Authorship and the collective mind

During the two weeks of Bee Time, our conversations and discussions informed my thinking and making on a deep level. It suddenly seemed odd to point at my sculpture and say – I made that. That’s mine. It seemed that everything I was making was somehow the result of the group’s collective thinking.

Carrie Foulkes

Inspired by the honeybee superorganism, our work during the residencies often focuses on the complex relationship between the self and the collective. Artist Lydia Heath referred to this in the first residency when she created the piece ‘How do we want to live together?’. The creative process of each participant is shared with the group and is nourished by other participants’ incoming feedback and ideas. Therefore some work arises in the collective space. Much of our time is spent in the collective fermentation of ideas and this is often reflected when it comes to artistic authorship, as it is hard to separate other people’s input from one’s individual work.

At the end of the residency we usually have an open studio where we share our artistic processes. There have been different ways of naming ourselves as the creators of the artworks produced, which has sparked conversations and debates among participants. On one of the occasions, we managed to find an interesting middle ground, showing the tension between the idea of ownership of the creative process and its disappearance. On the poster of our exhibition for the second residency (October 2016), our names appeared mixed and overlaid, so that they could hardly be read, identified and separated from each other.

In that particular exhibition we did not use name labels next to the artworks and in that context it felt congruent to the group’s process. During this Bee Time, we reached the day of the exhibition in a high level of disorganisation and did not take the time to discuss this idea between us. We found that for some, the work missed a sense of completion and belonging when the individual authorship was not referenced, and that our previous ‘solution’ should not become a formula. What is interesting for us is to keep questioning ourselves about individual authorship and ownership in the case of an artwork created by the collective mind.

La autoría y la mente colectiva
 

A much simpler and more natural solution was the one we reached in our post-residency exhibition at Emerson College (UK, July 2017). During Lynne Shapiro’s poetry reading, Lynne herself explained to those present, that she was fascinated by the way in which all the works were connected to each other, so that we could see how we had influenced each other throughout the residency, inspiring each other with our ways of thinking and creating.

I remember that Jorge Gallardo’s action ‘Vulnerable Fertility’, realised during the third residency (July 2017), touched me in a very personal way. But what touched me even more was that after his performance, when I dared to change his work’s title, which was written on the wall from ‘Vulnerable Fertility’ to ‘In Memoriam of Vulnerable Fertility’, he told me he felt very thankful, because by doing so, for him the piece had converted into a social one, belonging to everybody and not just to himself.’

Pol Parrhesia

The possible collectivization of the authorship of the work of art (always remaining in tension with the individual who initiates or produces it) implies thinking about the social role of art, the disappearance of the ‘object’ and the sensitization of the audience or those who receive the work of art towards a more engaged way of receiving the work. The art piece then, totally integrated into the daily life of a community, creates contexts of collective action and emerges in the encounter between the artist, audience and the work, where none of them can exist as a separate entity.

This dynamic and simultaneous relationship forms an idea of art as an echo system(1) of our culture. It manifests itself in what is known as socially engaged art : ‘an aesthetic in itself: of interaction and development.(2) A discipline that values the process of a work over any finished product or object.

Processes that are initiated within the Bee Time group through collective thought processes often find their way to the public sphere through participatory events and happenings. Socially engaged art, socially engaged or relational art, creates specific work for specific places/people. The work of art can be experienced as a community event, as local/anthropological research (considering a particular ecosystem) or as an idea that the community elaborates into action (broadening the parameters of participation). In these three cases, the artist appears as a catalyst, who wishes to make an impact in the community and in the place where they work.


  1. Kaprow, Allan; The Education of Un-Artist 1993, University of California Press. p. 99 /
    ‘Art, which copies society copying itself, is not simply the mirror of life. Both are created.
    Nature is an echo system.’
  2. Finkelpearl, Tom; What we Made: conversations on art and social cooperation 2012,
    Durham: Duke University Press; p. 132.


Text published in our publication Holón, a monograph on art and ecology, a collection of essays, artistic and thought processes that arose from our meeting with local beekeepers, farmers and experts in systemic thinking in the region of La Janda in October 2017.


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