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And Others–'The Third Hand'–Claire, Bernadette and Friends

Venue: Online

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Discussants: Helena Reckitt, Chris McCormack, Gerrie van Noord.

Moderator: Lina Dzuverovic

Keywords: collaboration, collective, fictional entities, erasure, identity, the self, the third hand, anonymity, editing, translation, co-writing.

BIRMAC and Art Monthly, in association with Electra present:

One of four discussions within the research project  ‘And Others: The Gendered Politics and Practices of Art Collectives’ by Dr. Lina Dzuverovic, which investigates different questions central to collective work. Building on two months of asynchronous collective writing, involving seventeen participants, the panelists below consider how we might write, think, read and practice together through other means.

Considering the deliberate erasure of individual identities, this panel combines two interwoven lines of enquiry. Firstly, it considers a particular approach to working collectively, one in which the identities of each individual artist involved are deliberately obfuscated, forming a singular, newly created artist with their own name and a distinct, manufactured identity—what Charles Green terms the ‘third hand’. Relatedly, it also addresses how new voices are woven into form through the processes both of collaborative writing and of editing—exploring these as two related lines of inquiry; not least as artist collectives forming ‘third hand’ entities also often operate via the production and distribution of publications. 

The first stream departs from Charles Green’s term ‘the third hand’, exploring his claim that such modifications of authorship supersede the subjectivities of individual creators. In doing so it also addresses what is gained by the creation of a named entity, particularly when this constitutes a full name and surname—often framed as an attempt to ‘beat the enemy at their own game’, by creating a marketable and commodifiable product. What is interesting, but also puzzling, is that in these practices of over-identification with the art establishment’s desire, the collective relies on both a deliberate obfuscation of individuality, and a simultaneous willingness for individuals to be named in association with these entities. Does the new entity, a ‘readymade artist’ (term used by Claire Fontaine) transcend the subjectivities of its makers, or is its only hope to forever ventriloquise its makers’ visions? What is achieved through such a strategy—does the apparent preservation of anonymity and the careful distancing of individuals forming the collective from the creative outputs that ensue make for a more egalitarian and inclusive working process? 

The second stream asks how collaborative writing experiences—in their potential for development in co-authored texts, as well as within theories of translation —shape the forming of a new voice through editorial work; how in both instances (collaborative writing/translation, and editing) the text begins to acquire a new voice through the process, freed by a relative level of anonymity. What are the possibilities and limitations of such writing, what does it enable and free up for authors, and what limitations might it bring? How does anonymity relate to both aspects of harmonising ‘voice’ or authorship, and how does this enable risk-taking on the one hand, and the consecration and circulation of political tracts on the other? 

The panel conversation will be followed by an informal Q&A with the audience.  

Please note all events within this series will be recorded.

This project has been supported through Birkbeck College’s School of Arts Research Grants and the Open Society University Network, Center for Arts and Human Rights at Bard College 2022 Faculty Fellowship.

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