Tuesday, October 03, 2006

to work, one with another

In a recent post on her blog,Jen Crawford over at blue acres explores some ideas on how to collaborate (1. to work, one with another;cooperate, as in literary work) - her ideas suggesting the notion of a pair in dance, in tango. In improvised dance, a set number of steps will be known to both dancers, one dancer may lead during the process of developing the dance together. The ability to recreate the dance later, will be subject to another process, maybe something like - how many turns, foot stamps, slides, lifts, leg thrusts, body to body contacts fit the mood of the music, the beats and non-beats. If this collaborative dance is just for the moment, just for the music playing now, there will be no concern for remembering or editing movements. The 'one-off' event will have its moment, the event will be what it is. I am guessing most folks might find themselves in a situation, alone in a room with great music, getting down and giddy with all sorts of moves. The pleasure of just moving the body, the joyousness of connecting with music so directly.

I'm not sure collaborative writing would have the same simplicity or success as the body/music thing. I've participated in a few different collaborations, not all text and writing based. Most of those that worked really well had more than two participants. A group writing project that developed a summer renga, allowed for a set number of lines, at a set point, following loosely the rules of renga. This project had a formal framework, a set of known givens. The individual contribution of each participant was formulated (within the known givens) as a response on response, moving forward.

On another project based on my poetry, two actors worked with me by taking positions and parts of the text and exploring options for movement, noting ideas about impact, giving me ideas for extending the presentation of the text. That collaboration resulted in me having a fuller bodied sense of what the work was, once it was off the page, what it might look like, how it could sound. When I did develop it for performance, it became a situation which was no longer collaboration.
I was able to lead the project into another area of its development, which still involved the two actors, but was more formally constructed and directed by my own decisions.

For two writers to collaborate on an 'anything goes' development of text, it might be important for those writers to have a brief, a range of ideas, a thematic in common. A leader, to make the editorial choice, maybe - but maybe not. Just depends again on what the end aim is. I think I see collaborative writing as just that, not published writing, not finished writing, not polished. If an aim of collaboration is to publish, then at the very start, some rules, guidelines, shared agenda would need to be in place. When Jen and me completed our collaborative text a while back, we both took five lines from 'dead' work we had on hand. During that process, it might have been good to have some greater common ground, some closer contact with ideas to formulate the ongoing text. However, even with that 'no rules, no structures' approach, the actual development of the text, for me, was extremely pleasurable. It had its moment, it was what it was. To take a collaboration between two writers forward from that point might just need some forward planning, an agreement on mode, visual appearance, sound. A consensus on the range of ideas or themes. So many of the 'taken for granted' things that are arrived at when formulating text in the solo situation are unknowns in a two or three person collaboration. I like the idea of, and the act of collaboration. Hoping Jen gets to do some more, hoping I do also. Just doing it works, just getting it done.


Blogger jen said...

Hey Louise!
Interesting comments furthering these ideas, the limitations of the dance analogy. The free form was very pleasurable for me too - I liked all the surprise of what emerged. "So many of the 'taken for granted' things that are arrived at when formulating text in the solo situation are unknowns in a two or three person collaboration" - yes yes yes - and it's interesting in itself to uncover what those taken-for-granteds are, to find them in the doing. Enjoying the blog!


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