Why did you decide to collaborate?

Michelle K.  Lynch: Well, I suppose we started the collaboration because of a festival in Greece that we decided to apply for.  I don’t know whose idea it was in the first place to collaborate, but since we all work well and spend so much time together, it made perfect sense to go in on this proposal together.  The working ideas behind the festival were from Nicholas Bourriaud’s Postproduction.  We started working on a proposal for a performance piece that uses several pieces to make a new work.  We decided on Triadic Ballet, Trio A, and Geography, Geometry, Knowledge for our three works.  As we started working on the piece, we were informed that we didn’t get into the festival, but since we were all still interested to pursue our idea, we continued to work.

Stella Dimitrakopoulou: I am generally more interested to work collaboratively because I think that for me this way is more enjoyable and more intriguing. In this case, my general interest in collaboration was strengthened by the fact that I already knew my collaborators and I had already worked satisfactory with them in smaller projects. The R&D module was a great opportunity for me to work within this collectiva.

Antje Hildebrandt: The way I see it, collaboration is mainly an issue of trust and how much you believe the other person to be able to understand your frame of mind or set of principles. This not only includes your approach to making work but also the ‘philosophy’ behind the work. Stella, Elena, Michelle and I had gone through a similar process of development and had encountered similar ideas and subject areas through the content of the course. I had worked with all them before on smaller projects so I had trust that our individualities and differences would add to and enrich my own experience in this collaboration.

Elena Koukoli: During the whole of the year I had been involved in collaborations (either successful or unsuccessful, it doesn‘t really matter) which, nevertheless, had been imposed on me for the purposes of my studies. That in fact, made me appreciate and enjoy the group work, but also, generated this desire or curiosity to work with the people -Antje, Stella and Michelle- that I really felt I was sharing common grounds and thinking. (Anyway, I think, the context of the course itself as well as the size of the MADT programme actually formed this collective before we even realized it.) When I first learned about the BIOS Festival in Greece, I immediately thought of us. We could  use it as a chance to finally make something together. Plus, I thought, the theme of the Festival -Reconstruction- was relevant to the theoretical context of our course and, of course, to my own research as well.  So, not only was I given the chance to broaden my own research but I would be working with the people I trusted and appreciated most during this programme. I believe that all of us shared the same excitement for the project and that was the fact that brought us to propose this project for R&D despite the negative answer we received later from the Festival. Many times during the past two months we have wondered how this course would have been without this collaboration. I suppose it wouldn’t be the same but most importantly not as productive and interesting.

What was the relationship between idea and realisation?

S.D.: Our initial idea derived from the proposition presented by the OPA 0.2 festival regarding re-making. We would allow the three works to act as filters of each other and our methodology would derive from Adrian Piper’s Three Models of Art Production Systems (1970). Finally we decided not to follow that system because due to its complexity it was confusing us and blocking us in our process rather than being a helpful tool. We also abandoned the idea of using the pieces as filters of each other; instead we looked at them as three distinct works and we mainly approached them independently. Throughout our whole process, we had some ideas that we abandoned but generally we found a way to build up a methodology that allowed us enough freedom to be creative and also realistic.

A.H.: At the beginning we spend a lot of time talking about what we understood under the term ‘reconstruction’ and how we might approach a big topic like this. I think that although arguably this phase went on for a bit too long, the conversations at the beginning set up a ‘culture of dialogue’ which I believe was essential to the success of our collaboration. The next step was to find appropriate methods, systems and structures that allowed our ideas to be realised on a physical level. We often struggled with this step but the fact that we were critical with ourselves at this stage meant that once we had set up a system we didn’t necessarily have to spend a lot of time developing it.

E.K.: Thinking about this question is quite difficult for me to identify the word ‘idea’. Is it the concepts behind our piece or the ideas for realization? Anyway, in both cases, I believe that the ideas came out of the process of realization. At first, we were very eager to explore the chosen works (Trio A, the Godard film and Triadic Ballet). That resulted to several ‘sub-products’ that began to form both our mode of delivery, our mode of realization if you want, but also, helped us see what the piece itself was becoming. Through making we realized how we wanted to treat the given works and finally, what that approach meant  conceptually. The context which was given to us since the beginning was an unknown platform that we were challenged to explore step by step through action. The mode of delivery which we established almost from the start became our ‘compass’ to that exploration.

M.K.L.: I think it took a pretty long time for things to get going in the beginning.  We had decided relatively arbitrarily on the three pieces we were to use – based on a similarly arbitrary fetish of the number three that we carried through the entire process and production.  Since we didn’t start with a fairly deep sense of what we wanted to do with our source material, we struggled to begin realizing what we could do with that material.  We also chose a methodology by Adrian Piper, which we ultimately dropped, since it didn’t prove terribly inspiring.

Once we got into a bit of a groove…I think after doing “Ipod Trio A”, we sort of established a rhythm to the type of content, style and task-based mode of working.  After that (well, not exactly like BAM we knew exactly how to turn our ideas into product) the ideas we had had a place in which we could put them.

What was the relationship between talking and doing?

A.H.: Well…. like I mentioned earlier, there certainly was a lot of talking, especially in the beginning. It is always hard to find the right point to stop talking and start doing (even in my own practice I find this an issue). This point is often sooner than one anticipates. We decided very shortly after starting the project that we would try any idea not matter how many doubts we had surrounding it. This way we wouldn’t ‘kill’ the idea by talking about how it was not appropriate or wouldn’t work before it even had a chance to come to life. Still, I believe that we ultimately arrived at what we are doing on stage through the process of ‘not doing’. Our nine different sections are manifestations of nine distinct ideas that have the same ‘origin’ yet they are different from each other, and more importantly they are not developments or variations of a certain ‘theme’. Like I said earlier, we were critical with each other and only ‘did’ things that we felt had a significant and relevant conceptual departure point.

E.K.: To be honest, I do not know how many cups of coffee this collaboration counts  from my part. Basically, most of the times, we were exhausting ourselves to talking. ‘Serious’, conceptual talks, small talks, fun talks, arguments, jokes, everything was discussed and analysed, even the smallest detail. We were forgetting ‘doing’ , we were rendering it redundant through talking; a process that was not always productive, but rather tiring. We kept emptying ourselves of  energy and creativity and the ‘doing ‘ was coming always after. But  at this moment, as I am thinking back, I suppose this process might have been the factor that formed our mode of production and presentation. Because everything was thoroughly thought and discussed, the action during rehearsals was reduced to minimal and basic, but, that’s the case with our final piece anyway.

M.K.L.: Well, there was certainly a lot of talking.  And by a lot, I mean a lot.  We not infrequently spent entire rehearsals sitting and talking.  Never once getting up to do anything.  I think this was both a very good thing, and a perhaps limiting thing.  The talking allowed for us to really get into what we were doing, but that easily turned to being overly-analytical to the point of it paralyzing us….at times.  But, while it sometimes felt frustrating, the amount of discussion is something you can’t get when you are working alone.  Ideas were thought through quite thoroughly, and we were all involved in each and every decision.

S.D.: Equal. 50-50. Or maybe not… I think actually that ‘talking’ was more than ‘doing’. Although maybe I should consider ‘talking’ as part of ‘doing’ so in this case there wouldn’t be relationship between them they are one. But ok, if we still want to consider them as separate I would say that yes, we have been discussing a lot about our ideas, our process, our aims and our achievements much more than we were actually doing. But I believe that this was necessary and helped as to organize and evaluate our actions.

What were the modes of communication in the process?

E.K.: Our basic mode was definitely oral communication. Personally, I intentionally avoid to write, say  e-mails (unless is to send data that  cannot be send in other way) . After all, I think I can communicate better when I see someone, whereas writing can be tricky and misleading. So, yes we were basically meeting, talking, having fun, get frustrated, arguing, get tired, arrange our next rehearsal, exchanging a few e- mails, meeting up again.

M.K.L.: Like I said, there was a lot of talking.  Much of it face to face.  But we also communicated and exchanged information via email, and sometimes phone.  Communication is always the hardest part of any set of relationships whether it is personal, professional or artistic.  Language barrier was an issue sometimes, as was just general misunderstandings and failures in expression.  Generally, though I think we did well in our communication and were certainly very communicative through the whole process.

S.D.: As I said, discussions were our main mode of communication; in our meetings mainly and electronically through emails as well.

A.H.: Well, this might seem obvious but I think that integral to our process of talking and listening was the understanding that everyone’s ideas were equally important and valid and that everyone was treated with the same amount of respect. We also weren’t precious with our ideas so that a constant shifting, adding and selecting could take place in which it was not longer possible to identify who had contributed what and how the idea initiated.

How did you deal with misunderstandings and failures?

M.K.L.: I think we did pretty well with misunderstandings and failures and frustration in general.  If there were a verbal misunderstanding we would try to slow down and go back.  And if you are the one who is not communicating well, a misunderstanding really forces you to reconsider your idea and the way you are putting it into a coherent form.  Unlike working alone, the collaboration made me not go with my instinct, but have more behind my ideas and likes and dislikes than mere personal taste.  And failures were never seen as the fault of any one person, or really a failure for that matter.  I mean, some things we tried certainly didn’t work, but that is something that just happens.  You make things, try things and leave them.

S.D.: Misunderstandings were happening all the time between us but after having them solved through discussions we were usually ending up having variations of the same idea or different ideas and therefore more possibilities. Sometimes misunderstandings required being overanalyzed in order to be solved but in the end we were using these discussions for our advantage.
I don’t think that there were any failures in the end. Small failures during the process were always a good way to reflect and to rethink what we were doing and in that way I can’t consider them as failures anymore.

A.H.:What misunderstands? What failures?

E.K.: Basically how I dealt with frustration… well, it took a lot of self-critique, self-control, patience and time. I mean misunderstandings were not exactly my favourite part. It’s hard not to be able to understand or to be misunderstood, to take someone for granted or to be taken for granted, to make assumptions instead of really listening, to be always open and fresh minded, to be supportive instead of defensive of your ideas, to be direct and honest without hurting someone’s feelings…I mean it’s hard, but generally I think we did well. I think we challenged ourselves and other times we compromised, we lost and found balances. I think we managed most of the times to turn the ‘I’ into a ‘we’ and in this way to over come frustration.

How was responsibility delegated within the group?

S.D.: Equally.

A.H.: I think it is a common understanding that all four of us are equally sharing the responsibility for the collaborative process and the final ‘result’ – Trio. We didn’testablish certain roles within the group at the beginning of the process, for example director, choreographer, performer, scenographer, dancer, fine artist, etc. This enabled us to be as resourceful as possible with our skills and also meant that we could challenge habitual ways of doing something and discover new strengths and weaknesses within ourselves through working in a collaborative effort.

E.K.: I suppose everyone did what she could do best according to her background,  abilities, habits, time, modes of working. Everyone was responsible enough to bring the best of herself to the collaboration, fact that did not raise any issues for unfair allocation of duties.

M.K.L.: Well, we never particularly delegated responsibility.  I took a lot of notes, so ended up being a bit of the keeper of papers, but I think that happened organically more than intentionally.  Same with Stella as the ‘videographer’ which is more like ‘one who happens to have the newest and most portable camcorder’.  Our roles, if there are roles, came quite organically from our personalities and working styles.  And we certainly never delegated artistic roles.

How were decisions made?

A.H.: There was surprisingly little compromise. Decisions really were made collectively. Although we did joke about the fact that we were working under the democratic principle, we never actually voted as such and rather came to agreements instead of making clear-cut decisions. I often felt that I was willing for someone else to convince me of their opinion and this changed my way of thinking about a particular issue. We often used chance as a rule and we drew a lot of straws and flipped a lot of coins. Sometimes the rules that we set ourselves would determine the way things were done, for example one rule was that each of us was in the director position for the same amount of times.

E.K.: There were many factors that influenced our decision-making. I suppose they were: our own instinct during rehearsals, the fourth person which was always excluded from action and had many times had the role of the director (our internal feed-back), the actual feed-back sessions of Fridays with Martin and Jon, the inescapable influence of Martin anyway, Jerome Bel whose work was almost always present during our discussions, all the works, workshops and artists we have encountered this year, our experience or inexperience, our curiosity to explore things we admire, our democratic intentions that some times were even redundant, our intention to support one’s idea that she really believed in but also, our intentions to provoke further discussion on things we were not sure of.

M.K.L.: Um.  Probably a combination of consensus and majority.  And chance.

S.D.: We had always all to agree on something in order to accept it or to reject it. If not agreeing on one way combination of different ways was also a possibility. Sometimes we also used chance methods for things that were not very important such as who is offstage in each section.

How did the collaboration challenge you artistically?

E.K.: As I mentioned above, the project itself dealt with notions that were relatively close to my own research. However, the work itself is very different to what I could have proposed myself. There is no way I could have resulted  to such a project on my own. I listened and took upon things I would have never imagined. The group also gave me the space to experiment and research in the most productive way. All boundaries and ideas were blurred, fact that opened a variety of options and opportunities I would have never encounter being on my own. I learned a lot, I changed a lot, I got rid of things and strengthened other parts. I cannot really tell how this experience will inform the future, I can only say that I am really happy and satisfied.

M.K.L.: Well, like I’ve already mentioned, the collaboration made me be more precise and communicative of my thoughts and ideas.  But more than that, we ended up making a piece that is nothing like something I have ever made, nor probably would have if I were working alone.  The piece sort of built itself, and seemed to take on it’s own kind of momentum and character.  It was refreshing (but in being refreshing does not make it any less personally challenging) not to depend on my own ideas.  The four of us were able to feed off of each other and that let me step away from my old habits and inclinations and allow the work to be what it needed to be.

S.D.: For me this collaboration in the context of this module was the best choice and one of the most beneficial experiences up to now both in my studies here but also in general. It was a great opportunity to work together towards something for a longer period of time.  The combination of different opinions, different approaches and different ideas was a very intriguing way to work and I wouldn’t ever work in this way by myself (at least up to now).

A.H.: Mmmhhh… it feels like this is such a big question and no matter how I answer it I will always be dissatisfied. Most importantly, Trio has challenged my perception of what is possible to do and un-do in a more formal, traditional theatrical setting as I had almost ‘given up hope’ on this form of live entertainment. I just realised that this is quite a big statement and actually I feel unable to go into more detail at this stage. I need more time to think about this. Ask me again in three months time.

What was the relationship between the collaborative process and the final product?

M.K.L.: Of course there will be, and is, a connection between the process and the product.  The work (hopefully) has a unified tone to it, one that was achieved through working together so completely and not going off on our own and bringing disparate elements together at the end.  We have a “Director” position during each section of the piece, which reflects our process in that we always had someone “out” to watch and critique…also because of our three fetish, we decided to only have three people on stage at any one time.  But, maybe most importantly, the product is a process – many of the things we do on stage are designed in such a way that we are completing the tasks live as they were in rehearsal (for example Ipod Trio A and the Geography Geometry interviews), and trying to keep them from becoming “rehearsed” per se.  In that sense, the process…including its collaborative nature…comes out in the product.

S.D.: The collaborative process is reflected on the final product, where everyone is both director and performer. There is not any division in the roles. We all work in everything we are doing the same but still within both the collaborative process and in the final product there is space allowed for everyone, to differentiate and to be oneself.

A.H.: Trio would not be what it is without the collaborative process. This is not always true for collaborations. I feel that we applied certain democratic principles in our piece that are illustrative of our collaborative process. For example the fact that we chose not to delegate roles within the group and the fact that everyone is always on stage, equally responsible for the conception, realisation and performance of the piece. The varieties of systems that we set up show the variety in working processes and emphasise the fact that it becomes impossible to make out a singular author for each section. The ‘director’ that you see in the position on stage is not at all the director of that section. Rather all tasks and all activities on stage can be executed by everyone and no specific skills are required for the mode of performance that we are proposing in Trio. With the exception of Elena’s 33 pirouettes, of course.

E.K.: The collaborative process is the piece itself. The piece would have the form it has right now if it was not for our collaboration. I mean certain elements in our performance like the continual exchange of roles (between performers and director), the equal sharing of parts, the blurring of ideas even the ‘neutral’/task based mode of performance manifest the nature of our process.

What were the best and worst parts about collaborating in this project?

S.D.: The best part of the collaboration was to be able have fun while working. Worst part, has not come yet. Hope will never come.

A.H.: Best: getting to know better three very intelligent and strong women, artists and lovely people.
Worst: the realisation that this will probably never happen again.

E.K.: The best part of it is the actual opportunity to work with people who I admire and trust. The worst, I suppose is that, now it is actually finishing.

M.K.L.: mmmm.  For me….The best parts were working with these specific people.  Collaborative dynamics vary WIDELY, and some groups of people work well, and others want to kill each other.  We worked quite well together and were able to enter into each rehearsal dedicated to the task at hand without being cumbersome or overly heavy or serious.  And through the group dynamic and our different opinions and backgrounds we ended up making something quite different for me.  I don’t think we’ve necessarily made anything particularly revolutionary, but that isn’t really the point.  We did end up doing something that I really don’t think I would have been able to do…or more accurately, wouldn’t think of doing, without the rest of the group.
The worst parts…the moments when we didn’t communicate well with each other.  These moments were excruciating.  But this is inevitable, and of no persons particular fault.  Different working styles were also challenging, but I wouldn’t say bad.  It is always a good thing to be pushed to working in ways you wouldn’t, and to not be too dogmatic in your working style.  So, no…that wasn’t a “worst part”.