Working together: Creative collaboration in post-war Britain, 1945-65
While contemporary debates rage over ownership, copyright and intellectual property, collaborative practices proliferate between artists, architects, designers and institutions. Today, even artistic practices that do not openly purport to be collaborative often, nevertheless, draw technicians, curators, performers, administrators and viewers into their production processes. Despite this, the dominant conception of visual art remains that it is made by solo practitioners, lionised individuals whose names title monographic exhibitions and texts. Due to the value of the artist’s signature and the cult of the artist-genius, the market favours authorship that is singular rather than plural. Fine art is privileged and interdisciplinarity is marginalised or viewed as anomalous. Consequently, collaboration has suffered critical neglect and historical analyses of interdisciplinarity are scant.
Collaboration can be defined as ‘the action of working with someone to produce something’ with notions of cooperation, collectivity and co-production encompassed within this broad definition. Whereas current scholarship predominantly focuses on the ideology of participation or the politics of collective action, my thesis addresses collaboration as a creative method. By investigating sites and technologies of collaborative labour in post-war Britain, this research offers new insights into the artistic practice of ‘working with’. In order to interrogate the material traces of authorship, I ask how collaboration is – or perhaps is not – inscribed in images, objects and spaces. In doing so, I re-envisage artistic practice as a process of convergence, transfer and exchange, rather than individual inspiration or intentionality. A challenge in my project is locating co-authorship in a history dominated by solo works and celebrated names, I counter this by examining archival material that subverts the logic of single authorship: fragments, ephemera, recycled images, unsigned and unfinished works
In post-war Britain, a network of artists, architects, engineers and designers gathered at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. Loosely identified as the Independent Group (IG), their activities reimagined creative collaboration after the Second World War. Taking the IG as a nexus of collaborative and interdisciplinary practices, I map my research around them, examining the sites and technologies that engendered their collaborative work. My interest in collaboration stems from my ongoing work as archivist for the Nigel Henderson Estate. Henderson was of vital influence for the IG, acting as a point of convergence and distribution of radical ideas from academia, politics and artistic avant-gardes. Working collaboratively permitted self-occlusion for Henderson, blurring the authorial boundary between him and others or hybridising his role. Situating Henderson as the locus of my research, I offer new insights into collaborative practice and creative authorship, grounded in my close contact with his archive and collection.
School of Arts & Humanities
Arts & Humanities Research, 2016–
+44 (0) 7718 222587
Rosie Ram is an AHRC-funded PhD candidate and visiting lecturer at the RCA. She is a specialist in modern and contemporary visual culture and curating. Rosie is Academic Leader of the RCA summer school Curating Contemporary Art and Design: Theory and Practice. Most recently, she has been working with Tate Britain where she has co-curated 'Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage' and co-convened the international conference 'Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now'. Rosie's research has been supported by an AHRC International Placement Scheme fellowship at the Yale Center for British Art. Prior to her doctorate, she worked at Chisenhale Gallery.
- MA Culture, Criticism & Curation (Distinction), Central Saint Martins, UAL (Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship for Academic Excellence), 2013
- Archivist & Collection Manager, Nigel Henderson Estate, 2014-ongoing; Academic Leader, Curating Contemporary Art and Design: Theory and Practice, RCA, 2020; Co-convenor, Paul Mellon Centre Doctoral Researchers Network, 2018-19; Visiting Scholar at Yale Center For British Art, Yale University, AHRC International Placement Scheme, 2018; PhD Teaching Assistant, 'The Ephemeral and the Fragmentary: towards other ways of mattering’, MA cross-programme, RCA, 2018-19; Visiting lecturer: MA Curating Contemporary Art, RCA; BA Fine Art, Liverpool Hope University; MA Culture, Criticism and Curation, CSM; BA Textile Design, CSM; School of Arts & Humanities Research Student Representative & Council Representative, RCA, 2017-18; Programme & Operations Coordinator, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2015-2017
- Co-curator: 'Vital Fragments: Nigel Henderson and the Art of Collage', Tate Britain, 2019-2020; Co-curator: ‘Flow and Flux TECHNE Research Show’, Triangle Space and Cookhouse Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, 2018; Curator: 'In Collaboration: Eduardo Paolozzi at the Central School, 1949-55', Central Saint Martins Museum & Study Collection, UAL, 2017; Co-curator: 'Anthony Caro: The Inevitable Revolution', Central Saint Martins, UAL, 2014
- AHRC International Placement Scheme, 2018; TECHNE (AHRC) Work Placement Fund for six-month curatorial placement at Tate Britain, 2019; TECHNE (AHRC) Study Support Fund for conference visits throughout 2017-18
- Co-convenor, international conference 'Cutting Edge: Collage in Britain, 1945 to Now', Tate Britain, 2019-2020; 'The Central School of Arts and Crafts: An "informal nucleus" of collaborative practices in post-war London', research seminar, Paul Mellon Centre, 2018; 'Collage & collaboration in post-war Britain: John McHale's scrapbooks', joint fellows seminar, Yale Centre for British Art, Lewis Walpole Library & Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, 2018; ‘Art & the Urban’ (co-convenor), Royal Holloway University of London, 2018 (funded by TECHNE, AHRC); ‘Art is no Business’ (co-convenor), Kingston University London, 2018 (funded by TECHNE, AHRC); ‘The Art School and the Studio’ seminar series, Chelsea College of Arts, UAL, 2017-18; ‘“Discarded things, vituperative fragments”: Rethinking value within the Nigel Henderson Archive' (keynote lecture), 'Value' conference, Royal College of Art, 2017; ‘Creative collaboration and post-war prints’, TECHNE student conference, Amnesty International, 2017; 'In Collaboration: Eduardo Paolozzi at the Central School' (organiser and contributor), Central Saint Martins, 2017 (funded by RCA and CSM)
- Lead Editor, 'Prova', RCA Research Journal, issue 4, 2018