From the concept of the muse to the etymology of the word “genius”, which originally suggested the intervention of some guiding spirit in the actions of the exceptionally gifted, the creative process has always been subject to mythology and mystique. The idea of the auteur and the romantic vision of the individual pulling ideas from thin air has long been central to the way we think about art, often belying the shoulders – of giants or otherwise – on which all artists in some way stand. Begin Anywhere: Paths of Mentorship and Collaboration represents a much needed enquiry into the realties of how creative people of all types work, and work together, to advance their oeuvres.
Presented by SF Camerawork, the exhibition explores its subject matter by showing individual and collaborative practices in tandem, with selected pieces by three emerging photographers at its core. In Silver Lining, Amanda Boe photographs family and friends in the Californian city of Vellejo, considering the crystallising identities of a generation coming of age against a suburban landscape. McNair Evans, in his project Sparkstone, looks at themes of loss and stereotypical masculinity in a project inspired by the rich history of his Russian Jewish immigrant forebears, where he retraces their migration west from Montana’s gold fields to the urban expanses of Salt Lake City. In a similar vein to these, and also reflecting an interest in home and its histories, Kevin Kunishi exhibits images from his series Imi Haku, which were taken during a visit to a Hawaii. Addressing the island’s complex cultural identity, his photographs chart an ancestral narrative that is both inherited and imagined.
In addition to these three solo presentations that each acknowledge external inspirations on the artists’ work, the exhibition also hosts two collaborative installations in which they participated with their respective mentors. The first of these ludic projects is a version of the Exquisite Corpse parlour game devised by the European Surrealists, in which players add words or images to a composition in sequence to create a whole. Each “player” received a print by post, and would have a month to forward a corresponding print to the next participant, culminating in a final piece that acknowledges the lineage of influences in the creative process. The second, equally playful piece, is a variation on word search puzzles, which saw the letters of each of the artists’ names translated into photographic prompts that inspired visual responses from the others. In terms of its immediate content, Begin Anywhere: Paths of Mentorship and Collaboration looks like a normal photography exhibition, but in its conscious acknowledgement of the tangled roots that lie beneath all artistic work, this project is also doing something very special.
Begin Anywhere: Paths of Mentorship and Collaboration opens at SF Camerawork 7 September. For more information: www.sfcamerawork.org
1. AMANDA BOE.