The Magic of Collaboration

This evening we talked about Collaboration: the one-plus-one-equals-threeness that happens when people work together….the magic of putting people together and not knowing the outcome.

In Collaboration we have the voices of wisdom from one responding to the wisdom of another.  Collaboration is a type of conversation between two minds, two hearts.

In fact, it is true that the Talmud is a type of collaboration — where scholars responded to the wisdom of those who had written before.   The Mishnah and the Gemara show us that every generation responds to the previous one…”responsa” literature.

This evening Pam brought an example of a piece which she created in collaboration with another textile artist.    Here she is showing her piece:

Pam Phillips Olson showing her collaborative piece...
Pam Phillips Olson showing her collaborative piece…

Next, Josh shared a poem “Suicide is Never Enough” and the accompanying collaborative illustration by Kurt Seligmann.   Both were quite moving.

"Suicide is Never Enough" by Kurt Seligmann
“Suicide is Never Enough” by Kurt Seligmann

Rabbi Andrea Steinberger shared with us some of the work which was a collaboration between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat.   Keith Haring described their collaboration as “a physical conversation happening in paint instead of words.  Andy loved the energy with which Jean-Michel would totally eradicate one image and enhance another…”

Collaborative work of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat
Collaborative work of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

We discussed that fact that it was probably very touchy for the two of them to work together — when one artist eradicates and changes the image of another….that there needs to be a certain degree of trust between the two artists in collaboration.

Which brings us to the story of Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish, talmudic scholars who worked in collaboration as scholars.  Rabbi Yochanan said that Resh Lakish, as a colleague, made him a better scholar.   He said of another man:  “You are not like Resh Lakish!  When I stated a law, Resh Lakish used to raise 24 objections, to which I gave 24 answers, which consequently led to a fuller comprehension of the law.”

We are, in fact, made better by our collaborators.

Bob Skloot made the point that in the theatre, every production is a collaboration of different types of artists:  actors, lighting and sound and set designers, musicians…it is an environment where a careful chemistry of collaborators results in a certain kind of magic.

And finally we left with this, from Josef Albers, sent in by Rachel: FullSizeRender 2


Voices of Wisdom: Ecclesiastes/Kohelet

This evening we shared our impressions of the retreat — we felt that it was wonderfully-planned and executed — and we all enjoyed being with the artists from the five cities and exploring things together!

Tonight was Aviv’s evening to facilitate.   During the summer Aviv directs the Tiferet arts program at the Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.   Tonight he shared with us the childrens’ exploration of Ecclesiastes/Kohelet from this past summer.

Kohelet — the writings — have been attributed to King Solomon, written over 3000 years ago.  They are part of the third section of the torah, known as The Writings (K’tivim).    Generally, we read Kohelet on Sukkot — it reminds us — like Sukkot — that although we are happy and are eating and drinking, that there is a temporal quality to life — to Sukkot.   That although there is a frailty to life and to festivity we will rejoice nonetheless.

True, Kohelet seems depressed: “what has happened before will happen again; what has been done before will be done again:  there is nothing new under the sun”…the words “Under the Sun” apparently are repeated twenty-eight times in the literature.

So — during the Tiferet summer program, the high-schoolers were taken to the Milwaukee Art Museum and, working in pairs, were asked to choose an art piece which spoke to them and reminded them of Kohelet — and then composed and performed pieces of music inspired by the art and their impressions of Kohelet.   The resulting musical pieces had titles like, “Falling from Life,  Kohelet Soup, Chasing the Wind, Each Leaf, Nothing New, Diamonds and Who’s Who”.   The campers based their musical works on art works by Jules Olitski, Arshile Gorky, Salvadore Dali, Frank Stella and Max Ernst.

Some of the images which inspired the Tiferet composers.
Some of the images which inspired the Tiferet composers.
Watching the performances of the young artists.

We viewed these pieces and listened to the performances of the young artists from OSRUI.   Inspiring!