A02: Introductions

‘introductions’ was a text collaboratively written between artist Tako Taal and curator Seán Elder, on the occasion of “Habits of the Coexistent (1)” a project undertaken by Gordon Douglas with various institutions including: The NewBridge Project, Newcastle; Edinburgh College, Granton Campus; and Platform, Glasgow.

Taal and Elder’s contribution utilised a previous project undertaken collaboratively as a point of departure for discussing the intersections between friendship and collaborative practice in a creative context. Ideas of boundary, threshold and support are examined through the dual voices present.



documenta introduced to kassel with garden
plants introduced to continents
artists introduced to each other
introduction as a means of understanding the curator ‘making someone known to another’ – Naming A point of reference – introduction – Societal coming out // the débutantes.

1st phone call February 2016
“Tako, I thought I’d introduce you via-cyberspace (rather than a crowded
living room on Hogmanay) to Gordon.” It began with an intentional introduction. Not of Tako to Gordon, or vice versa, but Tako to the ideas and thoughts on the projects in the very beginning of its naissance. A phone call following a brief period of research. Seán remarking on similarities and a vein of thought that reminded him of Tako’s previous work – speaking of language, dual- cultures, and the third. I remember speaking about picturesque space in gardens, the ability of landscape to frame views. With an introduction of knowledge to more knowledge, there becomes an array of possibilities and potential ways of relating to one another. Re-inscribing, superseding, disavowing, intersecting, expanding or marrying are a few verbs that might provide an understanding of what this introduction might result in. During the phone-call with Tako, there became a folding of knowledge. Creases and interiors and exteriors met one another in our conversation.

The untainted space of a formal introduction became necessary. This necessity itself we can thank the Academic InstitutionTM for. The first, previous, informal introduction had taken place in a room with flashing lights, spilt drinks and chewed gums. It was an introduction of two persons but this, second, official, formal introduction took place in the bright lights of a backlit computer screen in a group email. This second introduction was for means of understanding the working methods of these two persons. Their backgrounds. Their thoughts. Now formally introduced, contact details exchanged, we artists were free to communicate amongst
one another. Two became three, one retreats, creating a third.


🙂 thats good! shall we talk about it?

The entrance points to working were often audibly and visibly “signposted.” There was a definite split between friend-chat and work- chat. Points in conversation became clear as boundary markers. Walls and fences, once passed meant the discussion of something else. The transformation of the conversation from social to professional. Or at least friendly to creative.


I might ask Tako for some fashion advice though.

The initial site of the project took place within emails. The distances between curator, artist and artist meant that a series of google docs, conversations, facebook messages and eventually whatsapp archives became the initial points of contact between the three collaborators on the project. Points of interaction between Aberdeen, Glasgow, Berlin, Newcastle and New York took place throughout the project. The project itself expanded from visits to Botanic gardens in these cities, and news of what was happening in each place during individuals’ visits.

The relationships between artist and curator, so often written on, were less important during this, than the relationship between friends acting as colleagues. The relations between each individual within the project became subject to flexibility, stretching, expansion. Official emails were accompanied by simultaneous messages in alternative platforms that were not for the eyes of the Academic Institution™.

Intentional introductions have been motivated by individuals or groups who either;

(1) believe that the newly introduced species will be in some way beneficial to humans in its new location.

(2) species are introduced intentionally but with no regard to the potential impact.


“I’m not supposed to tell you this (lol) but techNICALLY [redacted] dont need details till next weekend

Perhaps the actual work and how it is structured, between friends and between colleagues is inherently the same. It is a leaking of information that permeates the friend-colleague boundary that alters the relationship and thus the labour dynamic. Without both friendship and colleague relationships existing between the members of the project there would nothave been such a bizarre event taking place in the Botanic Gardens. A group of participants, documenting the garden through whatsapp. Encountering digital works on their mobile phones as they passed under
bridges and through arboretum, trees above, vaping from purple pens that lit when they met your mouth, with a deep intake of air. Sweet sickly smells of synthetic fruits and juice coming in great plumes from the group.

It might not have worked out that way if we hadn’t the excitement and fervour that can only come from being within a network of friendship.

From the beginning friendship was at the centre of the project. Our communication and the mediums through which we spoke formed the work made through our interactions. These initial communiqués were self-aware. Aware of and reaching towards a public beyond us three.

Go go Tako (Context: an infamous playlist on Tako’s itunes, Gordon)

In-jokes are an occurrence between friends. The between-ness is of central importance to understanding how language operates in this way. Within a micro-social setting of friendship, and in this essay, regarding the context of the art-project a rich bed of source material, references and context begin to form. There becomes allowances for the ways that language, word and phrase can be used by the participants within these conversations. This occurs in both formal and informal settings. The use of ‘Go go Tako’ (referring to a self-motivation playlist made by Tako and encountered by Seán whilst they were living together) sits in contrast to other examples we might see in academic discussions, such as the notion of the ‘Other’d’ an odd meme used in social theory to discuss race, class, gender and sexual bias.

Within an academic setting these words and phrases make themselves known through repetition, and this also happens within a group of friends. A project co-ordinated between friends makes it likely for several of these occurrences to take place across both informal and formal settings. Utilising the existing friendship as a point of departure, the additional labour and production associated with creative pursuits will emulate and recreate the forms, quirks, and patterns of the aforementioned existing friendship.


The curatorial, as a set of specific processes, procedures and etiquettes still remains largely undefined. The notion of the curatorial as a philosophical or research-based extension or appendage to the act of exhibition-making having only emerged in the early 90s. An invitation such as this, described as a ‘research-based curatorial project’ allows itself to be malleable and moulded, through its self-recognition of its form, structure and ontology. Negotiating the terms of an artist/curator relationship is already something very much open to interpretation, but with the added thread of friendship running through, this territory becomes more fluid.

…although would be good coming from you seeing as we’re friends and all I’m biased xx

The relationship of friendship between two people does not detract from the exterior pressures of organisation, collectivisation and administration. The role of the curator in this exchange is often one seen as one of mediation and impartiality, and so the weight and difficulties of emotion in exchanges so common in friendship-processes take a back seat to stoicism.

Forms of regulating emotion in the workplace have been termed emotional labour. In the service industry workers are expected to appear happy regardless of their actual emotional state. This is for the benefit of strangers (the customer.) Amongst friends working together, emotions are managed or removed for the benefit of the project. This relationship between the individual and collectivism exists in the space of the production of their shared labour – the project, it being a new third existing from this process. What are the other unintended results of collaboration? Collaborations result in products (exhibition, performance, making) but the fall out, or ‘Angel’s Share’ of processes like these are rarely examined.


Friendship becomes an obstacle to working. In some-cases being too close to something renders a perceived inability to be impartial or critical. Negotiating the terms of criticism amongst friends is difficult at the best of times. Within the structure of a project with some intended artistic or creative outcome, it becomes about more than just a criticism. In an ongoing process of re-ascribing boundaries (one way to think of friendship), the possibility of creative potentiality further complicates these already-moving borders.

Friendships functioning outwith this creative mode often serve a number of functions with no recognised concrete output – consolation, support and understanding – despite their familiarities as hallmarks of such relationships. In the space of the art-project, these friendships become a partnership with a necessity for output. A creation of the new. The strain of this necessity (whether self-imposed or otherwise) leaks back to the processes unfolding within a friendship. Leaking back and forth, this strain can be both beneficial and detrimental, dependent on several factors including, but not limited to:

the success of these creative pursuits
the labour invested by individual parties for collective production
the temperaments of each party within social settings

This osmosis will repeat itself back and forth again between the colleague- processes and the friendship-processes.

Did we manage to remain good (as in supportive) whilst we were working together?

Was our long and layered friendship conducive to the
development of the project, or a hindrance

Would we have been as flexible with each other if we were not partaking in the project from the established seat of
friendship we share?



Tako Taal & Sean Elder, March 2017