If You Could Collaborate
Author: Will Hudson, Alex Bec
Publisher: It’s Nice That
London art directors Will Hudson and Alex Bec have been paving the way for this generation’s art and design community. Formerly of the design studio, HudsonBec, the creators of It’s Nice That have been up to a lot of good with their side effort, If You Could. Since 2006, they have asked artists and designers—forward thinkers—”If you could do anything tomorrow, what would it be?”
The question has resulted in two issues (one book, and one print pack), and an exquisite two-color printed series, not to mention exhibitions abound. Recently, the question has been posed in a slightly different manner, taking the level of intrigue up one whole notch, with If You Could Collaborate. The premise is simple: select 33 renowned artists and ask them to collaborate with an artist of their choice. The collaboration could result in absolutely anything, and they have 12 months to complete it.
The roster of collaborators is remarkable: Fontaine Anderson & Deanne Cheuk, Hellovon & Timothy Saccenti, Mario Hugo & Micah Lidberg, Karlssonwilker & Frank DeRose, Julien Vallée & Nicolas Burrows… the list goes on.
Upon the project’s completion—as tradition would have it—each of the 33 collaborative projects were exhibited in the handsome, A Foundation Gallery at Rochelle School, in London. The exhibition turned out to be very charming, and was quite well received by the public.
Accompanying the show, and made available to all—in an edition of 1,500—was the exhibition catalogue. A 312-page book that served as an insider’s view, documenting the process of each collaboration.
The visual content of the book is made up of process imagery from each collaborative effort, comprised of photos, sketches, and screen captures. The textual foundation takes the form of brief introductions of each initial artist invitee, followed by a modest interview with the collaborators involved. While interviews are often the most informative component to a project of this nature, they are unfortunately the downfall of this book.
After reading the second interview, one is quick to realize the interview questions are all the same for each collaboration. While the projects are all vastly different in medium, this static questionnaire is, for lack of a better word disheartening. A skilled journalist can get quite a lot of information from asking the right questions, and while some of the interviewees were bursting at the seams with their answers to each question, others seemed a bit un-enthused. With a static list of seven questions, one word answers can have devastating effects on the reader’s impression. And, while the final two questions of each interview serve to underline the purpose of the book, they exist in utter disregard to the project at hand, and the preceding twelve months of labor. Those questions: “What do you think makes a successful collaboration,” and “What’s your favourite collaboration of all time?” When the answer to the latter begins to trend as a joke—popular reply to the tune of “peanut butter and jam”—that should serve as a clue to rethink the questionnaire altogether.
Granted, the catalogue is not meant to be a comprehensive documentation of each collaboration, but merely a thoughtful glance into the process. On the whole, I for one greatly appreciate the publication, and the point the authors are trying to make about the importance of collaboration. I would certainly chalk it up as another shining success for the It’s Nice That boys!