I’ve been thinking a lot over the past several years about collaboration with artists – how to do it, what it looks like, how to begin. Generally artists work in their own language, which sometimes can turn too introspective, or worse full of ego. There seems to be some major shifts going on though in the landscape where contemporary artists are working in a less ego-driven mode, therefore more open to collaboration. I saw a lot of this type of ego-less, practical work this past Summer at documenta 13.
It seems that two artists both focused on journeys of their mind, and resolution of major personal conflicts through their artwork is an unlikely collaboration. Not the case with the collaboration of Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin. Both artists admired and controversial from a cult of personality standpoint, and practicing highly personal works. Both focusing on issues of female sexuality, motherhood (Emin’s inability to mother, Bourgeois’s life of mothering), and both using text, fabric and embroidery in their work.
Bourgeois saw Tracey Emin’s Parkett Magazine edition, and sparked a dialog with the artist. Two years before she passed away she sent Emin 16 water colors for her to intervene with. It took Emin two years to complete the works, which were well received by Bourgeois. The works were shown at Hauser & Wirth Gallery in London last year.
Personally I find the works beautiful. Despite Emin’s enfant terrible reputation, I really admire the intersection of honest intimacy, text and bravery in her work. I also think its amazing to see Bourgeois, with a reputation of no nonsense artist with a knack for being ornery, let go of the reigns in this project with Emin.
The only thing I would wonder is if they followed up with Emin initiating the drawings or materials to send Bourgeois. Would she send her text? Photographs? Would Bourgeois respond softly or loudly? Sadly we won’t know as Bourgeois passed away three months after the completion of the project.
I remain on the lookout for these collaborations – not so much collectives, which can sometimes be platforms for a collective pretend ego, but independent practicing artists making work together, putting egos aside to create a new dialog.
Image courtesy The Independent UK