Katy and Kuba

Katy B Plummer and Kuba Dorabialski are Sydney based artists who collaborate both professionally and personally. Currently they are curating Transcendental Freakout, a new online arts publication which works as an evolving exhibition platform for artists and curators (available online via Remote). Katy and Kuba describe Transcendental Freakout as “the crystallisation of a whole bunch of wishful longings and nervous twitches, willful misunderstandings, stubborn demarcations, and grudging acquiesces of a reasonably private part of our relationship”. It is also the first time they have collaborated as artists in their eleven-year relationship. Katy and Kuba took some time to share with us their learnings on creative collaborations.

Interview by Kim Goodwin

What inspired the two of you to collaborate in a more formal sense at this point in time?

An old friend of ours, Tsering Frykman-Glen, wanted to start a new online publication called Remote, and, out of the blue, she asked us to curate the first instalment. It was actually funny that she asked us both, not one or the other, because we’d never, strictly speaking, art-collaborated before. We’ve always helped each other and invested a lot in each other’s work, but never taken the collective plunge… in fact, though, most of our individual creative energies in recent years have gone towards keeping ourselves and our two little kids sort-of fed, kind-of clean and more-or-less entertained. This is, certainly, a kind of collaboration. We’d both been looking longingly in the direction of art making for a while, and this was the nudge we’d been waiting for.

You state on your website, “While they’ve never really collaborated on an art project before, they’ve never really not collaborated before.” How did your working relationship change when you took on a formal collaborative aspect?

The shocking thing to us is that it hasn’t really changed anything. We’ve always worked closely, being each other’s technicians, taskmasters, sounding boards, slave-labour etc., but each always maintained the final say on our own projects, because our aims and processes are actually pretty different. And even though we’ve always known precisely what the other wants and likes in an artwork, we’ve never actually shared our interests. For example, Katy likes High Melodrama and Theatrical Excess while Kuba likes acidic German modernist literature; so there’s little room for overlap. It seemed like actually collaborating would be this vast fraught and uncharted frontier, but… nope. Same-o, same-o. Seamless joy and snuggles. Maybe it’s just that this particular project is one that we’ve been working on for ages without even really knowing that we’ve been working on it. Maybe we’ll come apart on our next try, but this one did pretty much just spring forth, fully formed.

What challenges have you faced throughout the collaboration?

Irritatingly, even in the thick of it, we still have to keep our babies sort-of fed, kind-of clean and more-or-less entertained. And we have a bookshop to run. And we’re by nature quite untidy. You get the picture.

Also, I guess, we’ve been a bit sequestered for the past few years, so we’ve lost touch a bit with our art networks and forgotten how to make these sorts of connections with people. There were also some time-zone issues; the project has been organised from various parts of the world entirely over the internet, so things that should have been quick simple fixes sometimes took an agonizing number of days to settle, just because people would miss or misunderstand each other. But really, the main challenge has been to carve out the space and time to get it all done.

What benefits has the collaboration brought to you as individual artists?

We were both having trouble dragging our heads back into the art thing. The whole baby/bookshop combo is a very compelling reality, and there really is no telling how long it might have taken for us to gather the necessary creative impetus individually. We’re really grateful to Tsering on that particular count.

Katy and Kuba are in a unique, happy position, where art meets life and both gain for them. When asked what advice they could give to those who are contemplating collaboration, they ended with “This collaboration snuck up on us over eleven years, so maybe our advice could be: Only ever collaborate with a life partner.”

Interested in further reading on creative collaborations? Link below: