Magnum Foundation

Magnum Foundation

Participatory Playbook: an Exhibition at LOOK3

We’re excited to share the opening of Tactics of Collaboration: A Participatory Playbook, an exhibition of an ongoing collaboration with Photography, Expanded Fellow Mark Strandquist at the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative in Charlottesville, Virginia. This exhibition was held in conjunction with the 2015 LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. To read about our Disruptive Images Innovation Lab during LOOK3’s Education Day, please click here.

Tactics of Collaboration: A Participatory Playbook is a project that seeks to reveal the unseen processes of engagement inherent in collaboration practice. As corporations co-opt the notion of collaboration for their guides on workplace etiquette, and photographers identify the act of making a portrait as a collaborative exchange between author and subject, it becomes harder to envision the true complexity of making work alongside a community.

Collaborative and community-based projects are often poetically and intricately woven processes of engagement, that incorporate the thoughts, actions and ideas of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of individuals. Despite the richness of this practice, many projects lack revealing documentation of the way these processes unfold, thus rendering what is often the heart of the work– webs of partnerships, meetings, community-based events, dialogues, working groups, communications and partnerships– inaccessible to secondary audiences. These unhelpful forms of documentation become roadblocks for those viewers, educators, and practitioners looking to these projects as models of engagement.

In a culture rife with the institutionalization of competition and privatization, deep collaboration is an act of resistance. It’s a political statement, and a performative gesture that celebrates alternative ways of living, building, and loving.

In April and May, the Magnum Foundation’s Photography, Expanded initiative partnered with artist Mark Strandquist to host two working groups at Union Docs and The Public Society in Brooklyn, New York. During these working groups, photographers, theorists, educators and activists were invited to join together to discuss and visually map the community-based photographic projects of Sol Aramendi, Pete Pin, Sonia Louise Davis, Gemma-Rose Turnbull, Emily Schiffer and Betty Yu. Within these collaborative sessions, we created a template for visually articulating the unique strategies employed by each artist, which served as the backbone for the completed maps.

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The Bridge Progressive Arts exhibition featured two of these large-scale printed maps, including Sol Aramendi’s Apps For Power and Pete Pin’s I Am Khmer. These maps included an artist’s statement, a geographic map of workshop and event locations, and a timeline that featured the ideation phase of the project, workshops, community events, partnerships, funding sources, and exhibitions. Since the opening, the exhibition space has transformed into a classroom for local teens to develop projects surrounding their experiences in Charlottesville’s public housing. During this intensive workshop, participants will develop a similar map as they work collectively to bring awareness to the realities of Section 8 housing in Virginia.

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Matthew Slaats, the director of The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative reflected on the role of this exhibition within a greater community of photographers in stating:

A typical experience of a photograph, or any form of art, places the audience at the end of a long trajectory. From ideation to completion, there are a series of acts that bring together a host of people; the artist, the subject, printers, publishers, and curators. That is before the work is even brought to the public. For most, these relationships are unseen and more important, misunderstood. The work of art mystically appears out of nowhere, for everyone to enjoy.

The importance of Tactics of Collaboration resides in its desire to open and make public the creative process. The project engages artists to deeply consider the choices and interactions that go into producing their work, allowing the artist to see a pathway of decisions that leads from start to finish. Simultaneously, it seeks to make these pathways apparent to a broader public, in the hopes that they will recognize and take hold of the process for themselves.

We were excited to present this exhibition during LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, as it connects deeply to an important thread about the roles and responsibilities implicit in the creation of photography. Tactics of Collaboration focuses needed attention on the specifics of practices and ask questions about why certain decisions are being made– not through criticism, but as a form of collective learning, which is at the heart of LOOK3.  

This exhibition will play a crucial role in The Bridge’s summer educational workshops, serving as a guide for students and a tool to connect them to a greater dialogue surrounding photography.

During the opening of the exhibition, we were also proud to introduce our 2015 Human Rights Fellows– please read more about them here. 

This exhibition was made possible through the support of PhotoWings, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, and LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph.