This roundtable is the third in a series of roundtables convened by Residency Unlimited. The first set of responses on urban planning can be found here, and issue two’s responses on safe haven hosting can be found here.
Livia Alexander is a curator, writer, and Chair of the Department of Art and Design at Montclair State University. Her work is focused on examining the relationship between art infrastructure and artistic production, urbanity, cultural politics of food and art, and contemporary art from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. She has curated and produced numerous art and film programs, exhibitions and events, showcased at the MoMA New York, Tate Modern, Sharjah Art Foundation, Queens Museum, The Film Society of Lincoln Center, Cinematheque Tangier, and many more. Alexander is co-producer of the research-based interactive documentary, Jerusalem, We Are Here (Canada/Palestine/Israel, 2016), directed by Dorit Naaman. Her award- winning scholarly writing has appeared in the Journal of Visual Anthropology, Framework, MERIP, and as book chapters and catalog essays. She regularly contributes to Hyeprallergic and Harpers Bazaar Art Arabia and founded the online publication ArteEast Quarterly. She is the editor of a year-long series commissioned by the online platform www.ArtsEverywhere.com with Residency Unlimited, centered on artist residencies at the nexus of urban placemaking and social practice.
Issue #3 Leading Question:
Socially engaged practice implies work with communities and the necessity for duration and time if meaningful work is to be done. With today’s ubiquitous emphasis on measurable outcomes, what criteria, if any, should be used in assessing embedded artist residencies goals vis-à-vis results? Is there a “perfect” duration of a residency? When is time “long enough”?
Ana López-Ortego is an architect, PhD student in Geography, University teacher and researcher, and activist in Latin America. She is co-founder and co-director of Arquitectura Expandida, based mainly in Bogotá, Colombia. AXP is a collective that builds structures of public assembly for communities that cannot afford to go through official channels for design and construction. AXP's actions and interventions take part in the transformation process of the physical dimension of a community’s reality. Furthermore, this physical transformation aims to engage communities in the political, social, spatial, and cultural management of their territories. The strategies and tactics deployed by AXP and the communities involved come as a response to a diverse range of conflicting formal and informal relationships between institutions, norms, bureaucracies, practices and scenarios. In 2017, Arquitectura Expandida was shortlisted for the Curry Stone Design Prize — an award which honors socially impactful design professionals — and in 2018 is shortlisted for the Dorfman Prize of the Royal Academy of Arts of London.
The dynamics of urban development involve complex macroeconomic and political interests that clash, often violently, with citizens’ rights, governance, and spatial justice. Arquitecura Expandida considers it vitally important to avoid naivety when approaching such controversies; for example, catchphrases such as a “beautiful picture” or “community participation” very often legitimize what has already been decided upon. Instead research is required to understand the principal actors playing roles in urban issues and the established mechanisms, especially those related to community organization.
In Bogotá, where we focus our artistic and activist practice, urban rights for affordable housing are weak. Socio-spatial segregation and the threat of territorial displacement by urban development is significant, even though the culture of neighborhood and community organization is organic, rooted in the everyday, and need not be promoted by institutions. In this context, we have developed activist projects where collective cultural spaces are self-constructed and managed. We refer to these processes as “creative resistances”: they are about showing nonconformity, building spatial alternatives of highly symbolic content with local communities, and working hand in hand as a collective and citizen organization, which we consider basic tools for urban planning.
When we relocate, we have to modify our strategy, taking into account the limitations of an artistic residency: time, budget, and ethical and cultural codes. We try to understand time as part of the complex context we are facing.
Our most recent experience was a 2017 four-month artistic residency in Clichy-sous-Bois, a disadvantaged neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris slated for “urban renewal.” The residency was held within the framework of the exhibition Cosmopolis # 1: Collective Intelligence held at the George Pompidou Center at the invitation of the exhibition curator and the Atelier Medicis. The neighborhood residents had not called us.
We paid a visit in 2016 aiming to identify local associations or collectives with whose struggle we might collaborate through our residency. We found ourselves in a context in which the community organization was weak, and is understood as a structure to address tenders designed by public authorities, rather than manage critical initiatives that constitute an oversight to the State actions. Even the term “Communauté” was revealed to us as pejorative in the French language because of its links with communitarianism, although we cannot find another positive term to speak about the community.
Faced with the expectation that we would not work with community organizations in a collective project, we reformulated our proposal towards a strategy based on “tactical provocations” directed at the different urban actors, in order to stimulate more or less explicit negotiations concerning the controversy around common spaces and their forms of citizen organization.
The “artistic product” materialized in several pieces of furniture installed in public spaces, the documentation of their mobility, and the negotiations that they provoked among the different agents. The process is not yet complete and we are yet to map out its conclusion when we return to Clichy in 2018 at the invitation of Atelier Medicis. There we are going to temporarily engage with some of the citizen and institutional projects that emerged from these provocations — such as the replicability of placemaking by other neighbours and the design of the next call for artistic residencies.
Even though the extension of the residency can often determine the intensity and depth of the process, for us it was the relationships of trust and mutual understanding established with the host institutions that let us focus our time in residence on developing a tactical strategy rather than designing this or that object.
This undoubtedly translates into time, but not necessarily face-to-face or linear time. We think that the uniqueness of artistic practices should be reflected in the flexibility of the framework that enables it. For us, the structure of the residence is one more element of an artistic process, which precisely seeks to explore organizational forms between different actors in the city and the territory.
Andrew Nicholls is an Australian/British artist, writer and curator who has curated for FORM since 2002, with occasional sabbaticals to further his own art practice. Primarily concerned with site-specific practice, his curatorial work frequently draws inspiration from heritage sites and museum collections. He has conceived, coordinated and participated in residencies at numerous iconic heritage locations across Western Australia, China, England, Italy, and the United States, including the Freud Museum London, and the Royal Pavilion, Brighton. Nicholls’ art practice explores how power has been played out through aesthetics historically. He is especially concerned with periods of cultural transition during which Western civilisation’s stoic aspirations were undone by base desires, fears or compulsions. Photograph by David Charles Collins
Dr. Travis Kelleher
Dr. Travis Kelleher is an academic, writer, and curator based in Perth, Western Australia. Kelleher has worked, through FORM, in the fields of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property, ethical data management, and community engagement with arts and culture. Kelleher has also curated exhibitions for institutions including the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, and has exhibited photographic and film works as a solo artist and in collaboration with Andrew Nicholls. He has won national awards in teaching and curriculum development, and his research interests include aesthetics and failure, intangible cultural heritage, and histories of domestic interiors. Photograph by Bewley Shaylor, c/o FORM – building a state of creativity inc
Andrew Nicholls & Dr. Travis Kelleher
FORM – building a state of creativity
Comprising the entire Western third of the Australian continent at 2.5 million square kilometers, the State of Western Australia is vast, roughly equivalent in size to Western Europe. Though based in Perth, the State capital, FORM undertakes a large volume of programming designed to engage Western Australia’s regional communities. We aim to operate at the nexus of artistic excellence and meaningful community development, and as such host more artists’ residencies than many other small-to-medium sized arts organisations, well-aware that our geographical isolation brings with it the opportunity to offer artists completely unique experiences in remote parts of the world they may not otherwise ever have reason to visit. This has proven a drawcard for a growing network of more than 60 highly-regarded artists over the past decade, whose projects have incorporated residencies and interventions of varying lengths in Aboriginal communities, a lighthouse, in remote Marble Bar (famed as “the hottest town in Australia”), in regional schools, ghost towns, and national parks, among other evocative locations.
This programming is largely driven by funding from government and corporate partners with a need to demonstrate that they are investing in positive social and cultural impact. As such, our residencies are curated to engage artists with experience in sharing skills via the delivery of workshops or masterclasses, or who explicitly employ community collaboration in their practice. Duration is key to ensuring mutually-beneficial outcomes for artists and communities, but it comes at a frequently-prohibitive cost. We have come to appreciate that a truly embedded residency model demands significant financial investment, to ensure a sustained engagement that avoids exploiting small communities for creative IP without giving anything back. Acquiring and retaining the investment necessary for such work requires providing evidence of its value, which can only be achieved through an evaluation model capable of measuring the very different outcomes for artists and communities, as well as aesthetic value (which could potentially be compromised by collaboration with non-artists), and benefits to audiences, if outcomes are showcased publically. Adding to this complexity is the fact that the goals of such collaborative projects frequently change, sometimes dramatically, through their delivery.
Evaluation of intangible outcomes is always going to be partial and skewed, and as such there is a tendency to be cynical about measurement in the arts, to view it as the encroachment of corporate bureaucracy on a field of endeavor whose outcomes are often ineffable. Certainly this could be true to some extent, however FORM believes that anything we can do to communicate the social impacts of arts and culture is worth pursuing. We survey the participants and audiences of our programming to gather quantitative data through Likert scaling questions, and qualitative data through written responses that can then be inductively coded, resulting in a data set for each project. We have found this evaluation method extremely useful, however it demands a high investment in staff resourcing. Ideally, it requires data analysts with a strong knowledge of the arts and culture who can inductively code from qualitative statements, and this particular combination of skills is rare. Furthermore a commitment to long-term evaluation is crucial, as impacts cannot be measured at the level of surveying outputs. None of this is an easy ask for a not-for-profit organization, however, for us, it is crucial in providing tangible evidence of the value of embedded arts and culture.
Obviously the more time an artist has in a community, the more likely they are to forge the meaningful connections necessary to co-author authentic work, and this is especially true of cross-cultural engagements. FORM works extensively with Aboriginal artists, in particular ones based in regional and remote communities. In terms of collaboration between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous artists (or between artists of different Aboriginal nationalities), there will never be a “long enough” time, as successful collaborations can only develop organically over a sustained period, and more time will always result in increased mutual understanding, trust, and respect. That said, careful attention will allow an organization to identify a ‘good enough’ time to conclude such a project. Much like how inductive coding of qualitative statements can reveal important categories of experience that were not intended, rigorous project tracking can identify points of departure that will still result in meaningful co-creation.
The facilitation of such meaningful co-creation is the ultimate goal of FORM’s residency program, although the ways in which it emerges are never entirely predictable: some outcomes may be more heavily weighted toward artistic excellence, and some toward community development. In other words, while the goal is co-creation, that magical point at which artistic excellence and community development coincide, outcomes that that are weighted more heavily to one of the other are not failures, rather they represent the organic result of a situation that FORM facilitates, and we have found that both can have richly rewarding outcomes, both artistic, and social.
Andrew Nicholls, Curator and Dr. Travis Kelleher, Research and Writing.
A collaborative canvas created with 53 students from South Hedland. Manik undertook a three-week residency in remote South Hedland, which incorporated a collaboration with local high school students to create a 10-meter long frieze. For Manik, this represented a significant new development, incorporating collaged aesthetic and layered mark making at a monumental scale.
Though not directly co-created with Aboriginal artists, Mata Dupont’s project demanded extensive engagement with the Yindjibarndi community, the traditional owners of Millstream-Chichester National Park, to obtain cultural and historical insight, permissions, and eventually protection ceremonies to engage with an extremely sacred site. Video footage of the not-previously-documented cultural ceremonies was generated by Mata Dupont to accompany her artwork, and gifted to Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation as a permanent record.
This project facilitated a collaboration between artists from the Tjanpi Desert Weavers based in Warakurna, in central Australia, Polyglot Theatre, a children’s theatre company from Melbourne (on Australia’s east coast), and FORM (on Australia’s west coast), to develop an experimental hybrid work for children. Workshops with the artists and local children were held in Melbourne, Perth, and Warakurna, with outcomes from the collaboration to premiere in late 2018.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Western Australia. Characteristic FI W 7.5s
An hour-long intervention in Cape Leeuwin lighthouse by Netherlands-based Berndnaut Smilde, refracting the lighthouse’s beam on the building’s land-facing side. As a consequence, a bright spectrum coloured the surrounding landscape every 7.5 seconds, shooting from Australia’s most south-westerly corner, toward the center of the continent. The development of this work required collaboration with the community’s tourism association, and Australian Maritime Systems, the Maritime Safety Authority, and the site’s lighthouse keeper, to arrange permissions and access.
Isin Önol (1977, Turkey) is a writer and curator based in Vienna and New York. She is a member of Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University, New York. She works as a guest critic at the Arts & Design MFA program at Montclair University, New Jersey and as a visiting curator at the Social Design – Art as Urban Innovation MA Program at University of Applied Arts, Vienna. Since 2009, she has been working as an independent curator in Vienna and abroad. Before that, she leaded the Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art as its director and curator in Istanbul for three years. Önol is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Cultural Studies, University of Applied Arts, Vienna, Austria. She has completed her Master of Advance Studies on Curating at ZHdK, Zürcher Hochschule der Kunst, Zürich, Switzerland (2009-2011). She participated to Ecole du Magasin, International Curatorial Training Programme, Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France and Gwangju Biennale International Curator Course, Gwangju, South Korea (2009). She received her MFA in Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design from Sabanci University (2003), and her BA in Art Education from Marmara University (2000), Istanbul, Turkey.
Sinopale: A Local Biennial as an Alternative Model for Residencies and Spaces for Artistic and Cultural Production
Sinop, historically known by its ancient Greek name Sinope, is a small yet impactful town on the Black Sea coast in northern Turkey. It hosts a self-organized, non-governmental biennial that grew rapidly since its first edition in 2006, through the collective efforts of the people of Sinop, young volunteers, local and international artists and cultural workers, and with the support of both local associations and international cultural institutions. Ever since its first edition, most of the artistic works that are created during Sinopale are outcomes of collective thinking and production processes, with the involvement of city dwellers of all ages, genders, and walks of life.
Its format is based on collective creativity and site specificity, which in effect turns the biennial into a form of residency, where artists and cultural workers come together to spend a few weeks doing their research and production processes in the town. The overall time that the artists spend in Sinop depends on the framework of their projects. Thus, their residency is not only shaped by the context and the site, but also the duration, which is often shorter than what their work would ideally require—simply due to a lack of financial resources. For this reason, together with the Sinopale team, each artist develops work-specific strategies and a plan that enables them to start their research and residency process even before arriving in town, and possibly to continue after their departure. While the biennial starts with a grand exhibition opening, it is not a requirement that the results of the curatorial and artistic efforts of all the participating artists and cultural workers need be finalized in time for this event. In fact, some of the projects continue throughout the full duration of the biennial, or even continue for years following.
As a result of national politics in a post-industrial society, as well as due to local reflections of globally hegemonic neoliberal economic policies, Sinop is a town that faces the endangering of its natural resources in its rural areas on the one hand, and aggressive urban development practices on the other. A historical prison located in the heart of the town once housed a vast number of political convicts throughout the history of the country—including prominent artists, intellectuals, poets, and activists, as well as many young people from the city, especially after the 1980 military coup d’état. The city thus has a charged political history and traumatic memories. Having hosted an American military base, as well as a rocket test center, the city has long been involved in questions of global scale. Among a number of agricultural and environmental issues, the city has seen fierce resistance against the ongoing construction of a nuclear power plant. These struggles, the dense political history, and the city’s urbanization dynamics provide significant potential for resources for artistic research, primarily based on oral histories.
During each Sinopale, the town not only becomes a resource for artistic engagement, but also a functioning studio for the artists, where they develop their work in public and private spaces, including trade centers, the city hall, factories, the seaside, the city center, or historic buildings such as the prison and the library.
What perhaps makes Sinopale a unique model, different from most biennial formats, are its persistent efforts towards constructing a functioning and sustainable platform for the residents of Sinop, in order to put forward questions regarding the history and the future of the town. Today, a team of young people who grew up in the past decade participating in the cultural and artistic activities, lead the biennial and make decisions for its future. During the past decade, they developed their communicative, organizational, and curatorial skills and are now able to run the biennial entirely by themselves. This is the result of the long-term engagement of the volunteers, who find the event impactful in their lives and their city and make it their own project. In a way, these local volunteers become long-term artists-in-residence as well, and the city that they reside in becomes a site for their ongoing artistic research.
In the context of the history of the modernization of Turkey, artistic and cultural values have often been brought from centers to periphery in a rather didactic sense, defining and dictating the new norms. Contrasting this hierarchical approach, for Sinopale one of the most significant issues is that of engagement and participation: how to learn from the city, and how to create possibilities for collective production processes that offer alternatives to existing normative forms. The goal is to break the hierarchies and aim at “building the horizontal structure of aesthetic events, which display the value of articulating a space of potentialities at present within the place and complexity of the town of Sinop.”
 “Collecting the Future, A Sinopale Exhibition”, Zurich, Curated by T.Melih Görgün and Dimitrina Sevova February 2015
Tobi Maier is a curator and art critic based in São Paulo. He served as curator at Frankfurter Kunstverein (2006–2008), Ludlow 38 in New York (2008–2011), and as associate curator for the 30th São Paulo Biennale (2012). He holds an MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London and completed his PhD thesis on artist-organized processions in Brazil and the international context (1931-2017) at ECA-USP (Universidade de São Paulo) in 2018. He is a regular contributor to OEI, Artforum, frieze and Flash Art. He lectures frequently and has co-founded the exhibition space SOLO SHOWS in São Paulo in 2015.
Spanning a decade or more – four residency programs as experienced by Tobi Maier
Residencies have had a decisive effect on my practice. As a curator and art critic and I have been involved with organizing and participating in residency programs from different curatorial perspectives as both an organizer and a resident. Residencies are a pivotal tool for artists and curators to develop their (research) practice, engage in producing new work, or maintain dialogue, which sometimes could come to fruition only years after the residency was completed. In an era dominated by remote, digital, and precarious labor conditions, many artists and freelance practitioners rely on residency stipends to develop their work. While there is no single ideal duration for a residency, the scope of expectations and possibilities should be clearly defined. These include, but are not limited to, the designation of a contact partner within the institution and a timeline, the confirmation of an exhibition, production or publication budget, as well as conditions of accommodation, per-diem, and travel costs bursary.
When arriving at Frankfurter Kunstverein in September 2006, director Chus Martínez and curator Katja Schroeder were in the process of planning the conversion of the third-floor exhibition space into an apartment for an artist/curator in residence. The idea was realized by Frankfurt based architect Iris Elsenheimer and made possible through collaboration with the stock exchange in Frankfurt, thus lending the initiative the name Deutsche Börse Residency Program. The apartment, overlooking the demolished brutalist architecture of the Technische Rathaus, provided a living space for two residents and gave us the opportunity to invite curators like Marcio Harum (São Paulo), Dan Kidner (London), and Jonathan Carroll (Dublin), as well as artists Patricia Esquivias and Cova Macias (Madrid), Gitte Villesen (Copenhagen), and Honey Suckle Company (Berlin). Fostering artistic research, the residency became an integral part of the institutional program and participants frequently organized public events in the Kunstverein café or spent time with the curatorial team, producing a new piece or preparing an exhibition install.
New York 2008
After the first three years of co-directing Ludlow 38 on New York’s Lower East Side (in collaboration with the directors of Kunstverein München, European Kunsthalle Cologne and Künstlerhaus Stuttgart between 2008 and 2010), together with Stephan Wackwitz, then program director of Goethe-Institut in New York, we reformatted the character of the Goethe-Institut’s satellite for contemporary art into a curatorial residency. Rather than inviting institutions, the change would give Germany-based independent curators the opportunity to reside in New York for a year and profile an exhibition program with a solid budget and within a stimulating context. A jury selected the curator after an open call ensuring sufficient lead-time for the successful candidate to prepare his/her move to New York. With the understanding that the duration of one year would provide adequate conditions for planning and implementing a program as well as connecting to the local art scene, this timeframe was adopted from the collaboration with the aforementioned institutions and carried forward into the new scheme. This conceptual shift was articulated by commissioning Martin Beck to replace the iconic design of the space by Liam Gillick, and—after a careful analysis of Chinatown graphics—Beck chose the Berlin-based H I T studio to realize a new graphic identity for the space. MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38 receives a different curator every year and—having established itself as one of the leading Kunsthalle programs in New York—celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018.
São Paulo 2012
For the 30th São Paulo Biennial (2012), we organized a residency program and invited two collectives. Mobile Radio BSP stayed for four months and realized daily radio broadcasts with hundreds of contributors from a studio in the Biennial. The Swedish editor OEI also accompanied the Biennial and subsequently published the 512-page (+CD) compendium OEI#60–61 ”Extra-disciplinary spaces and de-disciplinizing moments. In and out of the 30th Bienal de São Paulo” (2013). Both of these discursive projects at the 30th São Paulo Biennial exceeded my expectation as they allowed for dialogue between the editors of the radio station / magazine and local practitioners, an engagement that significantly influenced editorial production and content. Over the course of the residency period hundreds of volunteers and audience members contributed to Mobile Radio BSP’s programming, and OEI#60-61 provides the reader with an in depth analysis of many works and artists exhibited in the Biennial though commissioned texts and interviews.
Following an international competition, I spent three months in Paris in 2013, where the CAC La Galerie Noisy-le-Sec has a tradition of realizing one exhibition per year with a curator-in-residence. I proposed The Second Sex – a visual footnote with works by Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven, Ilene Segalove, Marianne Wex and a selection of films from the Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir. The residency allowed me to realize the exhibition and publication with the team of La Galerie and conduct a discursive program in collaboration with the collective Travelling Féministe.
The duration of residencies in Frankfurt, New York, São Paulo and Paris have been distinctly different. Ranging from a few weeks to a year, these time frames correspond to necessities of the artist and curator “in residence” as much as the possibility of each institution to extend an invitation (financial viability, immigration laws, etc.). Thus, while many of the residencies in Frankfurt were research-based, their duration varied according to the project envisaged. At Ludlow 38, curators in residence were invited to develop a one year program and the São Paulo Biennial usually lasts for about 100 days. These are institutionally given patterns that define the framework of a residency and impact their outcome. Yet, from an institutional perspective the residency invitation represents a tool for commissioning programming as well as context-specific production, resulting in a legacy that reaches beyond the duration of one exhibition; for example, the books and art works that were produced will travel, and the radio programs were archived and made available on CD and online. Yet, if defined time frames have become a necessity for residencies within a project based economy, the possible engagement with audiences and the local context as well as the ultimate “result” of each residency also hinges on the host’s active involvement with each guest.
Francisco Guevara is a visual artist and curator based in Mexico and Peru. He specializes in Levinasian ethics applied to the design of cross-cultural artistic projects, and the analysis of performativity in contemporary art practices. His experience spans 20 years of designing, curating, and managing art projects through visual arts education, and international cooperation to promote social change. His essays and critical texts focusing on contemporary art practices and the artist residency field have been featured in numerous international publications. As a visual artist, Francisco Guevara investigates the historical construction of the differentiation processes and its relationship with the performativity of identity. Guevara holds a degree in Cooperation and Development in the fields of education, science and culture from UNED/OEI/CIDEAL, and a postgraduate degree in Cultural Management and Communication from FLACSO. He continued his studies at the University of New Mexico, focusing on race, gender, class, and the historiographies of art. As of 2009, Guevara is co-founder and Co-Executive Director of Arquetopia, a non-profit foundation and transnational artist residency program promoting Development and social transformation through educational, artistic, and cultural programs.
How much time do you want?
Past as place in the context of artist residencies
In the post-millennium context, the art world is facing a crisis of overproduction driven by market forces. Major museums have shifted their function from sites of permanent collections to large-scale theaters for blockbuster traveling exhibitions. As a result, international biennials have become the prominent vehicle for art dissemination. However, these large-scale mega-exhibitions are now more rigid in structure; they appropriate the symbolic value of art and lower its subversive potential, thus they constantly face the challenge of becoming stale and are in danger of being absorbed back into the traditional museum.
In response, an increasing number of cultural practitioners and artists are looking for new ways to address broader global issues while searching for new or more authentic communities with which to engage. More recently, the art world is acknowledging that local infrastructure, especially outside of Europe and the U.S., is not only supporting artists worldwide, but is fundamental to the production and dissemination of art necessary to sustain the global art ecosystem. Not surprisingly, residencies for artists, writers, and curators have become a key medium for network building. However, since we do not live in a perfect world, residencies mirror geopolitical tensions with much complexity and on many levels.
Duration and place are two of the necessary conditions for any encounter to occur, which is not only relevant in the context of artist residencies, but also to our understanding of how this new era is colored by nostalgia for borders and distinct national identities. This manifests as hateful sentiments inspired by a fear of differences. Artists are developing coping mechanisms in their search for meaningful work, which can include socially engaged practices. While pursuing international experiences and projects with social justice in mind, artists often lack historical consciousness, failing to understand the potential repercussions as they engage with diverse communities.
As residencies become central to facilitating the engagement process, the concepts of duration (time) and place (space) are necessary prerequisites to understanding artists’ ethical implications and responsibilities. What happens when outside forces such as epistemic racism and sexism, founded on a legacy of colonialism, determine the perceptions of time and space in the process of an international encounter, especially between a foreign artist and a person of a different origin? What happens when ideology and history collapses time and space to articulate a notion of past as place? The ideas of progress and civilization vis-à-vis place are inherently erasers of extermination and exploitation. As a result, how time and space is perceived in an artist residency in a small town in Mexico is very different compared to how it is perceived in a residency in Mexico City. Comparatively, even knowing that Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, this perception will be vastly different in a residency in New York City. So, how is duration versus results relevant to address these ethical implications? When James Baldwin asked “How much time do you want for your progress?” he was referring to this problem, when the encounter between two people is framed as a dichotomy for instance: civilized versus uncivilized. As Sharon Holland states in her book The Erotic Life of Racism, the continuous problem in the encounter, and especially regarding differences such as race, class, gender, etc., is that the crossing of those barriers seem impossible and almost never happens. Namely, those who control progress and order the world—those who are world-making, master time and seek authenticity in the other—remain distinct from those who are perceived as having no world-making effects—merely occupying space. From the first images produced by Europeans of their encounters with Amerindians, including drawings, maps and prints, to the development of colonial art, up to modern art and contemporary visual culture—it has all contributed to a complex visual tradition consolidating Mexico as a nation. However, these images continue to reinforce the perception of Mexico as an exotic paradise, vastly different and very distant from the European civilized order (Katzew, 2004).
Understanding this complex context has been crucial to Arquetopia’s mission and the scope of all of our programs. How can the duration of a residency be sufficient to confront at least five centuries of ideological domination in the production of images? How can we subvert a paradigm, a system of historical exploitation that observes and describes Latin America, its culture and inhabitants as picturesque, colorful, or magical? There is no answer in terms of duration, but there is in terms of intention in the articulation of goals and results. At Arquetopia, we are especially invested in approaching art and art history with a critical perspective by understanding Mexico and Peru’s complexity in context, incorporating nuances in narratives and interpretation of the three thousand year heritage of visual culture of these regions. As Arquetopia’s mission is to promote social transformation, we depart from historical consciousness as a necessary context to understand cultural complexity and have a successful cultural exchange. All of our programs are based on a non-exploitative model and partners, communities, as well as artists-in-residence are strongly encouraged to explore various ways of cultural exchange and reciprocal collaboration.
At Arquetopia, every residency is an opportunity to ignite change and to approach art practices with ethical responsibility. We address differences as the necessary departure point for dialogue and the exchange of ideas. The duration is not relevant, but the intention of the encounter in the process of interrupting the continuity of history, is. We address art making by placing art practices at the center of a critical discussion to reveal the complex relationship between ideology, power, and the production of art and/or the writing of art history. In the words of Audre Lorde, “within the interdependence of mutual (non-dominant) differences lies that security which enables us to descend into the chaos of knowledge and return with true visions of our future, along with the concomitant power to effect those changes which can bring that future into being.”
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Smith, T. (2012). Biennials and Infrastructural Shift – Part II. July 5, 2016, from Art Asia Pacific Website: http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/80/BiennialsAndInfrastructuralShiftPartII
“Vision, Mission & Values.” Julio 20, 2016, de Res Artis Website: http://www.resartis.org/en/about/about_res_artis/vision_mission__values/
Pakui Hardware (Neringa Cerniauskaite and Ugnius Gelguda) are based in Berlin and Vilnius. They have worked as a collaborative artist duo since 2014. Their latest solo shows include exhibitions in Budapest, Helsinki, Berlin, Vienna, Oslo, and New York. Upcoming projects include solo exhibitions at L'Ascensore, Palermo, IT; at Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig (MdbK), DE and at Bielefelder Kunstverein, DE, as well as Jungle Theory, a group show at Domaine Pommery, FR and the13th Baltic Triennial at Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, LT. www.pakuihardware.org
Let’s admit it: one-month residencies, in most cases, don’t work. They don’t work if a tangible outcome is expected. It takes about a week for one to acclimatize, to set new routines, and get acquainted with fellow resident artists and the surroundings. It takes another week to prepare oneself for leaving. One is left with only two weeks of pure focus, pure work, pure reflections. Those two weeks, however, could be the luxurious (albeit a little accelerated) time for finally making things that the artist is usually deprived from because of a busy schedule or a lack of self-confidence. Often, these things are reading and writing one’s own thoughts in the form of essays or poems, or any other literary genre. Texts that usually remain hidden in the chaos of folders in the laptops of artists or, sometimes, if the shyness of the non-writer is overcome, they get read by a wider audience in catalogs, artist’s books, or online magazines.
Therefore, residencies that understand that one month is too limited a time-span for any substantial outcome, and therefore don’t require a physical result, actually gain more than the ones that do. By not forcing artists to artificially produce and by allowing them to have the pause that artists so desperately need these days — the pause to take the pressure away from their minds, at least for those two precious weeks — residencies create possibilities for unexpected things to happen. Unexpected both for the residencies and the resident artists themselves: new acquaintances made during the residency period might give birth to new collaborations in the future (or maybe even during the residency time itself), or the artist might start working with new media as there is no pressure to produce a piece typical to the artist’s repertoire. Deprived from her usual working materials (especially those artists working with sculptural objects or installations), the artist might start experimenting and exploring new materials that are at hand or are abundant in the residency area. Such experiments, of course, might become a little predictable for the residency staff members, especially if the selection of possible locally sourced materials is quite limited. In a residency located on the beach or in the forest, for example, it naturally becomes inspiring to work with wood, sand, or found objects on the beach. Imagine a staff member of such a residency seeing the collections of shells or wooden sticks polished by salty sea water made by every fourth artist for eight years in a row…
It becomes a little more complicated when the end of the residency culminates with an exhibition by the resident artist with works produced during the one-month stay. The rushed process of coming up with an idea, then realizing that idea, can result in mediocre pieces. In addition, many such residencies also require a drop of site-specificity to the work, which not always comes naturally and thus, when artificially enforced, can generate superficial and obvious reflections on the context of the residency location. It is not always the case, of course, but from our own experience, we have noticed that the works we created specifically for exhibitions in residencies are often difficult to adapt outside of the residency context. Because they are so entrenched in the local historical, cultural, and natural climate, they become difficult to translate to other frameworks. The requirement of site-specificity often localizes the pieces in a negative way, locking them in a limited set of references and problems. It is not always the case, of course, depending on how the residency organizers navigate between introducing the local context, but not forcing it on the artists, or on the ability of the artist to resist the aspirations of the residency and create works that find an intelligent way to translate local histories or current problems into a more universal language interesting not only for local, but also broader audiences. This way, the specific aspects of the residency’s local context might travel beyond its borders and thus benefit both the residency and its surroundings as well.
Ideally, at least in our view, a three-month residency period should be offered in order to create more substantial results besides research, writing, and connecting with other artists. Such a period of time allows one to finally feel comfortable in a new environment and not rushed to produce something, anything, with the rapidly approaching end looming. Three months creates the possibility to finally calm down and even get bored at points, which is so important in order to release one’s ideas from the corners of the mind, having been squeezed there by everyday pressure. Time pressure has become a burden for almost everyone in this accelerated, hyper-connected, efficiency- oriented reality.
Alia Swastika has worked as Program Director for Ark Galerie, Yogyakarta, Indonesia since 2008 and is actively involved as a curator, project manager and writer on a number of international exhibitions. With Suman Gopinath, she was the co-curator of the Jogja Biennale XI, Shadow Lines: Indonesia Meets India (2011), and was one of the co-artistic directors for the Gwangju Biennale IX (2012): Roundtable. She also participated as the curator of a special exhibition of Indonesian artists in the 2012 edition of Art Dubai. She has extensive experience for her curatorial projects in Indonesia and abroad. Her recent curatorial works includes co-curators for Europalia Arts Festival Indonesia for Contemporary Art Projects (2017) and “Songs for the People” (Art Sonje, Seoul, 2018). As the director of Jogja Biennale 2015, she was a member of the International Biennale Association Board (2013-2017, and she recently founded ‘Study on Art Practices’, a platform for research into contemporary art in Indonesia. She writes for Frieze, Art Forum, Broadsheet journal, and many others, as well as for numerous publications in Indonesia.
HOW LONG CAN YOU GO?
Artists, particularly in developing countries, have a long history of socially engaged art practice, although the methods and contexts of this practice have always changed according to local situations. Today, a younger generation of artists is involved in different areas of social art practice, turning activism into an art medium. While this connection of art and activism is always open to a debate, how do we define the role of duration in the term engagement? Can we refer to a long period of working together with a community as a measure of socially engaged art?
I will start to map out those questions by proposing some of the examples I have encountered on many different occasions, particularly within the growth of the biennales culture. I worked for six years with the Biennale Jogja, Equator series, where we tried to propose a new definition of internationalism, with the goal of creating a meeting point for countries in the equatorial area. The idea of using the equator itself came from the realization that the equator is a space between “the north and the south”, “the first world and the third world”, “West and East”, and other boundaries that have been created and used to divide, mostly politically rather than geographically, the globe on which we live. While we invited artists from different countries to a short residency in Indonesia, it was always very challenging to create a real connection between artists and the community in a local context. Within the residency platform we provide during the biennale, artists are often tempted to respond to local issues, inviting the community to participate in their projects. But most of the time, having stayed in Indonesia for only a few months, artists had to formulate a well-defined goal that they could achieve when they create socially engaged art projects.
Artists Sara Nuytemans and Arya Pandjalu (Netherlands/Indonesia) created an intervention titled Bird Prayers with the participation of 120 students and their teachers from the Islamic Elementary School in Yogyakarta, asking them to make masks that have the form of different sacred buildings. The project was aimed at encouraging openness, tolerance, and the recognition of a multi-cultural society in Indonesia, as teachers were hesitant if their students had to make masks of other religions. At the end of the four-day workshop, the students had created their masks and had a photo session as part of the Bird Prayers photo-performance project by Sara and Arya. In my observation, this kind of intervention requires only a short duration, considering it is made to introduce the community to new ideas, which will inspire them to change behaviour rather than change their society. Rather than extending the duration, this kind of project could be done with a larger group, let’s say, 2000 students, and at least 300 teachers. With more people involved, there would be more opportunities to open the discussion to the wider public and to disseminate the project as an alternative pedagogical method.
During his short stay in Yogyakarta, Aderemi Adegbite continued his series of photographs of Muslim families first started in Lagos. In Yogyakarta, Aderemi searched for Muslim families living in traditional kampong (housing compounds), took their photographs, and printed them on a wooden palate customarily used to display prayers. Aderemi met with more than twelve families and built a close relationship with all the communities in the kampong. Similarly, rather than aiming to change something inside the kampong or “raise awareness” of particular issues, his interaction with the families and community members was mostly focused on sharing stories and experiences.
Artists from Yogyakarta itself also have great potential and face many challenges in using their projects as a long-term engagement. Elia Nurvista invited mothers who lived near the Biennale venue to perform for her project Hunger Inc., where she discussed the problems of rice distribution and food politics in general. Her brief interaction with this community was focused on a discussion of how they receive support from the government for free rice each month, and how they benefit from the program. It was a brief encounter because the artist did not arrange a continuous program, and her introduction to the community began only a few weeks before the biennale opened.
Other artists pursue longer durational projects. Moelyono, an artist from East Java, has been involved with activism and developing community engagement since the late 1980s around large scale public projects such as the Kedung Ombo Dam. Teaching students in a remote area in Java, he refers to himself as a drawing teacher, but over time, he slowly organized the community around bigger goals, including activating women who stopped practicing traditional arts because those arts were banned by the government on the grounds that they promoted leftist ideas. Moelyono encouraged them to bring these arts back to life, while discussing the traumatic mass killing of 1965. Moelyono’s close work with the group over a three-year period undoubtedly contributed to mobilizing the community, so much so that the authorities have built a new access road to the city as a result.
We can also refer to Arief Yudi and his Jatiwangi Art Factory project, initiated in West Java. While Moelyono worked mostly as a facilitator and drawing teacher to create networks in the village, Arief Yudi involved artists from other cities including Jakarta, Bandung or Yogyakarta, and more recently began to work with international artists to collaborate with the local community. He started music performances, screenings, exhibitions, and festivals using clay, which is the most valuable raw material in the area and is used extensively in the local roof tile industry. Moelyono and Arief Yudi have been working with these communities almost full time for more than two decades. They set their goals with the community and carefully created a shared knowledge and practice, rather than trying to impose their own assumptions and goals. For them, working with community is not only about giving them a voice, but to use arts and culture as a platform to discuss social issues together. Their personal intervention with community members opened up their narratives and put their stories in a larger framework.
Encounter, involvement and engagement, in many cases, cannot be defined only by the notion of duration. In a country like Indonesia, where the idea of communality and collectivity somehow still stands strong, the role of artists as a part of social change is interwoven with their role as community members.
 The first edition of the Biennale (2011), titled “Shadow Lines”, was co-curated by myself and Indian curator Suman Gopinath. That year we featured 45 artists from both India and Indonesia. The second edition (2013), “Not a Dead End”, curated by Agung Hujatnika and Sarah Rifky, gathered 36 artists from Indonesia and the Arab Region. The third edition (2015) partnered with Nigeria, where we collaborated with Wok the Rock and Jude Anogwih as curators, under the title “Hacking Conflict.” The fourth edition (2017) was a meeting with Brazil artists, where 42 artists were featured.
Artist Petros Touloudis lives between Athens and Tinos Island in Greece. A graduate of the Athens School of Fine Arts, Touloudis works across the areas of visual art (video, sculpture, installation), architecture, and opera. Between 2015 and 2017 he was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. He is the co-founder of Tinos Quarry Platform, a forum for contemporary art operating an artist-in-residence program since 2015, located on the island of Tinos, of the northern Cyclades in Greece.
art in content
The dematerialization of the art object and the participatory turn of art in the 1960s shifted the location of value from the egocentric position of the artist to the interaction between the artist and the community, creating a space out of the gallery for anti-individualistic participatory art. The artist became a catalyst for the creativity of others. Thus, the personal became political, anti-visual, informational, textual, expositional, didactic, gestural, and thus gave further value to the art with the community in context.
In Greece today, there is a general lack of public resources and opportunities for artists. Initiated in 2015, Tinos Quarry Platform (TQP) has tried to address this lack by creating a forum that engages with various genres of dialectics, including an artist-in-residence program, located in the remote village of Isternia, on Tinos island in the northern Cyclades. Experimental in nature, TQP strives to foster a political, social, and aesthetic process, a socially engaged combination of performance, research, and learning, that promotes intersubjective exchange by linking people together within a common frame. The program is mainly supported by a local cultural foundation (ITIP).
Tinos Quarry Platform took its name from the marble quarries that have been operating since antiquity in the area near the village. Partly as a result of the presence of the quarries, Tinos island has a long tradition in visual arts. Tinian sculptors, such as the prominent modernist artist Yannoulis Chalepas among many other important artists, further reinforce that long tradition on the island.
This program invites artists, curators and theoreticians — voices from various fields and countries — to collaborate on curated process-based projects in the vast Cycladic landscape in the middle of the Aegean Archipelago. TQP leaves it to the resident practitioners to potentially get involved with the culture and the history of the place in any way they might see fit. Inspired by the abundance of marble, a number of past invited artists have encountered this material for the first time in their practice, leading to collaborations with local masters. Collaborations have also emerged in the past with artisans from different fields, such as ceramists, weavers, and basket makers. These ephemeral micro-communities of human interaction seem to play a significant role for the locals and for the visitors, who both seek creative references to experiment with and to relate to their practice.
The duration of each residency draws upon decision making, emotional capacity, and the commitment of the invited collaborators. This often happens in conversation with invited practitioners and through a feedback process in preparation for the residency that reflects the values and qualities of each approach, but also practical considerations and tactical thinking. This asks something of each of these relationships, initiating each participating artist to familiarize themselves with the place and introduce their works to a foreign environment. We often ask how, if at all, would this conversation influence their work?
To maintain flexibility, and given our time and financial constraints, TQP has not issued an open call so far. For the same reasons, the duration of the residencies has also shifted over the years. Initially, in 2015, each artist stayed on the island for a month, which we found to be the optimal time to settle in a place like Tinos and get familiar with the island life and be able to produce work.
Currently, the time of stay has been narrowed down to two weeks at the most, while emphasizing the preparation stage of one’s project before their arrival to the island. Establishing the best possible communication and building trust are the project’s foremost objectives for anyone involved. At that phase, newcomers are encouraged to build up, gradually, their relationship to the place, with given information concerning the culture and the history too, whilst they are formulating ideas and intentions about their potential work. Along with the curatorial approach, that exchange helps to organize their practical studio needs, amongst other potential needs. It is about creating a flow that incorporates the notion of both subjective and objective time, which is, to a great extent, shaping the duration of the planning until the implementation and the final outcome of the residency. That’s when the group exhibition takes place, which is the tangible result of the program.
Consequently, the shape of the residency is redefined organically every year, literally until the last minute, in response to the specific project and group of artists gathered for that project. That flexibility is a source of surprise, determining strategies of how to engage with both the limitations and the opportunities for experimentation that such a situation can provide. Potentially, this may lead to mistakes. Nevertheless, learning from mistakes can produce meaning, especially for small-scale projects like this.
Sometimes seizing the opportunity to take an “off the grid” experience makes us think more clearly about our urban lives in cities.
Iaroslav Volovod was born in Murmansk, USSR and earned his BA in Asian and African Studies from St. Petersburg State University and his MA in Curatorial Studies from Bard College, New York, conducting part of his research at Heidelberg University, Germany. Iaroslav was also awarded a Diploma of Excellence from Central Institute of Hindi in New Delhi, India, and has been recently invited to participate in the TRANScuratorial Academy in Berlin and Mumbai. His personal and professional identities have sensitized him to non-dominant experience and to institutional practices that address communities at the cusp of change. Currently he is investigating South Asian artists in Britain, in addition to working as a curator with international and local art practitioners. He is a curator at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and a lecturer at British Higher School of Art and Design.
It is fortunate that Platonic views on urban design have never held sway, and neither artists nor poets should have been ostracized from the pales of the city. On the contrary, the ideal polis of today leaves no question that art spaces have globally become a regular fixture in the taxonomic diversity of the contemporary urban environment.
Yet, there is no systematic consistency in how these nascent initiatives contribute to urban place making, as these residencies vary greatly in their conformity to the logic of either corporate or state capital, as well as in their format. Propelled by the strategies of effective management and a results-oriented approach, many artist residences are structured in such a way that the time spent in residency is unavoidably invested into an end product. Hence, such time must be optimized, programmed, and administered. This is exactly where the immanent nexus between time and control becomes conspicuous, as it is easily exemplified in the historical distinction between work and free time.
A question of time and duration becomes markedly more pressing in the present day, when culture itself seems to be radically accelerating, and its increased velocity is yet to be normalized both in megacities and their conurbations. Succumbing to this acceleration, many residency programs, despite their intrinsic benevolence, oftentimes run the risk of making the whole enterprise fruitless or making it transmogrify into a conveyor belt or a sweatshop.
There is no doubt that one cannot synthesize a standardized approach to timing as in reality the duration of a residency depends on multifarious factors, such as the mission statement of a residency, existing infrastructures, or the preparedness of a local environment to welcome creative interventions. Moreover, it hinges on whether a residency is tied to a specific creative manufacture (e.g. it operates within an exhibition or education platform, which, as a rule, predetermines specific terms of invitation).
One may statistically argue that the “perfect” duration of a residency would stretch from one to three months, providing a time span normally sufficient to withdraw from a familiar context and to plunge into the rhythm of a local situation. But, in fact, all artists have different relationships with the energy of time. While some prefer to work with strict deadlines, others rely on the elusive pursuit of chance. This is where it becomes clear that it is not so much the quantity of time that matters but rather the quality and intensity of it. Hence, we may possibly envision other experimental choreographies of time, which are unlikely to yield much return in the short term, but can perhaps help to overcome an attempt at creating yet another enclave of over-regulated public space.
In pursuit of such “venues without condition,” as Clementine Deliss puts it after Jacques Derrida, we may speculatively think of other ways of structuring duration at artist residences. For example, one might want to stress mobility and rhythm, and give an artist freedom to suspend, rearrange, and stop the flow of his or her residency time. Such an approach could possibly lead to a new metabolic order, adhering to the logic of inner time. In this organic manner, the conditions under which time in residency terminates for a single artist can also be potentially re-imagined. One might welcome experimentation with intermittent durations, frequency of visits, idle pastime, time exchange with other artists, and emphasis on shift from “my” time to “our” time. As such, a residency could still be temporally happening while the resident is away.
Taking a gamble on self-management and temporally postponed results, as opposed to the logic of instant gratification, we decidedly open up a space of risk, but also a space of political empowerment, social imagination, transgression, and dialogue. After all, given the precarious conditions of contemporary creative production in which artists are ensnared by an endless circle of proposal writing, there may be only one ideal time format that is capable of deferring the question of measurable outcome and putting forward a notion of a healthier ecology: paid vacation.
Such an attempt at critical and creative remediation of time is certainly a utopian one as it hinges on personal ethics; but it is also therapeutic in its helping to circumnavigate the possible detrimental effects of corporate settings, which oftentimes aspire to pacify the subversive potential of arts as it manifests in grass-roots initiatives, interventions, and alternative forms of cultural practice and politics.
But why not speak of utopias when dealing with art? Harald Szeemann once aptly said, “The nice thing about utopias is precisely that they fail. For me, failure is a poetic dimension of art.” Perhaps then, we should welcome the willingness to allow for a failure and to recognize its magical and poetic potential in the face of a neo-liberal logic which dictates that the degree of artistic freedom has to be always economically calculated and justified.