Tim Rollins & K.O.S.

Reflections & responses to the Talbot Rice Gallery/Artworks Scotland seminar, Aug 2012

Art and Community

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Photograph © Rachel Thibbotumunuwe /  Courtesy of Talbot Rice Gallery

By Dee Isaacs

Long after leaving the Tim Rollins/K.O.S. workshop I was still marvelling at Tim’s commitment to ‘community’ – to understanding a community, living within a community, and making a real difference to young people’s lives. 30 years of work is dedication we rarely witness.

Tim is of course totally charismatic, inspirational, a mentor. He has a vision not just for social change but for creating ‘art’ and this art is not compromised by his collaborators, it is art that transcends. In this sense it appears the creation of art is indivisible from the creation of community.

But the question of ‘collaboration’ versus ‘participation’ was never really answered for me. This process he has developed seems so entirely driven by him. I wonder whether K.O.S. feel any ownership over the ‘narrative’ behind the artworks, the back story that compels us to create in the first place.

Maybe wrongly my assumption is that collaboration implies more of vested role in the creation of art, whereas participation can be joining in under the instruction of another – not necessarily a shared artistic vision. In music this is very clear -the composer writes, the group learns the music, interprets it, puts their emotional stamp on it and performs but without elements of ‘improvisation’ or windows to create their own music  – they are participating but not collaborating.

I do think there is a place for both in our work. Sometimes I provide a musical framework, the tools to develop a piece of music but in other instances I have a vision and like Tim I shape and direct that vision. In general people are carried on the wave of a strong vision, enthusiasm and belief that there is something of value to be made.

I want to understand how Tim has developed his own practice over the 30 years, whether he always works with ‘participation’. All through our day with Tim and K.O.S. I wanted to be a recipient of one of his workshops; to fully understand his process – talking about it didn’t really reveal what is at its core.

In the work I am involved with through Music in the Community there are similar resonances. I have developed creative processes, which engage specific communities of individuals where the key aspects of learning and participation (developing confidence, building skills, creating new opportunities) can be sympathetically and intrinsically linked to the creation of a new work. The assessment of the social and artistic outcomes is an intrinsic part of the process, linked to the placing of community/outreach work on a professional platform with all the implications of value and significance which that entails.

As Eric Booth , another inspiring educationalist writes, ‘Art is not apart. It is a continuum within which all participate, we all function in art, use the skills of art and engage in the action of artists every day’. Certainly Tim and K.O.S. prove this.

This idea of a continuum, something pushing us to move forward with our ideas, striving often against all odds seems so apt and the belief that Art is and should be part of life – it is essential.

Dee Isaacs is a musician. She performs, writes music, and lecturers in  ‘Music in the Community’ at the University of Edinburgh.


Written by Johnny

August 31, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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