Last week marked the conclusion of this year’s Co/Lab art and design collective, held at the now-closed Olipom Vintage Clothing Store in Sacramento.
Founded in 2006 by graduate student Milan Phan and headed this year by UC Davis alumnus Cory Keller, the Co/Lab group explores the creative advantages of working and creating in coordination with others within and outside the art department. It began on June’s Second Saturday, a monthly art exhibition in Sacramento, and ended June 26.
The Co/Lab’s collaborative theme expanded the boundaries of each individual project, and brought a much broader diversity to the event as a whole. Each project showcased the work of two or more members of the group together, and collaboration with another member was the only real requirement.
“It’s a really cool thing to happen at Davis, because there aren’t that many venues where artists can get together and collaborate,” said Yoo-hyun Oak, a junior English major who worked on the project for the first time this year. “It’s also a good way to expand artistically in its different disciplines. I’ve never done film before, and it was only possible because Cory helped me and provided the equipment and skills.“
Meetings were held once a week throughout the year, and increased to twice a week as the event grew near. Facilitated by Keller, each meeting was designed to inspire and incite creativity, without a strict or planned framework. Attendees were about evenly split between returning and new members.
“Someone would have an idea, and inevitably two or three other people would have an idea and take it in another direction,” Keller said. “It morphs into a project and through people talking about it. Nothing is really planned, and just as people were hanging out, things would happen.“
The exhibit featured a rich and unrestricted web of projects. Some involved individual works that were later combined and others directly involved the work of two members together.
Projects included an imaginary map, which was divided between six members to individually design and eventually piece back together as a whole, an idea intended to be open for interpretation.
Another project was an experimental video with a lighthearted battle between two characters with constantly changing facial hair.
Other more serious pieces included a war themed painting.
“It can be kind of difficult because it’s hard to have a cohesive project when there’s a lot of people working on it, but at the same time it brings in a lot of new ideas and you can definitely feed off of each other in that way,” Oak said. “It allows you to do bigger projects that you might not be able to do on your own.“
Japheth Gonzalez, a veteran Co/Lab member and UC Davis alumnus, mentioned the importance of Co/Lab’s ability to bring together students in the design and art studio majors, who typically don’t have the chance to work together.
“The Co/Lab has been a great opportunity for me to get to know a lot of other designers in the UC Davis department, and also art studio majors, which is kind of rare for the two majors to meet,” said Gonzalez, who graduated with a B.A. in design with an emphasis on individual communications. “There’s kind of a divide at our school between the departments. There’s an unspoken rule that we’re not supposed to work together, even though we do very similar things … [and] we all have and use the same principles.
Moreover, the group’s inclusion of members from majors outside of the art and design department added even more to the diversity of the group. Though the other majors had less experience with design, they were effectively able to incorporate their own skills and ingenuity to the event.
When asked about the differences between working with people outside of the art department and actual art students, senior English and Japanese double major Mitzi Akaha reflected on their ability to broaden the group’s abilities and potential.
“They are sometimes more hesitant, or less confident because they don’t have training, but I think that makes it a lot more interesting,” said Akaha, who worked on multiple projects for the group. “They come up with a lot more crazy ideas, some involving computers or video that we don’t have the training for.“
This was the first time the exhibit was shown at the Olipom venue, as last year’s Co/Lab showing was held in the basement of the art department. The different atmosphere and clientele brought advantages and disadvantages to this year’s event.
“I feel like we didn’t have enough time last year, and we are showing our work to a different audience,” Akaha said. “The venue was sort of inconvenient because there were stands for clothes set up at the same time, so we only had a small amount of space to show our work.“
Even so, the venue attracted a much different audience than it did last year. Since it began on Second Saturday and continued to show throughout the week in the store, Olipom was open to anyone who happened to pass by, whereas last year’s showing drew primarily students and teachers. Shoppers, art enthusiasts and day-to-day customers were all given a show of the students‘ work.
“At Olipom there were still a lot of our friends, but it was nice to reach that kind of audience that maybe wouldn’t have shown up at the basement gallery,” Oak said.
Keller plans to continue with the project, and hopes to further expand the event to other venues and San Francisco.
“I was happy to move it out of UC Davis, and put it into an urban atmosphere,” he said.
JUSTIN HO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.