The development of strategies for interdisciplinary collaboration from within the visual arts.
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The current cultural climate is stimulating an increasing interest in, and need for, collaboration throughout many fields of practice. Collaborative methods of art production are evident across a range of contemporary visual art practices and opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration are becoming more available for artists, particularly those working beyond the gallery context. However, there is currently a lack of literature critically addressing collaborative processes in relation to visual arts practice. This research investigates strategies for interdisciplinary collaboration, which require different approaches than traditional, individual models of art practice. A visual artist (the researcher) adopts a practice-led, naturalistic methodology to investigate qualities and characteristics of the collaborative process and to develop and evaluate strategies for engaging successful interdisciplinary collaborations with practitioners from a variety of fields. A contextual review undertakes a broad review of literature and examples of practice addressing collaboration from the visual arts and other fields (including organisational and management theory). Key issues and approaches to collaboration are addressed in relation to instances of collaboration evident in the visual arts (collaboration between artists, collaboration in contemporary Public Art practices and interdisciplinary collaboration), and two main approaches to collaboration are identified: as a tacit method of practice and as an explicit methodology of practice. Three strands of inquiry are undertaken: collaboration in practice, collaboration in education, and case examples of collaboration. The researcher develops and evaluates strategies for engaging interdisciplinary collaboration with different collaborators in five exploratory research projects. Two projects are developed in an educational context to evaluate undergraduate Fine Art students’ experiences of collaboration. Three interviews with different visual art practitioners are undertaken to address their experiences of collaboration in professional arts contexts. A qualitative definition of collaboration, and a description of the main characteristics and key qualities of a collaborative process are obtained through a systematic, cross-comparative analysis of the research data (detailed project reports, pre-interview questionnaire forms and interview transcripts). These outcomes inform the development of a critical framework, which presents interpretative and evaluative criteria for identifying, describing and evaluating four distinct models of collaboration. The critical framework is primarily intended for use by visual artists as a tool for developing and evaluating their individual experiences of collaborative practice. The research contributes a new critical understanding of the ‘more complex’ model of interdisciplinary collaboration and addresses the implications of approaching interdisciplinary collaboration as a viable methodology of practice for visual artists, in relation to both professional and educational visual art contexts.