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In Focus: Art collectives

In Focus: Art collectives
Ant Farm, Media Burn in San Francisco 1975

art:i:curate contributor Kirsi Hyötylä gives an insight into the dynamics of art collectives while highlighting a few from around the world. 


Art collectives are a very popular phenomena at present in every corner of the world from Texas to Tokyo. Art students come together envisioning a more succesful career within a collective while on the other hand using this enterprise as a prototype for artistic production. Collectives formed by young artists offer a platform for learning and reflecting from one another, and indeed while for some grouping up with other artists provides social structures such as formation of new friendships, and a prospect for networking, for the rest a collective might be the éclat of the whole professional career.



Campo de Cruces, Argentina. Image courtesy of Campo de Cruces.



For the Argentinean Campo de Gruces, a female collective founded by artists Natalia Primo, Andrea Rugnone and Raquel Ferreira in 2011, working collectively has offered more opportunities both at professional and personal levels. ”Although we all have our individual projects within the collective, each one of us tends to be better known as Campo de Gruces than as by our real names, as individual artists. Nevertheless, forming of this collective has certainly impacted our careers in a positive way. This collective has also given us the flexibility needed to carry on with our personal lifes, while having families, while being mothers et cetera. When we had a meeting or an event planned, and one of us could not attend it was covered by another member of the collective.”  As a collective, Campo De Gruces is known for organising one day outdoor residencies and talks that bring together artists from different fields in art as well as from various social groups.



Guerrilla Girls, Publicity photo 1987.



Collectives could not be much more popular today than what they were in the 1960s. Many of the 1960's collectives were formed as a counter response to the tensions of the sociopolitical and cultural trends of the decade yet many of the collectives kept active even beyond the demise of the modern world. Some of the notable artist collectives such as Guerrilla Girls in the USA and Reclaim The Streets (RTS) in the UK were formed to serve a need for a political expression in arts whereas Sydney’s Yellow House Collective of the early 1970s, or Archigram in London in the 1960s, to name but a few, focused on art and collectivity itself with a little less political thrive. An overview on art collectives in the past and throughout the history hints that collectives don’t necessarily have to have a political focus to gain public attention or to survive.



George Gittoes of The Yellow House Collective. Image courtesy of George Gittoes.



Art collectives of our time are a colourful mix of grouped individuals with varied backgrounds who draw ideas and essence from the political sphere, culture, technology and inventions yet rather many collectives are formed purely for the purpose of creating together, sharing, and connecting. The definition of an art collective nowadays is as abstract and unclear as are the complex types of art collectives around. Artists seem to be both interweaving and intertwining with one another, however, not necessarily to produce a single piece or to work within same artistic mediums – every so often an inventive ongoing process among the members of the collective throughout the phases of the creation is enough to tie the artists together.


”I am part of three different collectives but I work on my own projects simultaneously. In one of the collectives I work with another Swedish artist and we work towards one piece of work to present for the public. In the other collective we all work on video art but on our own projects.. And the third collective has mixed mediums and projects from texts to performance and to video art – we all work on our own projects but the theme is what connects us. All of the collectives were formed in the past few years which is interesting because I was trained to work on my own in art school and not within a group. I do not see working in these collectives as competition to my own personal career as an artist.


In a collective, you do reflect from the other members and it helps to grow as an artist. In my experience, the other members of the collective become part of the audience,” Anna Kinbom, a Swedish artist collaborating in Zeros+Ones, The Drinking Brothers, and The Videography Collective, comments.



The Videography Collective, Sweden. Image courtesy of The Videography Collective 2013.



Artists working collectively happens all over the world. Over 200 art collectives could be located in the state of New York, USA,  on its own while in Berlin, Germany, the bloom of new collectives is so intense that the number of collectives currently existing cannot be brought to light. It could be argued that art collectives have become a fashionable tendency of the decade.



NENI ART Collective presents Ardan Ozmenoglu in Vienna. Image courtesy of NENI ART.



”A collective to me is a group of people who follow the same goal or interest. I started NENI ART Collective two years ago,” begins Molcho Nuriel, the founder of NENI ART Collective in Vienna, Austria. “The idea behind it was to connect the younger generation to art world by offering a platform for young artists to show their works without having the pressure of a formal gallery. I wanted to invite guests who may have an interest for art yet would not go to the conventional vernissages of galleries. With NENI ART Collective we show art in a familiar environment - either at our NENI restaurants or other locations in where we can later continue with an after party. I have worked with over 30 artists, ranging from street art to photography and even installation works.


At the moment we exhibit art by Ardan Ozmenoglu, a well-known contemporary artist from Istanbul, Turkey. I think it is nice when communities work together to achieve a greater service or work - we often collaborate with galleries like the Galerie Ernst Hilger or the INOPERAbLE gallery in Vienna but we have also worked with people from Budapest, for example. The idea is to connect artists with new clients or an audience who is generally interested in art.” 


The way that artists, art students, curators, art directors – the whole art world in general, communicates today has drastically changed throughout the past ten to twenty years. Technology allows people to communicate and come together even from across the globe. Some collectives have taken advantage of this already, and they exist in digital form only. Online art collectives are no longer strictly for art dealers or collectors in search of new investments and young talent but they tempt multinational, even cross-disciplinary members to work in projects which are partly or fully implemented online.


Arguably, the modern day technological developments have impacted and enabled a range of new, fresh voices to be heard. This format of art collectives has become an eminent way to present artist collaborations to audiences within the growing and developing contemporary art world. Artists have been able to organize and to develop a new domain for discussing artistry regardless of the physical location of each individual.



Magma Collective in London. Image courtesy of Magma Collective.



Collectives exist for the sake of having a supportive social unit or a community that allows an artist to saturate oneself with critique and fusions of different styles but besides this it also serves the artist’s need for making sense of oneself as merely a human being in the calamity of the contemporary world. While using unconventional forms and media in the process, for all one knows, dealing with the contemporary questions together as a unit while gaining purpose in life and a sense of oneself as an individual may be the essence of the art collectives.



Migrantas Collective in Berlin. Bilder Bewegen I, Berlin 2006. Image courtesy of Migrantas.



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