Your vision. No boundaries.
Liz Roberts (Master of Fine Arts, 2014) and Elena Harvey Collins (Master of Fine Arts, 2012) didn’t attend CCAD’s MFA program together, but the two have found common ground in their media (multi-channel video installations) and in the ideas driving their work. They’re separated by geography, sure, but there are no borders on their collaborations. Read more below.
“We were drawn together by similar ideas driving our work,” said Roberts. “And we both work in multichannel video installations.”
The pair had already completed three exhibitions together when they began their collaboration on 2016’s Soft Regards, a multimedia installation at the Cincinnati Arts Association’s Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
Their exhibition touched on the dissonance of a cultural drive to be our best selves despite an increasingly chaotic world scene. It surveyed contemporary self-help resources — from apocalyptic survival manuals to urban planning reports to best-selling books — and channeled their implications into a video production, an artificial rock sound installation, a paranoia-themed reading room, and more.
By the time the two began the project, Harvey Collins had relocated from Ohio to California, and so they often worked together remotely until install.
Working together while physically apart was a method they had developed during a CCAD MFA alumni show, for which they made a site-specific five-channel video installation piece titled No Barbarians.
The distance between the two artists almost feels right for their practices: Both explore the ongoing theme of landscape and how it is mediated. There are no borders on their collaborations — or their ideas.
“Our interests don't begin and end with one project,” Harvey Collins said. “Often an individual project that one of us is doing will approach the same idea we tackled collaboratively from a different angle or with a different method or focus. So we do a lot of checking in with each other about ideas. We try to take care of each other in that way.”
The nature of installation work, which requires both artists to be physically present and making joint decisions on a malleable piece, also contributes to their collaborative success and is often where their reciprocal relationship shines.
“There is no way to know exactly what the work will be until it is fully installed,” Roberts said. “I would argue that work that is fully complete before install would not be in the category ’installation art.’”
Harvey Collins continued, “There's always the chance that it won't come together. There are last-minute decisions and improvisations, also last minute ideas that can be embraced but sometimes need to be rejected. I would say that the work is not really finished even when it is installed in a particular place because you are always thinking about how it could shift or be reinstalled with a slightly different emphasis.”
Currently, Roberts is working on other collaborations, as well as her individual practice. She recently returned from Chicago’s Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions, where she worked on an essayistic documentary called Midwaste. Since Soft Regards, she has also participated in collaborative exhibitions at Columbus’ MINT Collective and Skylab, and prepared a show titled Death Knell for the Cleveland Museum of Art that includes performance and installation in collaboration with musician Henry Ross (running Sept. 9 – Dec. 10, 2017 at Transformer Station).
Harvey Collins is now curator at the Art Space Gallery at Fresno City College in California. Since Soft Regards, she has finished two new solo video works, Final Boss and Sculptures and People, which are on view at the Cleveland State University gallery exhibition Focus on Sculpture. Both works began as critical essays she wrote that were published in Wow Huh and Art Practical.
“Elena and I continue to dialog and support each other,” Roberts said.
In addition to their individual work, the pair is putting together a large project about mother artists, inspired by the protest posters they made for Soft Regards, one of which reads “MOTHER AND DESTROY.”
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