art books art collectives

United We Create: Spampinato's Come Together Shows the Power of Creating in a Collective

Thursday, January 29, 2015 Cora

We’ve all heard the phrase “two heads are better than one.” How about a dozen creatives with a cause? Author and professor Francesco Spampinato showcases forty of the most influential art collectives from design studios to political performance artists and everything in between in his book, Come Together: The Rise of Cooperative Art and Design. Two groups he features have Chicago presences. 

As an artist and former member of a collective, Spampinato included the wide range of artists because there are different ways to produce art. He explained how the collectives have a do-it-yourself nature and don’t follow rules. Many groups are comprised of multidisciplinary artists.

As with any well- rounded sports team or legion of super heroes, bringing together individual talents creates a stronger whole. Spampinato found many groups had similar motivations and objectives. They’d rotate leadership roles or “embrace anonymity” as he put it, but they wanted viewers to become producers, to take action in some way. They wanted the viewers to create a meaning for what they were seeing. Spampinato feels the role of the contemporary artist is changing, stating they are closer to philosophers.

You can hear our full interview on the Halfstack Highlights Podcast below!


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Two groups, SIMPARCH and Temporary Services, have a Chicago presence. Among other things, SIMPARCH creates recreational wooden structures “intended for skateboarding, meditation or fun.” The book shows “Free Basin”, a wooden basin reminiscent of the empty pools early skateboards would seek out, as well as an exhausted Godzilla. Temporary Spaces started as an artists’ space in Chicago and grew to be “a publisher, curatorial collective, and organizer of community workshops.” Their work challenges people to assess the role, meaning and value of culture in the greater community. Come Together is a fun and fascinating book, a great introduction to all that is out there in the wild world of art collectives. Full of color pictures of the groups and their striking work, it’s a dossier on the who’s who of the art collective world. What’s different about this book is readers feel the people involved in the groups through the question and answer format of the chapters. Each section you meet someone new, feel the energy change as if you were speaking with them, all these artists in one place. More collectives popped up as he worked on the book, more he could have included. He’s impressed by the collectives from areas like Jakarta and Saigon, Vietnam, places you don’t associate with freedom of speech and expression. As recent events in Paris have shown us, some cannot tolerate expression or providing a place for onlookers to assess or challenge their feelings. While there is safety in numbers, numbers are also a demonstration. We were reminded how creation is an act of bravery. I see the book inspiring or influencing someone—this is what has been done, how would you do it differently?

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