Jen Webb is Distinguished Professor of Creative Practice at the University of Canberra, and director of the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research. She has written or edited 18 scholarly books, 15 of them co-authored or co-edited; published over 100 peer reviewed papers of which nearly half were co-authored; and presented ‘material’ poems in 12 exhibitions, five of which were made in collaboration with another artist or poet. Despite this apparent commitment to working with others, she continues to find collaboration a mystery, one that affords an often terrifying, though captivating, way to make scholarly or creative works.

Paul Hetherington is Professor of Writing at the University of Canberra and has published nine full-length collections of poetry, including the verse novel, Blood and Old Belief and Six Different Windows. A new poetry collection, Burnt Umber will be published in 2016. He won the 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards (poetry); was a finalist in the 2014 international Aesthetica Creative Writing Competition; was shortlisted for the 2013 Newcastle Poetry Prize and shortlisted for the 2013 Montreal International Poetry prize. He was recently awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Literature Board Residency at the BR Whiting Studio in Rome. He edited the final three volumes of the National Library of Australia’s authoritative four-volume edition of the diaries of the artist Donald Friend.


Slipperiness, strange attractors, and collaborative sociability


The trope of the lone creator or individual ‘genius’ is a dominant one in current conceptions of artistic practice and creativity. However, in this paper we suggest that writing and art, and creative practice more generally, might be reimagined in terms of a collaborative sociability; and that this is a way of recognising art’s almost endless, protean permeability. The idea of collaborative sociability might also be a way of understanding how artists ‘labour together’ even when they may not be aware that they are doing so. Just as some forms of influence and intertextuality constitute a form of collaboration, so all texts may in a broad sense be intertextual and collaborative when understood in the context of the zeitgeist in which they are produced—even works by authors and artists who are largely understood to work outside of explicit collaborative frameworks. But if collaboration may be what many writers and artists are doing much of the time, collaboration remains potentially fraught and, to a significant extent, mysterious in its various expressions and outcomes. It demands flexibility and a willing embrace of its inherent unpredictability.