Gone are the days of getting discovered in obscure downtown galleries – it is the era of The Collective. Assemble – part architects, part designers – proved just that when they were the first Collective to scoop the Turner Prize last year. Death of the Turner? Or just a new way of practicing art?
Here, UAL talks to Steph Wilson, 23, founder of the Lemon People who says the Collective just well may be the way of the future.
You’re the founder of the Lemon People who are…
We’re a London-based collective made up of artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers and musicians. We work as individuals, mostly as freelancers, but a lot of our work wouldn’t be possible without the combined effort of the Lemons. Plus, our never ending favours to one another means our creativity is never hindered.
Do you actually just need to be in a Collective to afford studio space and have enough money to study and have a social life?
No, but it definitely helps. Being in a Collective just adds more reason to go out of our way for each other. There’s an element of knowing that if a fellow member succeeds, then that success will lead back to the Collective. That way, you and your fellow Lemons work will be seen more frequently.
Do Collectives get noticed more?
In a literal sense, yes they do. By having our work all linked to Lemon People it all leads back to one place – increasing the views of our website, and our collective’s work. We become more noticeable.
You all look like models! Is there a conscious effort to look a certain way as an artist?
Yes, I intended to make an art collective/model agency hybrid. Really? No. We just got lucky.
Is there an ‘audition’/ hazing ritual process for becoming a Lemon?
We’re all close friends, so, to become a Lemon I guess you’ve got to get on our good side for, on average, about five – 10 years. I’ve known most of the girls since we were about 12. We all went to school together. Either that or you could donate £100k to the Collective. We’d let you be a member for that, too.
What is it about Collectives that make them powerful?
It serves as a kind of comfort knowing that there are people who have got your back. We know that if a job comes up that I can’t do, it’s not a wasted opportunity and it’ll go to a Lemon and vice versa.
Do you operate almost like a ‘dysfunctional’ family and tell each other when one of the Lemon’s work is not up to scratch?
If a dysfunctional family means that I am the angry nagging mother that says how shit something is occasionally, then yes. It’s difficult when people are at a risk of being offended. I’m a fan of being as blunt as possible, regardless of how tactless it comes across as, and I’m sure I’m hated for it. But hey, someone’s got to do it.
What are the biggest tensions/ most frustrating thing about being in a Collective?
Ego. Almost all of us are quite strong characters with our own minds made up about certain things. Ego and stubbornness often gets very frustrating, and we still need to learn to curb that into a positive asset by asserting official roles when working together collaboratively as to not trip over each other.
If you could come up with a new ‘model’ for how artists work, what would it be?
I would design a laissez-faire art system. I liked how when I did a 6 month foundation course at UAL’s Chelsea College of Arts, it was based on positive criticism, led by an experienced figure. But essentially, you’re left to your own devices. To learn in an environment, where you are free to simply soak up knowledge and experience- would be a good structure. Constantly meeting useful and interesting people always gets you so much further than a piece of paper.
What are your predictions for the ways artists will work in the future?
People are getting quite lazy, so I hope it’s not just online stuff or work so abstract you eat it by accident at the private view. As young people get more savvy – because they have to – hopefully this will lead them to become even more creative in order to survive. I just hope it doesn’t turns into the very wealthy taking on their mother’s art gallery and only exhibiting their very wealthy friends’ shit work.
Sex? Politics? What do you think will always be the ‘best-selling’ subject as an artist?
Oneself. We’re all obsessed with ourselves; what we think, how we feel, what our shit looks like, everything.