For their first group exhibition, the members of Collectief Zwak elevate the concept of co-working to an uncompromising investigation into their collective creative awareness.

Meanwhile, the widespread phenomenon offers possibilitie for the better. A workspace that you share with like-minded souls – and not with your bed, fridge or kitchen table – creates a stimulating environment. A place that eagerly encourages creation, where knowledge and ideas are freely shared and where no one judges you by your slightly above average intake of caffeine and other performance-enhancing substances.

Together the members of the Collective Zwak, entwine different art forms; from illustration, graphic design and photography to ceramics, poetry, fashion and jewelry and hat design.

The outset of their group exhibition Strong Together, Collectively Weak is an investigation into their joint artistic identity by retroactively invading each others work. Starting with their own discipline, they consecutively embroider on the material and ideas of the other members. By freely grafting on the work of the previous maker, they scan the boundaries of the individual versus the collective and gain insight into their collective, but also in their own creative practice.

In other words, sharing a space and the connection that results from it forms the premise for the research?
RUUD: Because of ghe growing interest in each other’s work, we decided quite impulsively to do something collectively, just as most members impulsively decided to put up shop here. Our very first idea was to interpret each other on the basis of one’s work, exploring what it tells about the person. After that it evolved into a form where everyone takes certain elements from each other and gives it their own interpretation.
ARIANE: It seldom happens that we are here all together and yet you get to know each other better through their work and personal workspace, which is often more striking. With the collective we want to investigate how we can communicate with each other, without this having to be done face to face.
LIEZE: We were triggered by each other’s work and ideas, also the arrival of new residents. We wanted to work together for some time now, but the group exhibition was the start of a concrete project, a goal to work towards.

How does the studio and it’s work dynamics influence your individual practice?
ARIANE: I leave the world behind when I close the door to the studio behind me. I can immerse myself completely in my work and nobody asks questions about what it is I’am wasting my time on!
RUUD: I didn’t want to work in the same room I slept in. Now I can be really productive for a few hours after my day job , then go home and really be at home. That way I can work more focused.
HANNE: My desk literally did not fit into my apartment!
CHARLOTTE: I like that sort of chaos because in my case its’s usually more in my head than in my surroundings. I find the contrast very dynamic. I often sit alone here, but working together does create a sort of discipline. Everyone is busy. The rest is often working on something concrete or material, while I am busy in my head before I put something on paper, it’s really stimulating.
LIEZE: I was looking for a space because I like being surrounded. I often need feedback and encouragement to fly back in!
ESTHER: At one point I was really questioning my choice of graphic design. I worked out other people’s ideas where I couldn’t express myself, which really exhausted me in the long run. But by working here and seeing how others just dive into something new, I made sure to also work on my own projects, things that didn’t necessarily have to adhere to anything.
SIGLINDE: What also spoke to me was the fact that we’re considered each other’s competitors in the real world. There is little chance of collaboration, standing stronger together. That’s where our name comes from: Collective Weak, strong together.

How does this way of co-creating work exactly?
ARIANE: It is very intuitive. Initially, we selected elements that interested us, we made something with them and it was put back in the storage closet, where we keep everything. Then someone else picks it up to work with it an so on.
ESTHER: We devised this sort of relay system to initially force the collaboration. But afterwards everyone started to create together organically. Eventually we’ll probably adjust it again in the course of the research. Maybe, we’ll soon sit together behind the drawing board.
LIEZE: The only rule is that you document everything that happens to the work, because every step is important. Perhaps the first work is ultimately more interesting than the end result.
HANNE: We do not work towards a specific goal, but want to see exactly what the research brings about. The exhibition is also just a point in time and not necessarily the end result. It’s more about the process.
SIGLINDE: The process is especially instructive, which also affects you personally. It creates different insights and also provides an incentive to test other things in relation to your own work.

Being able to hand over your work and see how your own opinions resonate the changes it goes trough, doesn’t it also turn the research into a trust exercise?
RUUD: We are all curious about how we make our own decisions in relation to our work and what impact it has if someone else takes your work. In that sense there’s no choice but to let go.

ESTHER: You can immediately tell that there already is a lot of content in the work you pick up. It’s not purely about the art form or method. How you approach a work and the interventions you apply to it, are not just without obligation. There you also notice the difference between us. I do not have the tendency to put the scissors into it, but rather to make something additional instead of attacking it. Maybe that will still happen, but for now I am still very careful in my approach.
LIEZE: Some people indeed work more impulsively and think less about it, but others can learn from that.
CHARLOTTE: You reach each other shapes, material or inspiration, where you can work out your own idea. Even if you think from another discipline, you must initially gain access to each other’s work.

What do you think the result will look like?
ARIANE: It’is above all a very interesting cross-over to let one’s work pass through all those hands. As a diverse group of people, it also makes us curious about the way everyone experiences the space and atmosphere personally. But also the presence of the other in each other’s work.
ESTHER: The strength will be in the multitude. Selecting an element, which we then place in a larger whole, gives us the freedom to start from a different angle without having to follow certain guidelines.
CHARLOTTE: The premisse is that we try to bring everything together, but perhaps it won’t succeed in the end and turn into a rather fragmentary exhibition. But then that’s what happened, it is more about the interaction than the end result.

Charlotte Wouters – Illustrative design
Siglinde Bossuwé – Illustrative design
Charlotte van den Broeck – Author
Lieze Huybrechts – Illustrative design, ceramics
Ruud Anthoni – Jewelry and fashion design
Esther Couderé – Graphic design
Hanne Holvoet – Illustrative design
Ariane Mol – Illustrative design