Cali Prince and Wendy McDougall are the recipients of a 2017 Space Residency at Blacktown Arts Centre. Engaged in a range of creative practices, both artists have long careers in the arts. Cali is a Community Arts and Cultural Development practitioner, creative thinker and practice-led researcher. Wendy is a photographer, photo-based artist and filmmaker with over 32 years of experience in her creative field.
Collaboration is at the heart of their upcoming project, Western Sydney 4th Space Residency (WS4SR), which will develop beyond their 2017 residency.
What does “collaboration” mean to you?
Cali | I am very passionate about collaborative practice. My work focuses on diverse, unique and sometimes odd and unexpected collaborations. It is something I have been intensely working with in my own practice since 2004.
When we collaborate with others, we are able to create something that we would not have been able to achieve alone. It requires being able to hold a vision and yet also to let go, to listen and interweave ideas, concepts, voices, stories and practices that may be different to our own.
Wendy | A true collaboration, in my mind, is when all practitioners involved in one project have an equal voice. Through my work on theatrical productions and seeing how well a good director on board works, I believe a nominated director on any collaborative project is essential. When a decision needs to be made, due to deadline or a stalemate, one nominated voice is best to resolve the situation and move to the next step. For me, this would ideally be the person who initiated the project as most times it is they who have the best understanding of the end goals. Having said that, sharing the dominant role is essential for any good relationship.
Tell us about the project you will be working on during your residency.
Cali | We will be working in [Blacktown Arts Centre’s] Performance Studio during July and August 2017 over a 2 week period. Our project is Western Sydney 4th Space Residency (WS4SR) – a creative exchange and collaboration between Wendy and I. We have known each other professionally for 20 years.
Our residency will unpack how, in a collaborative creative process, when 3 come together, transformation happens – a “4th space” is generated. This is a concept, which I proposed, in a recent paper titled The “Butterfly Effect” in Collaborative Creativity: Turning the Light on Transformation published in The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts (2016).
Wendy | The project is an idea Cali has been working on for some time now. Inspired from her doctoral research, the project now takes on a life of its own as an independent arts-based project.
In the residency at Blacktown Arts Centre, we will develop ideas and theories with Cali’s ground-breaking work, and the work of Western Sydney artists.
What motivated you to propose this project for your residency?
Wendy | Cali’s proposed idea of the 4th Space was intriguing from her very first conversation with me. Once we agreed and formulated a plan to bring the ideas to life, we considered locations and venues. Cali suggested we approach Blacktown Arts Centre. With her history and understanding of the Centre, along with the fact that I was brought up in the western suburbs, it seemed like the perfect idea.
Cali | I have been working with this concept since 2010 in my practice-led research into transformative processes between artists, people and their communities and institutions.
I have conducted over 20 recorded conversations with artists – primarily Western Sydney-based artists. This work is about lifting the veil, pulling back the curtain to reveal the artists and practitioners who work in this 4th Space and their insights about the transformation that happens in this space. The work is all about breaking new ground to reveal rich and diverse insights into collaborative creative practice happening here in Western Sydney. I believe the creative and collaborative environment offered here at Blacktown Arts Centre is at the cutting edge.
How do you see this project evolving beyond this residency?
Wendy | This residency is a research and concept development phase or precursor to inform a future 3-stage project. The residency at Blacktown Arts Centre will inform the next stage of our ‘4th Space Lab’ adventure. The next project is called Western Sydney 4th Space Lab (working title) and includes a lab of inquiry with Western Sydney artists into their experiences and stories of this space. The idea is to create a community of artists, drawn from the people Cali has worked with over the past 10 years, who will participate, and contribute to the Lab. The second stage will include creation of a new work to culminate in a performance, installation and exhibition. In the final stage we will produce a coffee table book that wraps up the entire project.
Cali | Our residency is all about lifting the lid on this work and the practitioners within Western Sydney. However, there is a personal journey within it too, including the stories from each practitioner I have learned from and have been influenced by, Through this residency Wendy and I get to explore our own collaborative creative practice and to really inquire, what is transformation in the fourth space? Our next step is to bring this into conversation with other artists deeper investigations into the transformations that result from collaborative creative processes and projects.
If you could give advice to your younger selves, what would it be?
Cali | Do not be put off if you come across someone with a similar idea. It’s highly unlikely that they will weave it together in the same way that you will. There is unique voice inside of you through your unique set of experiences and responses to them. Have the courage to follow this and to tell your story.
Have the courage to hold your vision and dive in, start creating. Let go and see where it goes; see where it takes you, and where it takes others.
Wendy | Let go of fear and speak louder!
By Emily McTaggart
Photography by Wendy McDougall