Traps, treats, punishments and rewards…


One of the fascinating things about Team Effort! is the way it throws a focus on how we work. Most of the time we all know why: the burning, palpitating sometimes maddeningly vague but nonetheless pressing urge to explore the margins of our world, stand against injustice, question, provoke, add beauty and meaning. The lights go out when the why is lost. This happens mercifully seldom. The how is ever present and ongoing, sometimes it is simply in the service of the need to be nosey, to know things and to create in response, often it’s a thorny issue which requires a complex series of promises, rewards, punishments and threats handed from the self to the self.

The process of negotiating how we will work with others in a manner composed of the right and satisfying confluence of jeopardy, fairness, risk, integrity and equal authorship throws a strong and welcome light on the mechanics of how exactly it is you do these things alone. It forces you to interrogate how you quantify success, both on the basis of small daily achievements and in a wider sense on the completion of projects.

On days when you are suffering a poor relationship with your own creative practice, especially in those despondent periods where the why has been temporarily misplaced, upright and out of the house can feel like a miracle. It really is a tiny act of heroism to go to the studio and hope that the muses will come knocking even if they haven’t been answering your calls or texts for days. At other times you have to drag them back to you by the hair bucking and rearing and leaving claw marks in the carpet because patience may be a virtue but sometimes there is nothing for it but to wrest back control of the work by blunt force. This often results in our most loathed creative abortions but I feel like one of the most important things I have leant is that it is frequently better to be dealing with a shitty something than the infinite and beautiful possibilities of a nothing. As Antoine De Saint Exupery said – “inertia is a raw form of despair.” And he wrote the Little Prince so he’s a fucking dude.

I guess it’s often about how you create functioning treaties with a near future self. That’s a process fraught with almost incalculable difficulty. Whereas working with other people makes it much simpler. I’m a total knob and I know it, so it’s easy for me to let myself down, drop myself in the shit and leave myself dismayed if not disappointed based on how crap my expectations were in the first place. With other people though I am bound by loyalty, decency and respect to keep up my end of the bargain, be creatively load bearing and genuinely not let go of my end of the metaphorical piano we are trying to heft up the narrow stairway.

This is the glory of working with other people. Self awareness alone has no utility, it is simply a potentially catalysing force. Collective activity forces the hand in wonderful ways. I think of the wise words of photographer William Eggleston – “Hold Still. Keep Going.”

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