Victor & Rolf, Lennon & McCartney and the Coen Brothers. Creative duos are of all times. Laurel & Hardy stood in a long tradition of variety entertainment duos. Though it’s an age-old phenomenon, it seems to gain ground recently. That’s why the time was ripe for a research. What are the pros and cons of creative duos? And could just anybody act as part of a duo?
Column by Arjan van den Born
The duo formula seems to be an attractive form of working at first sight. A duo has got many possibilities an individual performer doesn’t have. Two know more than one. A duo may divide tasks. One may be good at something, even though the other can’t get his head around it. A duo can discuss complex tasks; how would you go about doing such and so? And sometimes there are these horrible energy consuming tasks. For example, when clients fail to pay; who is going after them? A duo enforces structure, rules and agreements; the partner as a last resort motivator. Also, a duo can make art an individual can’t produce; bigger, higher and more complex. It isn’t for no reason that Christo & Jean Claude are a duo. Being part of a duo offers many advantages.
According to science, ‘duoship’ should also be an attractive work form in arts (“two is the magic number”). We understand more and more that the myth of an autonomous creative genius doesn’t make sense. Creativity is for a huge part the interaction with other; it is a social phenomenon. By working and communicating with others we inspire them and they inspire us with new and innovating ideas. It is the rhyme and reason of many digital innovations; they’re being created in communities where nerds are building on the ideas of one another. The creative power of a duo simply exceeds that of an individual.
Why aren’t there more duos in arts? Such can be caused by the following three reasons. First of all, traditional art schools are overly based on individual evaluations. So, cooperation isn’t encouraged. Secondly, many people love to believe in the “myth of the creative genius”. Two people being responsible for a creative work is still hard to understand. Generally speaking, one of the two will be seen as the real artist and the other as a sideshow (are you supporting Paul or John?). Thirdly, duo cooperation is difficult, especially with topics as personal as art. This complexity is shown once more by a Dutch saying in the area of construction: “Partnership is a dead duck”, which underlines that working together as a duo in a legal partnership is doomed to fail, so why not in arts?
Despite all this, the number of creative duos is slowly rising, especially since the days of Gilbert and George. More and more artist do see benefits in intensive cooperating from practical, social and creative points of view. Therefore, the time is ripe for a first research into this rising form of artisanship. Questions we’ll try to answer are: what kind of artist are fit to work in creative duos, how do creative duos cooperate practically, and which factors determine a creative duo’s success?
Our first research about creative artist duos has almost been completed. We can’t tell all the details yet, but one of our conclusions is that opposites do not attract. An artist looking for a creative counterpart to form a duo seems to be looking for someone with similar characteristics. Partners in creative duos aren’t that different as you may have expected. They’re each other’s lookalike. Seemingly, it is too hard to work with someone who is different to the core.