Holly Knox Yeoman and Ben Burtenshaw

Holly Knox Yeoman and Ben Burtenshaw


♦ What Do You Bring to the Table ♦


We’ll focus on the subject position an individual holds within a collaboration, exploring how this can be navigated away from the position of the professional sceptic [1] to one that embodies a pragmatism, through commitment [2] —as a subject position. The idea of losing individual authorship within collaboration inherently conjures up ideas of a symbiotic working style, with two minds working as one. And though this can often appear as a desirably open working model, it has the potential to supply a hindering subject position for respective parties.


The example: What do you bring to the table?


Four artists and curators share a studio, all of whom participate in collaborative practices which to some extent rely on the support of the peers. Organically, it became prudent to relocate from individual desks, facing walls, to one large table, facing one another—further enabling discourse. Initially, this infrastructure of companionship and geniality had a positive effect; however, after a few months the nature of the working dynamic changed. Time and thoughts were interrupted by others, with each peer unable to rely on a period of time as his or her own. Collaboration was burdening individual process. Raising the question, in this instance, of what are you bringing to the table?


The implementation of the level playing field, which eradicates the opportunity to retreat, destabilises the subject position of the individual within the collaboration, obstructing the liberality and responsibility of the individual’s own contribution. In other words, the individuals lose their agonistic capacity as an antithesis, and toe the party line.
The desire for full symbiosis can muddy, pull, distort one’s view, blocking the individual’s perspective and in turn stalling the collaborative trajectory. The crucial asset of collaboration is this multiple perspective, which must be exercised through discourse and pragmatism. The proposed approach here is to acknowledge the collective and individual subject positions by allowing a retreat from the table, in the effort to successfully and communally return with more.


[1] Amanda Beech,(2010), ‘Curatorial Futures with the Image: Overcoming Scepticism and Unbinding the Relational’, Journal of Visual Art Practice 9, no. 2 (2010): 139–51, doi: 10.1386/jvap.9.2.139_1.

[2] Reza Negarestani, ‘The Labor of the Inhuman, Part I: Human’, e-flux journal (February 2014).


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Ben Burtenshaw has exhibited at SSW [Lumsden], Espai B [Barcelona], Platform 7 [London]. And has recently exhibited and published Elevating Water, with TAAK [Amsterdam] in Marfa, Texas. He is currently studying at the Dutch Art Institute [Arnhem].
Holly Knox Yeoman is a contemporary arts facilitator based in Edinburgh. Her practice is defined by its situating in the reimagining of function, medium and space through collaborative process.


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