Jobs and Wozniak…Ben and Jerry…O’Keeffe and Stieglitz…Einstein and Bohr…Lennon and McCartney…You and….
Next time you’re stuck–hook up with a partner—especially if he or she is an expert in a different discipline. Combining forces can lead to extraordinary results–especially in music, science, business, and art.
According to Vera John-Steiner’s book, Creative Collaboration, “Western belief in individualism romanticizes the perception of the solitary creative process — when the reality is — that scientific and artistic forms emerge from joint thinking, passionate conversations, emotional connections, and shared struggles.”
On the page:
In the image above (Pic #1), I explore the combination of my husband’s “wild art” photography and my acrylic painting on canvas. By digitally jamming a realistic photo of the funky piece of farm equipment (on the left) with the painted abstraction (on the right) we create something new.
The collaborative work of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat (Pic #2) has been described as “physical conversation” in paint, instead of words. Each artist remains true to his style, and once joined on the same page, they are inexorably linked. It’s been said that Warhol was inspired by Basquiat’s energy and youth and Basquiat had always idolized the eccentric older artist.
In these collaborations, Warhol remains true to his straightforward methods of hand painting enlarged headlines, logos, brand names, and commercial advertisements — all trademarks of his pop paintings in the 1960s.
In contrast, Basquiat responds with his raw, iconic graffiti style — on the left side of the painting — creating a fresh dialogue between the two personalities. He even includes his recognizable “crowned figure” on the upper right.
In the lab:
I had a chance to interview a Santa Barbara PHYSICIST who won the Nobel Prize –in CHEMISTRY because he was willing to work with someone outside his field for the sake of radical discovery.
He told me when you work with someone from another field — you have to be humble and willing to exchange ideas — while tossing out any ego that might otherwise get in the way. The partnership also means learning the “new language” from your colleague’s discipline. But, he says, the end result is always worth the intimidating beginning.
In the recording studio:
Perhaps the most tangible example of collaborative firepower emerges from contemporary music — when two disparate talents collide.
Case in point:
It started out as a sampling of Phil Collins‘ hit “Take Me Home” – then, rappers Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (an American hip-hop group from the 90s) invited the old guy himself to sing the chorus.
Two generations – two styles—one chilling ballad. Critics say it may be “the unlikeliest collaboration since–well–ever” — but it all comes together perfectly. Check out the music video here:
By “teaming up” you increase the odds of enriching your process and product. The experience may be uncomfortable at first–because it may be unfamiliar — but it’s a challenge worth taking on, for the sake of a shared vision. The partnership also offers a chance to be playful as well as critical. “In collaborative work,” writes Vera John-Steiner, “we learn from each other by teaching what we know.” And that is a win-win combination.