In 2010 artist Anna Sexton and poet Miriam Nash were collaborators in the first Pistols & Pollinators project. We caught up with them 3 years on, to find out about their experience with each other, and now that the dust has settled, what effect it had on their work.
What was it about each other initially that made you realise you were a good partnership?
M: Almost as soon as I met Anna I felt she was someone I could work with. I was excited by her work and ideas, and her clear way of communicating suited me. She was also very open to working across different platforms, which was important, as I knew I’d be away in Geneva for two months of our collaboration. And I had a hunch we’d have a lot of fun.
A: Miriam’s attitude on the 1st session plus my own vision for working in a real two way partnership ie: to get the best out of the process given the level of commitment required.
How did you decide on, and what was, your working method?
M: We put dates in the diary and agreed to meet up face to face while I was in London and via skype, email and our blog when I was in Geneva. The blog was a great way to get things started – like a shared scrapbook for ideas. In the beginning we spent a lot of time playing and getting to know each other, and crucially, eating. It was only several months in that our project became concrete, but when it did, many of the things we’d be talking about and playing with came together. In the process we used collage, blogging, writing and sending each other things in the post. Our working method was quite fluid but had agreed dates and times, which was a good way of working. Oh, and we did The Artist’s Way together, which was fantastic.
A: We both had already decided prior to working together to re-do the Artist Way so we did the 12 wk course alongside our work. We played with ideas, made mood boards, swapped images & ideas via our blog as Miriam was away living in Geneva for the majority of the project. Trips to numerous charity shops in search of initially inspiration but plates became our metaphor for each home we had each lived in.
Were there any creative ‘tensions’? How did you get over these?
A: Mmm…. maybe my lack of depth of knowledge of poetic form, although Miriam was an amazing guide and editor. Miriam’s inexperience of making art work for exhibition, but again this was balanced out by my skills, which hopefully supported her to learn new ideas around making an installation.
M: I think we had our moments – we’re both strong characters and especially towards the end there was a lot to get done. I get cranky when I haven’t eaten, so our habit of eating together was great. I don’t think there were big clashes in terms of ways of working or willingness to make creative changes. I felt I had a lot to learn from Anna, and she was very patient with me on the visual art side of things. We were open and honest with each other about our time, commitments and mood.
Did you work in a different way because of collaboration? If so, how?
A: I write more poetry. My method and design for making our books flows into my own style and aesthetic for my retreats
M: Yes. We both became writers and visual artists. I got to think of myself as an artist, not just a poet, and to expand the way I worked to include the visual. It was wonderfully freeing. I started sketching again and took photographs. When I moved to Geneva I was discovering a new place, and even from afar, Anna helped me to do that. Even better, she came to visit. Anna is also a coach and helped me become more confident about my work, and about presenting it.
What advice would you have for anyone else collaborating?
A: Be willing to open up who you are as Miriam & I at first didn’t expect to find the amazing similarities we did through our sharing.
Don’t assume your partner understands your form – you are the expert so share what you know in empowering ways.
Divide up work tasks in the run up to the show especially if one or both of you is away.
M: Everyone works differently, but I’d say: Set times and dates at the outset to make things simple. Eat together. Challenge yourself to move into your collaborator’s discipline and invite them into yours. Go to events together. Go to charity shops. Go for walks. Send things in the post. Be open to expanding your process. Respect your collaborator’s time. Don’t get fixed on the idea of an end product too early on. Enjoy the process.
What you have both learnt from the collaboration?
A: Gosh so much…
M: Not to limit my artistic process (even if I don’t feel ‘good’ at what I’m trying). To trust the process. To play. To listen and find shared ground. It was a joy to work with Anna and we created work I never would have made alone.
…and how has this influenced future projects
A: Blimey! Again too many off shoots to describe – mostly the confidence to write whatever comes to mind
M: Creating collaboratively is now an important part of my work. I’ve moved into collaborative theatre and have worked with two companies making interdisciplinary theatre from scratch. I often think back on my collaboration with Anna – although I’m working with larger groups now, it’s a similar process, and I draw a lot from what I learned.
What are you working on at present?
A: A book of interviews about creativity and climate change, an Open To Create… ‘how to’ manual, running my own creative retreats, and co-curating Anxiety 2014 – an arts and mental health festival for London
M: I’m currently studying for a MFA (master of fine arts) in poetry and theatre at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. I’m working on a collection of poems and a collaborative theatre project combining poetry, dance and drama which will go up at the end of April.
If there is anything else that you would like to add?
A: Plan time to install and take down your work – P&P is a team effort which A&E give 110% to so it’s easy to think stuff like that is not your role too.
Join in wholeheartedly and your practice will change beyond you wildest imaginings
M: Just a huge thank you to Accident & Emergence and to Anna Sexton, for being such a wonderful partner in art, a continued supporter of my work, and a friend.
You can read more about Anna & Miriam’s collaboration on their blog – http://collaborarting.wordpress.com
To find out more about Anna Sexton visit – http://annabsexton.wordpress.com/
To find out more about Miriam Nash visit – http://miriamnash.com