What Work Wills

Video, Collaborative Work, SculptureAlicia Velazquez4 Comments

This month While Making It Together started. During the past weeks I have received our first five guests.

I learned so much. And, what was did I have todo to make that happen? Lending my ear. And asking a few colleagues and friends to lend me theirs. Yes, we acted with our hands and bodies. 

There was an object there. One object they brought, to be added to the hybrid object already made.

There was a common action. A shared act of making something with their donated object, wrapping it together to the other objects.

And silence.

I didn’t know what this work was about in the beginning (I am still figuring out what it is about, actually, together with my guests). I knew I had to do it. Or, more precisely, I let the work do me.

What happens when letting the work do you, rather than the other way around?

First lesson on the relevance of this shift came from artist Juan Cañizares, WMIT's guest #2. And with him, the realization of the difference between project and work. As architect, we project - have a goal, a brief, a set of intentions - and create and build towards that plan, within that timeframe and constraints. Solving problems.
Before and after our WMIT session, Juan kept talking about works. And after a while it stroke me. WMIT is not a project, but a work. When changing the nomination in the surface, a long and deep meaning also shifted.

Work is what happens. You make a plan, set a structure, set yourself to work on it, until you - actually, more accurately - until the work considers itself done. There is no up-front result or vision to follow. It is unpredictable and surprising.

This fundamental difference might be already obvious for you. But I tell you, it was a revelation for me last week for the first time, after “working” on “projects” for 20 years! - was also a difference in handling our work together, "visible" during the making sessions with our first 5 guests.

They are, in their current practice, 3 architects and 2 artists. It was my duty, as host of this work, to listen to them and follow their lead during making. The two artists, Juan and Maria (Gil Uldemolins), dug into wrapping, quite quickly not being all about their object but the moment, and the hybrid thing corseted in pink that we had in between us. It was about the rhythm and time shared by our bodies, about the communication between all those objects, about the thoughts we share without talking. It was about our hands touching, when handling the spool from one to the other. It was boring and beautiful. It was one of the most intimate experiences I have shared, and surely the most intimate in a working environment.

My 3 architect guests, colleagues of mine, and very different in their own practices, started centered in their own objects, to end up in the same place, a bit later.

Eric (Guibert, architect and gardener) - our first guest - was delicately wrapping the branch he'd brought, and was horrified when I - following my projection of making a communal sculpture, my project goal - started to squeeze its leaves with the thread, suffocating them already. They were obviously going to dry out and die, but I was killing them already there. After quite a while and observing his reaction, I switched, following his lead and way of wrapping. And, funny enough, we ended up our (long, about 2.5 hours) session with him wrapping as me (fast and quick, around both chair and branch), and me wrapping as him (slowly, delicately, carefully). We switched our “making” identities along the way.

Michael (Wildmann), my guest #5, was the one that took the longest to give in to the fact that both his object and the thread would do whatever the hell they wished, despite his efforts for being precise. Like drawing, Mike was projecting lines over his donated object (a coffee maker), the thin pink thread being his pencil, or his Autocad line. After a while during which, hopelessly, we both tried to wrap the coffee maker's round belly in a symmetrical and precise way to the hybrid bunch, he gave in. And from there on we just wrapped, loop by loop, from side to side, forgetting about precision and projection and letting the material simply do her thing, while both thread and coffee maker winked at each other and smiled (possibly LOL at us :-).

What about you? Have you had experiences of letting go preconceived ideas, and let the work be, rather than projecting a wish or vision? How did that shift happen?

Would love to hear about it in the comments below.