As we consider a work of art, we may wonder what the artist was thinking about when they created it, and what they wanted to express. But what happens if the artwork is created by multiple artists – two strangers separated, not only by the Atlantic Ocean, but also by a gulf of cultural differences? What kind of art would result from such a unique combination of perspectives? The Rørpost Collaboration Project may have the answer.
The project, started in 2015, paired 21 Houston artists with 21 artists from Esbjerg, Denmark. Each started a work on paper, which was sent across the ocean to be finished by their partner. The concept of this unique collaboration is reflected in the project’s name, “Rørpost,” which is the Danish word for the pneumatic tubes that, once upon a time, were used to exchange messages by jettisoning them back and forth through pressurized pipes.
“Our purpose is to bring international artists together using collaborative projects as a pipeline for the flow of creative energy, the development of friendships, and the celebration of the freedom of expression,” says the mission statement on the Collaboration’s website.
Though many Houston artists were excited about the project, it was not without its challenges. “It shows a kind of nakedness when you deliver an unfinished work,” said one artist, “But it was also inspiring and exciting to make room for other thoughts than your own.”
Strategies for the collaboration varied. Some of the artists, like Lotte Lambaek, looked up their counterparts on Facebook, engaged them and tried to create something that respected their style. Others, such as Renata Lucia, had another take on the matter.
“I know the artist I’m paired with works primarily in bronze figurative sculpture,” said Renata, “so I thought it would be a fun, and kind of funny, contrast to send him something with pink thread in it.”
Whatever the artists’ method of approach, the collaboration produced a unique melding of Houston and Esbjerg’s art cultures. And, as fellow members of the World Energy Cities Partnership, an organization dedicated to the sharing of knowledge – both cultural and industry related – the City Houston and the City of Esbjerg were fully supportive of the exchange from the very start, helping facilitate interactions on a municipal level and promote it through social media.
Upon the project’s completion, the joint artworks were consolidated and placed on exhibit, first at the Art Car Museum here in Houston, and then later at Houston City Hall. After February 3, the exhibit will be moved again, returning once more to Esbjerg, to be featured in their City Hall and the Arier Gammeltorv museum.
According the organizers, Rørpost is just the first phase of a three phase project. The first step, Rørpost (the tube) was intended to be a fast and free paper exchange. The second, Rørledning (the pipe), will have a larger capacity for exchange, encouraging artists to travel to each other’s countries to create new works of art. The final phase, Rørsamling (the joint/connection) is meant to establish an active and ongoing connection and dialogue between the artists of each city based on their shared experiences. As a global city that embraces diverse perspectives, Houston will continue to welcome these exchanges, and cherish the unique works of art they produce.