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Unified Field Theory

“Objectivity does not come from seeing things at a distance, but rather emerges out of an oscillating relationship of mutual respect and intelligibility.” 1

Since the beginning of this century there has been a significant rise in group-based and collective art practice. Artist groups and duos, and collaborative relations between artists and audiences, artists and others, have become a familiar part of the contemporary artistic landscape. New kinds of art practice exploring the idea of art as an expanded form of intellectual activity have emerged that are challenging conventional methodologies of artistic practice and with it, those conventions that rarify the intellectual and artistic expertise of the artist as an individually embodied talent.

The sharing of knowledge and understanding of the artistic process, whether practical, technical, intellectual or imaginal can facilitate tremendous creativity and productive capacity given the right conditions and attitudinal openness of participants.  This research project Universal Field Theory (UFT) has been designed to share knowledge and understanding of the artistic process and to discuss those ideal conditions for collaborative working and how they are created. How do artists work together and why?

It is the intention of UFT to explore through discussion, both the site and (social and cultural) situation of art making and display in the gallery and to look at the (often institutional) boundaries between authorship and curatorial practice, and the different ways art is made.  Artists within this collaborative context also work as curators, critical of that role that ‘translates’ different theoretical concepts and artists works (and intentions) into exhibitions. This research project will explore and point up some of these more hidden aspects of the impetus to work collaboratively as artists.

Authorship of a work of art can be an act of designation (selection) as in the use of the ‘readymade’, or an act of arrangement within a specific display context. Minimalist and conceptual art practices of the 60’s and 70’s began a way of artistic working that opened the way authorship and the authenticity of work of art was valued and understood. Collaborative and relational art practices have now extended this discourse around authorship, but have also challenged artists’ sense of identity and ownership of intention in relation to their ideas and art making. Audience and community engagement, and increasing interest in relational or participatory art practices are changing the ways in which artists produce and value their work. Ideas and intention become the primary material for the collaborative artist, generating a collective process of translation and dialogic exchange – between themselves and the space of the works becoming or display. In the UFT project  we will be asking to what extent is an idea separable from its specific material expression? And what latitude is possible for its material expression (and presentation) to constitute an authentic expression of the idea?

So far UFT has started a process of collaborative practice between artists in Korea, England, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Its without cultural borders and occupies a research field encompassing half the globe, and infinite possibilities of contemporary practice. Watch this UFT space…

1Nikos Papastergiadis, Spatial Aesthetics: Art, Place and the Everyday. Rivers Oram Press, London 2006