that the questions I address are not tied to a national discussion but have a more general significance, too.

I will start with a short theoretical introduction, and then go on by showing and discussing some examples of collaborative work, drawn from the contemporary scene as well as from the 1970s.

Looking at contemporary Sweden, one can easily observe that a large part of the young designers and craftspeople who have made their debut in recent years have been acting as groups or collectives. The reasons that lie behind their choice of working methods are various, but in general they all share an interest in social processes. These processes represent not only the creative practices of the individual groups, and their both practical and symbolical implications, but also the broader social setting that surrounds the work and its results.

The relationship between maker and object, and object and user, are at the heart of many of the projects that have been put forward by these groups. The artefact, the man-made object, is here conceived of as something that gains its meaning and value not solely from an individual, privileged maker’s fingerprints but rather from a socially determined process, a process that involves interaction, change, and the passing of time.

I am talking here about the ambition, clearly visible in much of today’s crafts, to make works that in their very conception carry and express the idea of changeability. The object is perceived of as something in a state of flux, something that takes on different shapes and functions in different settings. In this view, the individual artwork does not receive its main significance from its maker, but rather from other people’s handling of it, and its passage through different social, economical or symbolical systems.

This shift in perspective, and its eventual displacement of the traditional status of the finished, static work of art, does not only reflect a somewhat new view on making. It also hints toward the need of rethinking our concepts of using and experiencing. The makers I am talking about in this context do not only frequently engage in projects that involve close collaboration with their colleagues; almost as a rule, they also seek to engage in a dialogue with their possible audience. The very idea of creating unfinished works, pieces that yearn for completion by someone else, inevitably involves the notion of the audience as a collaborator. The spectators, the owners, the users all somehow become the artists’ collaborators.

Needless to say, this artistic stance includes a desire to get out of the white cube of the museum or the gallery in order to act and interact in daily life, in real time, on street-level so to speak. Last year’s Wrapping Hood exhibition in Middlesbrough, described earlier today by its curator Susan Pietzsch, is but one example. And this movement is not new. From the history of modern art we know the ambition to overcome the division between art and life as a persistent feature of the avant-garde.

What perhaps marks off crafts and design from art in this discussion, though, is that a social setting and a practical use of things cannot be said to have ever been alien to crafts and design. In comparison to art, the crafts have traditionally a more marked connection to the everyday, to the useful and to the wearable. Jewellery, fashion, and tableware are all examples of areas within the crafts that generally have been, and still are, aimed for a social context rather than a museum display. This marks a clear difference compared to the mainstream of post-war art, which in many respects have been made to fit the large-scale modernist museum building rather than the private home or the context of an intimate encounter.

To sum up, there is today a growing awareness in the crafts that the field’s historical ties to social life, social behaviour, conspicuous consumption – all the drama of reality – can be used as a meaningful artistic point of departure. And judging from my own experience, this interest in the social aspects of crafts often coincides with a desire to create working conditions that allow for the work to be shaped by a group rather than an individual. And, subsequently, the final work may be symbolically handed over to the audience, to be renegotiated and physically altered.

Several, if not all, of these aspects come together in the work of the Swedish design group Uglycute [Image #1]. This group, which was formed about six years ago, consists of one architect, one interior designer and two artists. This image [Image #2] shows one the group’s interior designs, constructed in 2004 for a then new-opened art institution in a Stockholm suburb, concentrated upon relational art. The premises earlier hosted an office. Instead of emptying the room of its original fittings, the group chose to keep them. So the fluorescent tubes were left in the ceiling, and desks and other fittings were only fairly covered with a grey carpet. The staff of the art gallery, as well as the visitors, was encouraged to rework the design, for instance by attaching things to the wall-covering carpet or cutting holes in it, thereby putting their own mark on the interior. As we also can see from this image, some of the newly constructed furniture consisted of simple wooden stools.

This interior, in its relative crudeness, reflects some recurring features of the designs of Uglycute, namely their use of basic, low-tech construction methods and inexpensive materials. And it is also these features that seem to allow for a generous attitude towards the possibility for the users to alter or re-shape the work. The materials are not valuable, and not much time has initially been spent on giving them shape.

In some ways, the aesthetics of Uglycute and other similar design groups are close to a ‘crafty’, hands-on attitude towards material, as opposite to the smoother, slicker manner one associates with the mainstream design industry. However, if compared to traditions in the crafts, there is marked difference in Uglycute’s approach since the group generally do not seem to invest any significant symbolic value in their own process of making. Instead they often seem to suggest that their work is fulfilled only when being used and altered by others.

[Image #3] Here is another example of Uglycute’s work, a series of small circular tables. The central leg of each table is covered with a thick layer of soft material that allows the owner to influence the shape of the leg, for instance by attaching straps. In this way everyone can design his or her own make-believe version of a lathe-turned, decorative leg.

Maybe I should add that generally, I am not fully convinced that collective work, inexpensive materials and changeable designs by implication represent a paved way to ‘democratic design’. However I do have respect for the works of groups like Uglycute, devoted as they are to the idea of making designs that can function both in a practical way and as a starting point for discussions on the power and values that permeates our architectural environment.

Furthermore, another interesting aspect of collaboration that has been brought to the forefront by the members of Uglycute is the quality that eventually can be found in compromising. There is an obvious difference between an artwork that is a single person’s self-sufficient creation, and a work that is the result of a collaborative process.

Whenever people come together, they need to compromise. It is as simple as that. In the heroic image of the avant-garde artist or designer, however, compromise is traditionally seen as something negative, something that threatens the vision or the integrity of the artist’s genius. In architecture, this cult of the uncompromising vision might be said to have led up to the construction of our post-war, large-scale suburban housing areas. On the one hand this city planning did reflect a strong vision, but on the other hand it often resulted in a built environment that was actually impoverished and inhospitable.

As a way of escaping from this artistic ivory tower, architects and designers today often prefer to make objects or environments in which the vision is not the achievement of an aesthetically and practically fixed solution. Instead, what becomes the vision is the creation of an interactive object or environment, a design that fulfils its intentions only when being handled or altered according to its owner’s own wishes. The maker or designer in some way lets go of the power over his or her work. The compromise, the solution that makes the demands of different people’s wishes and ambitions come together, here becomes a significant idea rather than something that undermines the artists’ work.

[Image #4] Here is Front, another Swedish design group. Front consists of four women educated in industrial design. In a project in 2003, called Design by animals, Front presented a series of usable objects that had been given their shape through the actions of animals. [Image #5] Here is a lamp that received its shape from a partial cast of a rabbit’s hole dug in the ground. [Image #6] This is a vas that is also a cast, this time from the imprint of a leg made by a dog walking in deep snow. Other objects in this series make use of the actions of snakes, rats and even flies. In subsequent project, the members of Front have continued investigating ways of determining a design by random or by external powers.

These projects are particularly interesting as they outspokenly question the notion of individual, human authorship. Of course any collective project in some way sets individuality aside. But since a considerable part of the design process here has been handed over to anonymous animals, the aura of the human fingerprint has been even further diminished. Here one can detect not only a critique against the cult of the ‘star’ designer, but also a commentary on the claims of originality and authenticity that are associated with a modernist view on creative work. The artist or designer as a star, a hero, is also for the most part a role that has been played by male designers. Thus, in some of the works from Front, one can detect an underlying feminist critique towards the notion of the male genius, a notion that has been so important for society’s general understanding of creativity, art and the shaping of modern society.

In conclusion, in the works of these groups we meet a post-modern influenced critique against both the notion of a privileged, individual authorship and the idea of fixed, universal artistic solutions. Moreover, the collective structures of the groups appear to be fundamental in their approach to these issues.

Of course, the groups I have been talking about here are not the only ones to have dwelled on the subjects of changeable design or the dynamics of the collective. Surely you are all familiar with Gijs Bakker’s and Renny Ramaker’s Amsterdam-based Droog design. In some respects, Droog design can be regarded as a source of inspiration, or even a role model, for the Swedish groups that I have mentioned.

However there are also, in a national Swedish context, other predecessors that might be just as important. Today, many people point to the similarities between the crafts and design groups of recent years and the multitude of collective projects that marked the crafts community of the late 1960s and the70s. These years, in Sweden as elsewhere in the west, were a time of awakening political consciousness. In the crafts, this was expressed through the incorporation of images and references to current political questions, for instance in the form of tapestries and even bowls of silver that commented on the war in Vietnam. There was an outspoken desire to engage with a larger set of questions than had been offered by crafts’ conventional aesthetics. Apart from the assimilation of political imagery, these years also saw the development of a subtler, elaborate way of commenting on society and values. In some cases one can see clear parallels to the issues that are at stake today.

[Image #7] Here we see a variable textile by the textile artist Margareta Hallek made in the revolutionary year of 1968. It consists of a wooden frame in which a multi-coloured, pleated piece of textile is arranged by the help of straps. The artist’s intention was that her audience should have the opportunity to alter the shape of the textile by stretching or un-stretching the straps. This is one of many works in which Margareta Hallek tried to develop a ‘democratic’ textile art – artworks that allowed for anyone to leave his or her own temporary mark. Obviously, a work like this anticipates many of the qualities that are so sought-after by makers in today’s craft and design.

What perhaps makes this particular piece stand out in comparison with a lot of other similar democratically minded works is that it seems to encompass also a critical, feminist dimension. The central flexible textile piece can be interpreted as an image of the female body, symbolically trapped in a geometrical, narrow space and subjected to society’s endless corrections and alterations. This possible meaning of the work points to the fact that changeability and flexibility are concepts that do not always have a given correlation with a concept such as participation. Change can be associated with force, rather than with choice. And the space for ‘interaction’ does always have its limits.

If Margareta Hallek’s variable textile is strikingly complex in its simultaneous exploration of different levels of power, imagery, and physical interaction, some of her colleagues at the tome expressed their political standpoint in a more straightforward way. In the catalogue of a joint exhibition in 1975 called Verkligheten sätter spår [Reality leaves traces], a group of ten Swedish women textile artists self-confidently declared that their decision to work in close collaboration and to exhibit together as a group was determined by ‘social and political responsibility’. For them, an artist had a duty to engage in political issue together with colleagues in order to bring about changes in society.

[Image #8] One of the most well known international examples of an artistic collaboration from these years is of course the American artist Judy Chicago’s installation piece The Dinner Party. This mixed media work was completed in 1979, after five years of production involving the commitment of hundreds of volunteering students and artists’ colleagues. This piece, as you know, is a work that honours the achievements of feminist pioneers from around the world. However, this work also points to the conflicts that can occur in collaborative projects concerning authorship and artistic copyright. Judy Chicago was criticised by some because the project, even though it had a collective structure, was finally presented under her individual name. This meant, critics argued, that she had merely adopted the patriarchal structure of the artists’ studio that we know from the old masters of the Renaissance.

Well, that was a parenthesis. To go back to the group of Swedish textile artists I was talking about earlier, their work drew heavily on the tradition of social realism of the 1930s. [Image #9] Here is a typical work from the Reality leaves traces exhibition, a tapestry by Sandra Ikse depicting a mother with child in front of an anonymous, stylised high-rise. The windows and the balconies of the concrete slab building that makes up the background of the image here takes on the shape of a grid, a fence – a repressive structure that sets a limit for the space that the humans can occupy. This is a critique of exactly that rigid architectural environment that many designers today so passionately try to avoid or undermine.

A major goal for these textile artists was to express, as a group, solidarity with under-privileged groups in the world, such as other women, children and people in developing countries. As I mentioned earlier, they even saw this as their responsibility. Here lies perhaps one of the most important differences between the groups of today and the groups of the 1970s. Today it is rare to hear artists or craftsmen declare that they collaborate with colleagues because they feel it is their duty or responsibility. And if artists today want to express solidarity with under-privileged groups in society, they are more likely to trying to engage people from these groups in artistic projects rather than making them the motif of their art. And please note that I do not intend to dismiss neither contemporary art nor the political art and crafts of the 70s; I only want to point out that the conditions are different.

To sum up, an artists’ group today is probably not based on a shared feeling of social responsibility, but on the fact that many artists find it fun and worthwhile to work together. However, I sometimes wonder if structures in the art world itself have not also been quite influential regarding the growth of collaborative projects.

Among the jet-set of the contemporary art world, the artists’ role can be the one of a nomad, a traveller, or perhaps even a bit like Chuck Berry – a solo rock star on a never-ending tour, popping up here and there to play gigs with various local musicians. There exists a small but influential group of internationally acclaimed artists whose working place preferably is the temporary exhibition site, the biennial, or the artist-in-residence programme. And to become a part of this attractive circle, you need to be an artist who likes to collaborate.

The directors of any artist-in-residence-programme are more likely to give the preference to an artist who has a record of collaborations rather than one who prefers to work in concentration and solitude in his or her studio. This comes almost natural.

But as a result, the temporary, half-hearted artistic collaboration project can in some ways be said to have become a plague of our time. It has even developed a cliché imagery of its own. I am sure you have all seen it sometimes at various project rooms or biennials: some scribble or post-it stickers on the walls, a mess of electrical cords, perhaps a few load-speakers or some projections or technical devices that not always work, and a pile of beer crates – all of it presented as, say, an exciting encounter between young artists from three different continents. Usually, it looks something like this [Image #10].

The point I want to make here is that a collaborative structure does not excuse a weak work or a weak idea. Still, there is a great deal of romanticism attached to the idea of collaboration. This romanticism implies that any artistic collaboration is valuable in itself. The eventual final result, the objects, the exhibition, the happening, the DVD, the semi-scientific research report, or whatever, becomes secondary because the collective process itself is put forward as a work of art. To me, this is often quite pretentious.

The design groups I discussed earlier generally avoid falling in this trap because they have a focus on the process that starts after that their own work is finished. They do not present their own collective working process as their major achievement.

In conclusion, I think there are reasons to questions the idea that any work process, be it an individual or a collective one, is a work of art. This leads me to my final examples, and – at last – I will now be talking about jewellery. For a while, I have been following an on-line, collective jewellery project initiated by Paula Lindblom, a young Swedish jeweller. This project, simply called The on-line jewellery project, started out in 2005 and offered an opportunity for jewellers to engage in a formalised, web-based discussion forum where the development of their work is documented. The theme of the project is consumer society, and some of the questions that are at stake are what role the remains of this society– the rubbish, the junk, and the flea-market stuff – can play in a jewellery context. Here one can detect a link to some of issues I discussed earlier, namely the status of the object as an artefact and a commodity, and the changes it undergoes when moving between different functions and social arenas.

Paula Lindblom describes that her idea behind the collaborative structure was that jewellers in different countries would get the chance to work together under a given theme, communicating, discussing their work, and following the development of their colleagues. Visitors to the site are also encouraged to post comments of their own. [Image #11] Here are two images from the website, a pair of brooches by a Swedish participant. There are countless images on the website, these are just samples.

The kind of contacts between artists that this project offers is not new, of course. But what might be fairly new is that the group’s discussion here has gone public. The participating jewellers generously let anyone with web access follow their internal communication – and even their conflicts. The tensions and disappointments that have developed in the project are not veiled. Quite a few participants have left the project, in the end leaving a core of five jewellers. When scrolling through the archive, one can find a lot of messages that mirrors some participants’ frustration over the limited efforts of others: ‘I’m a little disappointed about this on-line project…’; ’Following deadlines is quite important in our adult life and specially if you want to accomplish something as an artist’, etcetera.

Furthermore, it is said on the website that ‘the blog has become an art piece in itself’. But, again, as much as I like this project and its ambitions, I have to raise doubts about the artistic value of the blog. I would argue that it is not more of an artwork than any blog on the web. And if this blog is an artwork, the artistic means it makes use of is pretty weak. Some posted messages are interesting, but a lot of them are not. There is a lot of repetition, and the English is often poor.

My point is that this blog is interesting, but mainly as a documentation of the collective work process and not really as an artwork in its own right. When, as in this project, the final outcome is supposed to be an exhibition of jewellery, it does not make sense to elevate the production process to become an independent piece of art. If the collective discussion were the artwork, there would be no need for the participants to make jewellery and collect it for an exhibition, would it?

Finally I want to underline that despite my doubts regarding the artistic value of the blog itself, I am very fond of this collaborative initiative. I am also looking forward to the exhibition of the works that have been carried out by the participants during the project. This exhibition will be touring Europe next year, with dates booked in Norway, Sweden and Poland so far. Do have a look on the website []!

‘Looking at collaborations’ was the title I chose for this lecture. I have tried to do just that. In my own work as a critic and writer it is natural to take on the role of an onlooker, a spectator. However, you can always question if this position offers the best possibilities to understand and fully appreciate artistic projects that have a loose, collective structure and wish to make their audience into active participants.

I guess that I should now present an answer to this – a conclusion. But instead I will end by posing you a question: is it enough to only look at collaborations, or do you have to participate to really understand what is going on?

Additional comments, June 27, 2006:

After the lecture there were some questions and comments from the audience regarding the possible flexibility of artworks or design objects. Amongst others, Castello Hansen argued that the examples I had been discussing in the lecture hardly fulfil the intentions of a user-influenced design, since they seem to offer only a very limited space for the owner’s/user’s own creativity. This is an important issue, and I do agree that the possibility of altering the shape of a leg of a table, for instance, may be regarded as a mere sign of interaction rather than as an accomplishment of the real idea. However, objects like this function on several levels and in some cases the symbolical meaning can justly be regarded the most important.

Still, works like these often suffer from being reduced to symbolic pieces, as when included in museum collections. It is of course an irony that flexible design objects often belong to that kind of avant-garde production that museums love to collect. And as soon as they are in the collections, their state of flux is over – otherwise they would risk getting worn. From one perspective, though, this highlights one of the issues that the makers themselves seem to be interested in, namely the change in value and position that occur when an object is moved from one social arena to another.


Now when the lecture is published on the website I would also like to give some additional references.

The works of the design groups Uglycute and Front can be spotted at and respectively.
The similarities and differences between Swedish crafts collectives of the 70s and recent years are discussed in Pernilla Åbrink’s essay “The Silent Heroes”, in Love Jönsson (ed.), Craft in Dialogue: Six Views on a Practice in Change, Stockholm: IASPIS 2005, p. 57-77. The book can be ordered from
The works and ideology of the artists’ group behind the Reality Leaves Traces exhibition is documented in the exhibition catalogue Verkligheten sätter spår, Gothenburg: The Röhss Museum 1975 [published in Swedish only].
Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, now in Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, is presented at My brief account of some of the critique against her project draws on Edmund de Waal, 20th Century Ceramics, London: Thames & Hudson 2003, p. 192f.