For an observer of art, the lure of collaborative work has always been undeniable; When people of varying backgrounds come together and contribute the parts to create a product that is whole and new. As a mere audience, it is hard to truly understand the nuances of collaborative culture. But the intersectionality of collaborative culture and the community that emerges from it is something that we frequently see in online creative spaces, in the visions of photographers, stylists and makeup artists coming together, and even in the work of musicians and illustrators. But in the world of fine art, where elitism and exclusivity are markers of presence, what does the concept of community really mean?
This work of Premjish Achari has been a study of the hierarchical structure of the contemporary art world. As an art writer and researcher, he has looked at the strategies that go into artistic collaboration and studied the problems of building consensus, especially when so much of it is, in Premjish’s own words a ‘financial, professional, male-centric and casteist fraternity'. He says that it has failed to emerge as a sensitive community that cares for its practitioners and that it alienates not only its marginalised artists but also its audience. Premjish is a Delhi-based writer, curator and professor of art history and theory. He founded the curatorial platform Future Collaborations, which seeks to reclaim the political potential of curation, collaboration, exhibition and writing in contemporary art. His research residency in Switzerland undertaken for the Take on Art X Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia 2021-22 Art Writer’s Award focused on the same topic and culminated in his debut publication.
The Lure of Collaboration: Dissecting Consensus is a book published by Take on Art and written by Premjish Acharya which unravels the problems of analysing the problems of building consensus while practising creative, collaborative work. It looks at the importance of antagonism in community structures and the need for dynamism in the face of inequity in such spaces. The author’s work is inspired by the Ambedkarite critique of democracy and through the book, he talks about the need for using Social Justice — a conscious attempt from outside or within the community to end the oppression of the marginalised — and ethically sound collaborations, to better the contemporary art community in India. During the course of the book and the work that he has been doing, Premjish Achari looks beyond diversity as a tool for inclusivity. He analyses the governance of artworks and how marginalisation within the community is lived and looked at.
While the book is an academic take that is particular to the art world, it uses the lens of social anthropology to analyse the mores of the Indian contemporary art world, which can be extrapolated to speak to the larger world. Perhaps it can be summed up in the author’s own words.
"We give too much power to communities, thinking they can make spaces into places," says Premjish.
Elizabeth Crooke says, “If community is about coming together and unity, it is equally about division and exclusion. We have to understand and study these divisions and exclusions. It is in these gaps that lies the bare life."
You can follow Premjish here.
You can purchase the book via Take on Art’s website here.
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