July 2006

Work Together!

Article for So Fresh, published by Expodium, NL

Written by: Maarten Vanden Eynde

Published in: So Fresh! a publication of Expodium, 2006

*Poyekhali was the yell of Gagarin, the first man in space, when the engines fired and he left earth. It means so much as ‘Here we go!’, stating that we, as his crew, as Russians or even as humans, were all part of this incredible adventure. It is still used very often as a social cry out in Russian daily life and everybody knows exactly what it means…..

Vostok 1 capsule, 1961

Collaboration arises when at least two persons do something together. The degree of collaboration, and the different motives for doing so, varies from person to person. To a large extent this will determine the outcome of a collaboration.

Humans are herd animals, and mankind derives its monopoly on earth from collaboration. This survival strategy has proven to be the most successful to guarantee individual survival. In Unity there is Strength! To a certain degree, increasing your own chances of success/survival is still the most common motive for collaborating. The development of language was a prerequisite for this, and physiologically we have taken this to an extreme, deforming our larynx in such a way that we nearly suffocated ourselves, in order to produce a greater variety of sounds. Collaboration, and specifically the development of language, is the foundation of our modern society. Working together and living together are the roots of our existence, and we enjoy and reap its fruits every day.

The simplest form of collaboration is talking, discussing, brainstorming: sharing ideas and visions about the world and life in general – or the color of an automobile in particular. You can have something to say, and you can listen. You can give and you can take. A symbiosis of ideas in which more persons simultaneously build up a concept is rare and, when it does occur, can lead to an extreme euphoric feeling of solidarity and a shared destiny. The process becomes more complicated and wide-ranging if you give your ideas physical form and visualize them. In building a house you can work together with an architect, an engineer, a designer, a contractor, a construction company, the municipality... For putting together an exhibition you work together with a curator, an arts institution, a photographer, a graphic designer, a printer, a financial funder... How you work together, and to what extent, has to be redefined each time.

The motivations for working together are as variable as the ways in which you can do it. There is such a thing as genuine curiosity and interest in other people and their way of working. Often things can be accomplished more quickly if more people work together, or in view of the nature of the project, it is necessary to call in people with special expertise. But ultimately it nearly always comes down to the fact that you want something from someone else: feedback or extra knowledge, a mirror or a helping hand. The success of a collaboration is based on mutual satisfaction. In view of the different wishes and needs, it is possible for almost every person to get satisfaction out of working together and living together.

Collaborating also has its down sides. When self-interest takes precedence over group interests, competitive conduct can stand in the way of creating a good collaboration. The feeling that one’s contribution is not being adequately appreciated, or even someone’s claiming the decisive concept or the largest investment in time or effort, can cause envy and jealousy – emotions precluding the possibility of equal satisfaction. Competitive conduct can be a motivation or even a cause for working together, but if the end result is defined and ultimately judged on the basis of personal input, the collaboration is doomed to fail.

Today’s globalization, in combination with the Internet, makes it possible to do research everywhere and communicate about it with anyone at any time. The social and practical internetwork that arises from this is of vital importance for the development of one’s own professional practice. Collaborating has never been as easy and obvious as today, and equal to the beginning period of human existence, it is of essential importance for our survival in the future.

We need each other. We must all employ our collected knowledge and skills to let go on the future. Hand in hand we must fight for our own survival. The world needs you and you need the world. Work together and live together!


Russia, 2006