Communicative dynamics of artistic collaboration

  • Rachel Lehrman

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In his 2001 writings on artistic collaboration, art theorist Charles Green describes how some artistic duos and teams developed a ‘phantom’ element— a ‘third hand’ or collaborative identity independent from and yet related to the individual identities and voices of the artistic collaborators involved. This thesis examines communicative interaction characteristic of these types of collaborations in order to explore this phantom element: what it means, what it is, how it develops and its relationship to the artistic collaborators. Ultimately, it investigates how artists can develop a collaborative author through persistent dialogue and communicative interaction.

Focusing on the communicative dynamics of collaborative art practices, the first part of this study illustrates how collaboration reworks conventional notions of authorship. Integrating communication theory and group studies, it then analyses different applications of the term collaboration in contemporary art theory, challenging writings that indiscriminately categorise a variety of participatory activities and roles as collaborative. In doing so, this research examines different types of collaborative relationships; it investigates the conditions necessary for collaborative communication to produce collaborative authorship, outlining various defining characteristics of collaboration.

The final portion of this study focuses on collaborative situations in which all of these defining characteristics are met. Using semiotic and hermeneutic phenomenological frameworks, it traces the development of a collective consciousness, collective identity and collective voice. Incorporating research obtained through naturalistic enquiry and questionnaires, it examines how prolonged communication, shared ownership and shared decision-making contribute to the development of these collective entities, leading up to the establishment of a collaborative author.

An accompanying DVD and booklet documents the practice-based portion of this
investigation— Nomadics, a nine-month multi-media artistic collaboration. The DVD not only evidences the physical art installation that resulted from the collaboration, but also the collaborative practice, providing specific examples to help support claims made within the body of the thesis.
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton

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