Binocular, Prague, Czech Republic, 1997

A collaborative exhibition such as Binocular by Gareth Fisher and John Mitchell is a rarity in the highly individualised visual culture of the present, marked as it is by the model of the autonomous artist pursuing in isolation his or her own ideas. Collaboration may be relatively commonplace in other situations such as public art commissioning, but in the gallery and for the gallery it is rarer, because the gallery remains the arena of the most critically testing of an artist's achievement, the locus where the individual measures themselves and is measured by others. Collaboration involves some sacrifice of personal objectives to a shared end, an opening of the boundaries of the self-defining artist. As an artistic strategy in the culture of individualism (entrepreneurs, comedians and artists are our peaks of licensed individualism) this may seem like an idealistic chimera, but Binocular suggests the opposite.

The visual dialogue between Gareth Fisher and John Mitchell also marks the deceptiveness of a pure 'art process' and the equal impossibility of the art work as closed and perfected object bearing no trace of its origins. The two are abstractions which, make no sense: 'process' collapses into therapy or narcissism and the object remains a coldly unattainable ideal. They root Binocular and their art in a social dimension and an aesthetic, without formal distinction. In collaborative working the conditionality of a work , its chanciness, the fine calibration of its completeness, contains the exhilarating sense of potential for further forms of resolution not available to the artist in isolation. To look at the work while aware of the artists' collaborative dialogue, scanning inflections and connections in and between the works, situating oneself in their space, invites the contribution of one's own intuitions and imagination. The last but essential participant in the conversation is, of course, the viewer.

Euan McArthur 1997