Coming from a theatre background, collaboration on creating new work is often a key to a successful production.

Though there are still definitions in roles and ownership of the work. Often the playwright is seen as “king”, then the director and then the company of actors and designers. Though that is in the case of a living playwright.

Working on a dead playwright’s work, the vision of the play is often seen as the Director’s vision. Though this takes in one way of working, and not ensemble companies such as Theatre de Complicite (Links to an external site.) and Steppenwolf (Links to an external site.) who are working within the parameters of a specific process, ideology and structure. There is still a director but they are also a key company member.

In my understanding, the use of the term in the processes of “participatory, collective, cooperative, and collaborative” would be defined by the stakeholders involved. In simple terms I would see them in the following descriptions:

Participatory: Involved in a project, usually someone else’s vision and you are just a component

Collective: A group formed to achieve a specific aim with assigned roles. Voting probably decides direction and outcome.

Cooperative: Similar to collective but with more of a nuanced sense of roles and aims, and probably more structured than a collective. Again voting probably decides outcomes and direction

Collaborative: A group formed with limited or no defined leaders that attempts to come to decisions through shared ideals and ‘collaboration’.

Photography

Projects and exhibitions I have been involved in are more likely to be collaborative. Maybe a leader but more an open decision process.

My personal work may involve other artists, and I keep very much to a collaborative process, seeking input and opening thoughts up to discussion before final choices are made.

Theatre

My theatre work focused on understanding the vision of the playwright and creating an ensemble within the company of actors and designers. The playwright, mostly living, was seen as the author of the work, and my role was defined by understanding and realising their vision.  The designers, in such items as programmers were credited as part of a “Creative Team” (Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, etc.) and the acting company is seen as the Ensemble, thereby giving them authority in the creation of the work.

For me, this is all part and parcel of creating. Shared thoughts and ideas, freely offered and engaged in order to create work that is visceral and alive.