ONLINE DOSSIER: VERA JOHN-STEINER »CREATIVE COLLABORATION«
John-Steiner, Vera. Creative Collaboration. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 2000.
»Sociologist of art Howard Becker wrote that, even in painting and poetry, “the artist … works in the center of a network of cooperating people whose work is essential to the final outcome.”« p.4
Becker, H. S. (1982). Art worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press, p . 25
»Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America and Perestroika, told of his artistic interdependence with his friends and partners: “The fiction that artistic labor happens in isolation, and that artistic accomplishment is exclusively the provenance of individual talents, is politically charged, and in my case at least repudiated by the facts. … Had I written these plays without the participation of my collaborators, they would be entirely different—would in fact never have come to be.”« p.4
Kushner, T. (1996). Angels in America, Part II : Perestroika. New York: Theatre Communications Group, p. 149.
»Two different artistic styles, when closely observed and respected, can provide revealing mirrors for each partner. These mirrors add a third dimension, a deeper view, to their knowledge of themselves.« p.63
»Shared vision, as exemplified by Kushner and Flynn, is crucial to successful collaboration, but is not always sufficient. For a partnership to be truly creative—to change a discipline and transform a paradigm —multiple perspectives, complementarity in skills and training, and fascination with one's partner's contributions are also essential.« p.64
»This famous partnership of Braque and Picasso is an integrative collaboration, which transforms both the field and the participants. In such a collaboration, partners frequently suspend their differences in style. While creating a new vision, they can experience a profound sense of bonding. This pattern contrasts with the complementary mode of collaboration, in which differences in training, skill, and temperament support a joint outcome through division of labor. The complementary pattern is common in universities, research laboratories, and commercial workplaces. Complementarity in science in its varied forms is described in the previous chapter. There I also note the role of specialized disciplinary knowledge and contrasting modes of thinking (visualization versus mathematical representations).« p.70
»It is difficult to draw a definite line between the integrative and the complementary patterns of joint activities in creative work. Integrative or generative thinking is rapid, condensed, and embedded in the cognitive processes of individual(s) who challenge the known. It requires expansion, challenge, and translation into external, communicative forms. It relies on dialogue. Complementarity is well illustrated in Dyson's rethinking of Feynman's diagrams (see previous chapter) and his translation of them into verbal and mathematical forms accessible to an entire discipline. The collaboration between these two scientists, while illustrating complementarity, also embraces moments in thought when they approached integrative collaboration, which requires a long process of committed activity. It is motivated by the desire to transform existing knowledge and paradigms into new visions. This task is so formidable that it is better accomplished in collaboration than in solitude.« p.70
»”Fragment joins fragment to make humanity,” wrote art critic Ernst Fischer. The artist “wants to refer to something that is more than the 'I,' something outside of himself and yet essential to himself. He longs to absorb the surrounding world and make it his own; … to unite his limited 'I' in art with a communal existence; to make his individuality social. … Art is the indispensable means for this merging of the individual with the whole.”« p. 72
»The difference between mutuality in the arts and the sciences stems from the artist's greater emphasis upon individuality, his or her need for a recognizable style. But such an individual style is embedded in a broader framework of shared understandings of visual conventions; these are shaped and transformed by thought communities of artists who interactively and significantly change the domain of art during different historical periods.« p.73
»The contemporary Western emphasis on an individual artistic identity connected to a distinctive individual style arose in the Renaissance. In earlier times, the building and decorating of churches by anonymous artists expressed their deeply shared religion. During the Renaissance, individual artists started to compete for major commissioned works. But the execution of their work was still accomplished in groups: the best-known example, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, required the joint labor of thirteen workers.« p.73
»Transformative contributions are born from sharing risks and challenging, appropriating, and deepening each partner's contribution. Individuals in successful partnerships reach beyond their habitual ways of learning, working, and creating. In transforming what they know, they construct creative syntheses.« p.96