Charlie Woolley, Book shop and bean bags, We have our own concept of time and motion, 2011, Photo Theo Cook. Courtesy the artist and Auto Italia South East

CHARLIE WOOLLEY CONVERSATION 1

JS: It is my desire to begin these three email conversations with exactly the same question. This is not to suggest that your practices are in any way identical, but to stress the point that an exhibition is a shared environment for a moment in time, from which your ideas will ‘distribute’ themselves through the different ways that people experience and engage with them – be it online or in physical actuality. With this in mind I would like to begin by asking about your experiences of working collaboratively; why do you employ it and what advantages does it afford your practice/s?

CW: I find it hard to say when collaboration became an issue within my practice, as I have always looked to other people to help expand ideas and ways of making. It always seemed sensible to me that if I wanted to work in a specific medium and I knew someone who was better at it than me I would go to them and work on it together. For example, a few years ago I wanted to start making flags. I had become interested in how they had this kind of double life, partly as these live objects waved in celebration or protest and partly as very elegiac objects draped or wrapped in memorial. I made a few on my own which where okay, but then I began collaborating on them with my Mum who had previously worked as a seamstress and a milliner, as had my grandmother. The work then began to take on whole new dimensions as it became imbued in historical practices and political issues such as ‘Women’s work.’ They were also of course much better made, and more meaningful to me as objects. There are plenty of examples like this in my practice where collaboration was primarily used as a practical tool, but later went on to become central to the work. This is probably why I have turned to more explicitly collaborative ways of working more recently.

What these more deliberate collaborations afford my practice can be measured in all sorts of ways. I did my stint at art school studying painting, alone in the studio and found it largely unproductive. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that so much of contemporary art practice functions in this way.

I like that collaboration can be fluid and temporary as opposed to a fixed continuous project: I still have my own agency, my own practice, but it’s made up of many strings of intersecting conversations and relationships and I’m just a node, or a knot.