[unrealized curatorial proposal]
COMPETITION, COLLABORATION, COLLECTIVE
Curatorial Proposal

CURATORIAL PREMISE

Competition, Collaboration, Collective examines the dynamics of three collaborative teams, Diana Shpungin & Nicole Englemann, Tim & Frantiska Gilman, and Jennifer & Kevin McCoy.  Using the teams as case studies, it complicates the conventional understanding of collaboration as two people working together in relative harmony towards a single goal.  Instead, the exhibition casts collaboration as a kind of productive competition, in which new ideas are the byproduct of the back-and-forth of two adversaries engaged in a continual game of one-upmanship.  The rationale behind collaborating is not to ease one’s workload by sharing responsibilities, but to increase it by placing oneself in a more testing atmosphere.

Competition, Collaboration, Collective’s purpose is to examine the structural logic of collaboration and the manifestation of this logic in specific artworks.  Because the exhibition emphasizes the dynamic between the members of the respective collaborative teams as much as the product of their collaborations, each team is limited to one major artwork.  The two other components of the exhibition are participant interviews and installation design.

Participant Interviews
Extensive interviews about the works displayed and the processes of creating them are edited so that the voices of the interviewees are isolated on individual audio tracks.  Viewers may listen to these tracks through wall-mounted earphones, each featuring the comments of a single interviewee.  Full transcripts are provided beneath the earphones.   

Installation Design
Lines of gray vinyl tape, differently shaded for each team, connect the artworks with the appropriate earphones in two overlapping triangles.  The points of these triangles are: Gilman artwork / Tim Gilman earphone / Frantiska Gilman earphone; and McCoy artwork / Jennifer McCoy earphone / Kevin McCoy earphone.  A third triangle links the entrance point with the two artworks.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

In addition to providing visual cues to the elements of each collaboration, the triangles recall French literary critic René Girard’s similar diagrams of “triangular desire,” to which this exhibition owes its premise.  In his book Deceit, Desire and the Novel, Girard describes literary scenarios in which the protagonist only desires something when another character, a mediator, desires it also.  On the most basic level, the mediator can take the form of a model.  For instance, in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the knight-errant’s every action is inflected by the standards of chivalry long-ago established by his ideal, Amadis.

More complicated is when the mediator is closer to the protagonist, as in familial relationships or even friendships.  Girard points to Dostoevsky’s The Raw Youth, in which Dolgorouki and Versilov, son and father, vie for the attention of the same woman, Akhmakova.  Even as the father is an ideal for his son, who desires Akhmakova in imitation, he inadvertently becomes a competitor.  And as father and son compete for Akhmakova, the spotlight is redirected from her to the relationship of the competitors.  At a certain point, their desire for her is supplanted by their desire to one-up each other.

                  Respect: Cervantes                                           Rivalry: Dostoevsky


                                                  mediator            mediator
                                                   (Amadis)            (father)
                                                /         |                       |           \
                                      /                   |                       |                         \
                           /                              |                       |                                      \
                 /                                        |                       |                                                  \
protagonist------------------------------object           protagonist----------------------------------object
(Don Quixote)      (to be the perfect knight)          (son)                                               (woman)

For Girard, the relationship between protagonist and mediator equivocates between respect and rivalry, represented on the extremes by Cervantes and Dostoevsky, depending on the relative positions of the triangle’s endpoints.  Competition, Collaboration, Collective proposes that collaboration is likewise complex, vitiated as it is by its counterpart, competition.  The triangle functions as both the structural principle of this complexity as well as its emblem.