Introducing: Authorship

Seattle writer and filmmaker Charles Mudede recently asked me to share more of the ideas behind Authorship. Since he writes for a living, I worked carefully and responded with the following email:

The idea came about during a series of conversations and studio visits I had with sculptor John Grade, who was (and still is) in the midst of a large commission for the new MOHAI building that requires a lot of different people’s involvement. John was musing on how he (alone) gets credit for the piece although there are all kinds of other “authors” contributing to the piece such as engineers, studio assistants, and even a boat historian.

This made me think of the not-new controversy around whether or not an artist has to have touched their work for it be theirs, and this led to me wonder if ownership of one’s work is an issue in other fields as well. I was particularly interested in performers, who present work prescribed by choreographers, playwrights, composers, etc. and who may or may not feel that they are “authors” (or co-authors) of that work.

Another area of interest was appropriation: when does it make sense for the original maker to be considered a collaborator? This has been fun to discuss with the three poets who are working together on erasures for the Authorship Experiment, a type of double collaboration! More info on that is here.

Some of the most important ideas, however, are those that the participants bring to the discussion that I haven’t thought of yet…

To continue, this way of working in which maker/creative person/artist and curator share ideas throughout the process and shape the outcome together reflects the kind of blurring of the lines that I’m interested in revealing in Authorship. It makes for tricky directing because I must balance the creativity being brought by the participants with my vision for the program, but this is one of my favorite things about being a curator, and I welcome the challenge.