Edge of Trees + House

HSC 2020

You are now required to address the following through a written response to the core question in ‘Period 0’ Wednesday 8th June  Term 2.

The principle thrust of this research task is to get you to articulate a response in relation to a number of concepts and terminologies. These are;

  • Collaborative practice
  • Site specific art / public art
  • Commissioned art
  • Installation art


The task to be addressed is as follows;

“As an artist, you are not a machine in a studio. You are not working alone; you are in a community, working with other people”.    –   Alex Kershaw, artist

With reference to this view, explain the significance of collaboration in artistic practice.

There are a number of parts to this question. The first deals with the standpoints / paradigms arising from the quotation. The first part “…..not a machine in a studio” assumes that a mechanized aspect exists in the production of art. That the artist is somehow a machine producing a product for consumption is implied here.

You may challenge or agree with this accordingly.

The second part ” You are not working alone; you are in a community, working with other people” is not a true representation of the situation for most artists. Most painters work alone, most photographers work alone, most sculptors work alone etc. It could be held to be true that most artists work alone unless they are working collaboratively or in an arts or artist run community. It’s also true to a degree that you are in a community, working with other people, however this is a dependent condition. Artists can be reclusive, they can be sociable, they can connect with their community or isolate themselves from it. The statements are contestable and can form part of your opening response.

Questions on the original task sheet that are no longer relevant have been deleted.

You now have to explain (in your written response) the significance of collaboration in artistic practice.

  • Explain =  Make (an idea or situation) clear to someone by describing it in more detail or revealing relevant facts:
  • Significance = The quality of being worthy of attention; importance:
  • Collaboration = The action of working with someone to produce something.

You may also include the work of other well known collaborative practitioners e.g., Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen, Christo and Jean Claude, Mike and Doug Starn or Gilbert and George to support your response.

So….what’s important or worthy of our attention when it come to considering collaborative practice? What does a collaborative practice bring to the generation and creation of an artwork that might not be found in other types of practice?

In relation to ‘Edge of Trees’ you might want to look at the individual practices of Janet Lawrence and Fiona Foley. This will give you some perspective in terms of the artists individual material sensibility; aesthetics, cultural / conceptual and artistic paradigms.

Paradigm = A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline + One that serves as a pattern or model.

Note also that ‘House’ was a collaborative project between Rachel Whitread and James Lingwood of Artangel.

Read more here

Read these articles

25 Leading Art Collectives Share Their Creative Processes

How to collaborate. Part 1

How to collaborate. Part 2

Edge of Trees

Section 1: Artist

1. What are the intentions of the artists and how are they different?

To begin with you are looking at plurals; artists / intentions.

The intentions of the artists and their personal or political stances will cross over to some degree, so be mindful of how you define ‘intention’ because; in some cases it can be derived from quotes the artists have made, or extrapolated from the working process and the end result.

Generally speaking;  at the very outset an ‘intention’ can be as straightforward as conceiving an idea that then gives rise to a process that creates the work.

Identifying an artists intention / intentions can be a little complex. There are a number of layers that relate to ‘Edge of Trees’ that can be addressed.

The first of these could simply relate to the to the installation itself, both as a commissioned artwork that has a design and construction brief to address, as a  professional statement addressing art-world issues by the artists and as a direct line of communication to an audience. In this case the artists response to the commission would be considered a primary intention with the desire to secure their proposal as being foremost.

Other layers could include identified personal, environmental and political intentions. You could also argue here that political and environmental  intentions are embedded in personal intentions.

2Are the artists taking a personal or political stance?  What evidence have you found to demonstrate this?

Simply gets you to differentiate or look at whether either or both elements predominate and give supporting evidence.

Section 2: World.


6. What objects and materials from the world are incorporated in the work? How do these objects function as symbols? Consider site, metaphors etc.

The first part of this is primarily exploratory, either in terms of your visit to the site or researching documentation of the installation and can be done as a simple listing.

Secondly you need to be clear on the nature of symbols and signs. When discussing what objects function as symbols and what connects to narrative, its easy to get confused. Be mindful that a sign stands in the place of something and that a symbol carries agreed meaning. Image reading is essentially a mental construct. Not all objects at the installation site can or will be read symbolically. For the most part, audiences may not even know what certain things are, or be able to identify them (e.g., resins and pollens)  conversely things will also be read at face value, shells are shells, feathers are feathers etc. So how do symbolic readings enter the equation? Generally symbols have to be culturally agreed ∞ / Ω or universal ♥ and the audience has to be able to interpret them as such.


8. How is meaning re-contextualized in The Edge of Trees?

Firstly you are wise to define ‘meaning’ and how you intend to use it. Secondly think about what is re-contextualized? i.e., what objects or structures contain or carry meaning that can be re-contextualized ?

So you’ll need to identify the layers of meaning and then identify

a) how meaning is constructed and

b) what objects carry meaning?

And then look at the re-contextualization issue.

Straightforward re-contextualizations for example, could include the use of wood and metal in the installation. The boats that brought the explorers and then first settlers out were made of wood and metal. Whilst this is initially a re-contextualization of materials at the installation site, by virtue of attaching it to an historical event the primary reading / meaning changes and is hence re-contextualized.

Memory, if read as meaning or a means of extrapolating meaning is also re-contextualized and you should explore the artists statements on this.

Section 3: ArtWork

In terms of space (a key device) how do these works exist? What does this mean for each artwork?

These artworks exist in and utilize space very differently. Discussion related to closed, open and interactive space should make an appearance in your response at some point.

‘Edge of Tree’s is contained in an open and interactive space that allows the audience to move freely between the components of the work. The audience can engage all their senses within the space. Whereas ‘House’ imposes its closed presence within a large open space and allows for limited audience interaction.

The utilisation of space allows for the work to be experienced as the artist intended or conversely it allows for chance to become part of the audience experience.

Memory is a concept employed differently in both works. Explain

In the context of the essay this supports any argument for the collaborative process in as much as the artists may have engaged in a conscious exploration of this issue either in their personal professional practice or in the process of collaboration.




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