1W7-3 ‘Combative’ Collaboration

25 10 2007


Had an MA Lecture today and honestly, it was very good. It was given by David Cross, one half of the collaborative team who call themselves Cornford and Cross. Their process is wonderful…kind of close to ours actually. Paul Tebbs called it ‘combative’. Which actually sounds better than it really is…because it can get exhausting. It’s probably because Cornford and Cross met at University…quite like how Mosh and I met. We met at a feminist film theory class…and our relationship was born and fueled by debate. We never agreed on anything except upon a greater vision of things…idealistic things…which most cynics would say is a bunch of bullshit really (and they’re probably right). But we both believed the bullshit and fell in love.

Strangely enough, since we’ve been together for 11 years…we started becoming afraid of disagreeing…and after seeing today’s lecture I believe we must bring it back.

Paul told us that we ‘cannot’ say we are searching for a ‘true’ collaboration. I guess he was saying, how does one quantify the truth and who are we really to put ourselves on a pedestal and say one type of collaboration is true and another is not. So that’s why we decided it would be a ‘non-hierarchical’ collaboration that we were after.

And after asking David Cross about the process that he uses, I realized that this is what we must bring back. They debate until one cannot debunk the other. There is a trust and a belief in the strength of an idea…that if it’s strong enough, it will withstand discourse. And this was so very inspiring to me. It reminded me of what was talked about with Andy today…to challenge oneself… and i thought for us…why don’t we challenge the relationship…through debate and discourse?


If it’s true, it will withstand all that we put it through. Challenge each other…challenge what we have.

I have realized that with relationships, it has been quite taboo to challenge it…to step on another person’s feet so to speak. I don’t want to wake up one day and tiptoe around Mosh, just to keep the relationship ‘sacred’. I don’t believe in that. Nothing is sacred. And it is in questioning it that things change, that things get better, that we evolve as human beings.


The Abolition of Work by Cornford and Cross

The process they use is amazing. They both go to a place without thinking about what they’re going to do with it. They create site-specific work, by entering a place with an open mind. They go around and get inspired by the place. And then they ask questions and research. Sort of like gaining ideas from a ‘shared experience’ or in this case, Cornwall. They picked up on the idea that the people used to mine for copper there and that these were all around the town, displayed on walls…almost in a kitschy way. David Cross had the idea of using a penny…a virtually worthless piece of currency (you can’t even use it for the washer) and Mathew Cornford had the idea of laying flat on the floor…almost like a grid. And the resulting work is beautiful. These pictures honestly don’t give it justice.


Their bbc interview pretty much says it all. And what I thought was the most interesting thing was how they chose the final idea. By trying to debunk and outdo each other, they came up with something beyond them both. As they revealed their earlier work, I saw how each piece became more powerful than the next. This is their most recent work, and honestly, not only is it beautiful, but it opens up a hold world of debate regarding the subject matter…how we work…how worthless it is…how valuable it also is when seen as a whole…how beautiful…how dirty (he showed pictures of how filthy the coins were leaving stains on their hands)…how utterly meaningless and meaningful…the coins had different colors (from its age and its history) almost like a metaphor for every nameless person who works for a meager salary.

Their ‘combative’ collaboration works. Through this, they were able to achieve a very simple and yet poignant piece of work. Their process is inspiring and something I want to bring back with myself and Mosh. Maybe we’ll come up with something as simple as a penny.

Well as they say, every penny has a story.




3 responses

1 11 2007

Yes, I cannot agree more- and the title itself is very powerful- I remember him saying during the lecture that they were trying to make art with their hands as a critique of the pervasive tactic of contemporary artists- which is to hire other people to do the dirty work and sit at their proverbial artist-thrones and dole out ideas like decrees. And they even peel off one more layer by giving it that title- that Art is PLAY.

13 12 2007
Nathaniel Pitt

Hi, Matthew is my tutor at the University of Wolverhampton, you can find a light review of Cornford & Cross at my blog – http://www.ourfineartma.blogspot.com. I enjoyed your take on the collaboration and I’m writing an article on collaborations if you would like to share your ideas further please email.

14 12 2007

Thanks for your comment, Nathaniel! Checked out your article and I agree that cornford and cross do represent a new kind of genre. I noticed that you are using a shared space, a great idea: the parallel blog (www.ourfineartma.blogspot.com). Would be interesting to get your thoughts on collaboration as well. Maybe it could also help us fine tune what we’re doing now. Thanks again, and hope to talk to you soon.

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