Different approaches to residencies

Various models of organising artistic residencies were discussed by the speakers in this panel, including: production residencies, those related to exhibiting or retreat, collaborative projects. Whether residential centres are shaped by cultural, political or artistic interest – relating to its particular setting or differentiated by the addresses of a specific group of artists – they all are comprised of a set of conditions that need to be fulfilled in order to succeed. How do the experts and leaders of residential centres evaluate their programs? How is the cooperation with the artists realised according to specific type of residency?

Invited speakers:
Ariane Beyn (DE), Head of Visual Arts, Artists-in-Berlin Programme, Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD
Eric Hagoort (NL), Trans Artists
Jarosław Kozakiewicz (PL), Artist, Centre Brok
Catalina Lozano (GB), Residencies Coordinator, Gasworks | Triangle Arts Trust
Johan Pousette (SE), Expert adviser for the Nordic residency program, Nordic Council of Ministers (KKN)
Moderator: Eric Hagoort (NL), Trans Artists

Below you will find an insight from Johann Pousette and Stella d'Ailly reflecting on the issues raised during the discussion.


In her book From Studio to Situation Claire Doherty describes the conditions under which many contemporary artworks now come into being. Doherty refers to those artistic practices for which the situation or context is often the starting point. "As practitioners, commissioners, participants and viewer, we need to understand the complex processes of initiation, development and mediation of this work. We need to question what levels of support this work needs (information, time, technical resources, distribution mechanisms and personnel)".
My presentation at the conference Retooling Residencies was about reflecting on traditional residence activities in relation to the changing role of the artist, and consequently the need of a flexibility and change in the residencies. I wanted to reflect on what might be obvious, that we do live in an ever changing reality, and that if artist in residence centers shall be able to use its full potential to play an important role for the development in both society and art it is necessary to be open to this flux, to manage to keep up with alterations in both society and in the cultural field. Not to be populists, but with a sensitive ear offer time and practical possibilities for artists to develop in depth with a fully contemporary context.
Referring to our relation to nature and romanticism I wished to discuss the challenge of development, how our luggage of ideas becomes the platform from which we perceive the world, and that carrying through change involves to be ready to alter our minds, both in the everyday decision and on a more profound personal level.

The thematic of the conference; Re-tooling Residencies, brings us in to a need of several definitions; What is a residence, what is an artist, which tools are we referring to, and how has the role of the artist developed until today?
The most common objective with a residence program is to provide time and space for unconstrained artistic work. To support the creation of something that could not be foreseen.
Artist residencies could be divided into three sections:
1) A traditional retreat model with guest studio and accomodation,
2) residencies that are process orientated and
3) residencies that are production orientated. Each one of these models has its own purpose in relation to the artist, the artwork, the local art context and the public.
Residence program that focus on the process intend to offer artists time in order to develop their artistic practice, to do artistic research or to network. The residence aims to provide conditions for an open and unconstrained artistic work. This can involve individual studio work, reflecting about artistic expression or researching for upcoming projects or a new site specific work.
Artists in a residence program gets the opportunity to create new personal and professional contacts and to network with the local artists community. The activities can in part be public, and include lectures, artist talks, open studio events, presentations of work in progress or performances. Those activities can be a valuable input to the local scene.
The notion of process also embraces the importance of artistic practice and content: the significance of the artistic process in terms of the new ideas and thoughts both to the artist and that are shared with the audience as a part of the art work.
In the 60's and 70's artistic research became an important part in the work process that preceded the creation of a work of art. Concurrent the creation process partially moved from the private sphere of the studio to the public space, caused by the process orientated discourse within modern art at that time.
Production residencies are however not intended as a tool to serve commissions from the institutions. The aim should rather be to reconcile artist research, innovations and open-ended production processes. The core in the activities should have the starting point within the artists own development, artistic autonomy and the interest in unprejudiced experiments. Succeeding in this, the residence centers can, at its best, contribute to groundbreaking progress within contemporary art.
It could be interesting to add a thought about the connection between how we perceive the artist role, how residencies have been structured and the historical references that still affects us. One important person in this context was Immanuel Kant who writing his Critiques 1781 and 1790 described the artist as a genius, which inspired the Romanticism in the 19th century with the belief that the contemplation of nature can lead us to understand the deeper meaning of things. A leading artist in this movement was Caspar David Friedrich who obsessed with death, God, and nature found comfort and inspiration in the solitary beauty of the landscape: "All authentic art is conceived at a sacred moment and nourished in a blessed hour; an inner impulse creates it, often without the artist being aware of it".
Artists of today have a different approach, and it is surprising that this is not always reflected in Residence practice. Not that this genre has seized to exist, but the contemporary development of new artistic movements certainly looks different today. Nicolas Bourriaud coined the term Relational Aesthetics all ready in 1995, in a text for the catalogue of the exhibition Traffic. He is best known for his publication about Relational Aesthetics (1998/ 2002) which has come to be seen as a defining text for a wide variety of art produced by a generation who came to prominence in Europe in the early 1990s, such as e.g. Rirkrit Taranvinja and Pierre Huyghe. Thinking about residencies potential capacity to support artists that have an interest in interactivity, a social and political engagement, and working in social networks, maybe that the remote little cottage is not always the most suitable place for an artist residence today.

Production in Residence
This kind of thinking was the reason why we at the BAC (the Baltic Art Center in Sweden) started a new kind of artist in residence program in 2004; Production in Residence. And all though modest in size this program has been functioning as an international raw model, both as one of the models to the planned development of HIAP in Helsinki and to a proposal for a new Artist in production program in the Nordic region, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
BAC started in 2001 by commissioning new works for its exhibition program. The gallery space was a former warehouse building from 1850, and the beautiful but strong character of the room required more or less site specific installations. Artists like Jessica Stockholder, Jan H?fström and William Kentridge created new works for BAC, collaborations that to us also included an institutional learning process about production. For example the invitation to Kentridge in 2003 was formulated as a rare opportunity to dare an experiment, to try something new in his art practice. Thinking about the exhibition space as a studio and showing all the sketches and drawings from the process, the collaboration resulted in nine new films in Seven fragments for George Melies, Journey to the moon and Night for Day. These experiences started us off in the direction of a process orientated production program.
BAC was at that time still planning to start a more traditional residence program, and an emerging member in Res Artis. As a board member I got a wonderful opportunity to extend my knowledge about artist in residence practice. One thing that I found striking, was that so many residence centers still related to the above mentioned romantic idea about the artist, the inspiration and the relation the nature. When we were ready to start the BAC artist in residence program we decided therefore not to start a traditional program. In 2004 the international development of residencies had already started to boom. Instead of adding one more like the others it was more interesting to try to contribute to the development of the field by starting a kind of pilot project. Our ambition was to start a new program that could be complementary to the already existing programs. We wanted to offer artists unconditional time and to create an alternative possibility for artists to produce new works (besides exhibition commissions and public art works). The ambition was to give all relevant support, and to start the process with as few limitations as possible. With no demand on a final result, some never became ready. The first artist to be invited was Yane Calovski from Macedonia, who among other projects transformed a conceptual text work by Robert Barry to a performance by a young pop band and showed as a work in progress.
BAC decided not to build a structure with permanent workshops and technical equipment. We realized that we would never manage to update this fast enough, and that the demands of the artists would change with every new project. Instead we built personal connections to a professional production network that could meet the most different needs, might it be construction workers, architects, soft ware programmers, mechanical workshops, tailors or pilots.
We realized that many artists today work with conceptual projects that demand much more than a studio and being left alone.
Collaborative solutions incorporated the local community as when the artist Henrik Andersson collaborated with the Cathedral in Visby on his work with composing a new tune for the church bells. With references to the current global conflict, suggested as clash between the Islam and the Christian world, he based this on to the Arabic tune scale which was once a common denominator for the music tradition of both cultures. This was performed on the church bells and heard all over the town every day at three o´clock for six weeks.
What we did build was artist studios, with good space, good height to the ceiling and a light coming from the north, only to discover that the main part of the artists did not need a studio anyway, they preferred to bring their lap top and to hang out with us in the BAC office space.
The PIR was by invitation only, and we established a jury selection process that we modeled with DAAD Berlin as one of the raw models. The jury nominated artists, and the final selection was done by the director, the chair of the board and the jury members. This conscious selection and invitation influenced the continued relation between the artist and the institution in a very positive way. When the institution expresses a strong interest this affects the traditional hierarchy and it made collaboration on an equal footing possible.
Then the artist was invited for a first visit, we embarked on a dialogue process, and coming back one year later to produce. One of the ideas behind PIR, the Production in Residence program, was that the production is in residence all the time. Practical arrangements, fundraising and many other things can be carried out by the art center also when the artist is not physically present. This was also to be seen as an understanding and an adaption to the reality of many international artists today, with a situation not allowing for a too long residence stay in one place.
BAC started the Production in Residence program as an institutional experiment within the frame work of a National assignment from the Swedish Government during 3 years. The commission included to think free and to initiate new ways of working with contemporary art. It seemed relevant to focus on the development of contemporary art today, both on an individual and on a collective level, and to bring forward a suggestion about how to provide relevant assistance. This was partly a reaction to an increasing situation in the art world today, with little room for experimentation. Except for the young and upcoming, we realized that also established artists can need an opportunity to develop their work independent from the branding that many has to deal with.

A growing polarization
Some years ago during a late talk with Boris Groys, he predicted a growing polarization within the art world, where the blockbuster art at one polarity in private or commercially run art institutions, and the groundbreaking experimental art in the frame work of the universities, what we see today as a growing interest in artistic research, and that the middle field, that is the art world as we know it today with public funded institutions, would gradually disappear.
Maybe we are not there yet, and maybe we will never be, but there is certainly a demand for visitor numbers and media success - both to satisfy populist politicians and to increase the income from entrance fees that play a more important role today when public funding is decreasing.
When art institutions are increasingly becoming a part of entertainment industry, there are few free zones left for trial and error, development and research. As Groys predicted, artistic research within the universities is one, but also the residence centers has the potential to be one of the free zones that can play outside of the commercial market and neo liberal logic.
Taking the production program at BAC as an example, it had limited funding, but by focusing on one thing, choosing also what not to do, the available resources could be concentrated on fewer projects. Also time became a resource when we invented a structure that gave possibility to fundraise between idea and production, allowing processes to stretch out in time.
The current director at BAC, Lisa Rosendahl, develops the program in a most interesting way. Developing new strategies for what we might call Research in residence, BAC today invites not only artists but also curators, theoreticians and researchers. Focusing on the disintegration of roles in contemporary art and that the role of the curator and the artist now blend together. Another focus is collective processes, where visual artists and authors from different disciplines collaborate on an equal basis, and also collective processes involving collaborations with several institutions.
From my experiences with the Nordic and Baltic network of residencies, I can see a tendency towards an increasing number of new artist run residencies. Maybe this is a part of the latest development of the Institutional Critique, when artists prefer to redraw from collaborations with the established institutions. In order to protect ones autonomy from public funding and the market they start their own initiatives, with less funding but with greater freedom.

To conclude
The art scene is in a constant flux, and if residence centers shall be able to support artistic development it is a difficult but necessary challenge to be flexible and open minded to the fact that everything changes, and that the structures we invested in before might not be valid today.
There are of course always different needs of various kinds of residencies. Artists in different age, different stage of career, and different art disciplines means that the creative processes are not alike and the air format must of course be adjusted to these specific characteristics. But with this in mind, I still would like to stress the need of flexibility, and to be observant on the development in the arts and the new needs that this brings. The obvious but apparently difficult task to provide a structure that is relevant for the artists. Challenging since this might involve negotiations with funders, politicians, regional development, adapting buildings built for another purpose, etc.
And there are no standard models to support the artistic process in an adequate way. To one artist it might be a social networking situation that is more important than that the studio has a great north light, in another the artist need advanced computer programming, in a third collaboration with university researchers and the fourth just needs time for reflection. This is not only about having sufficient resources, it is even more about how we choose to relate to what we are doing. How we look upon the artist role today, our objectives and the role of the residence to support development, both in society and in the arts.
Working with production support in residencies, what BAC did was to keep to the idea about Open ended processes that can include a happy failure. An unexpected result that in a traditional result orientated commercial sense would be looked upon as a failure. But a result that in a residence situation can be regarded as a successful outcome of artistic processes, even if this requires a long term perspective and might have a physical result not until years later.
A society that is running in an increasingly faster speed, and expectations on measurable results, generated income and instrumental use of the arts is creating this polarization between Block buster art and Artistic research. The residencies are one of few places that can provide the opportunity for professional artists to work "unconditioned". That can give time, adequate support and openness towards open ended processes. It?s the artist in residence centers that can maintain and create the free zone for experimental artistic work that is so much needed today.

Johan Pousette - founder and director (until December 2007) of the Baltic Art Center (BAC). His current position is Curator for International Contemporary Art at Riksutstallningar, the Swedish Touring Exhibitions and adviser to the Nordic Council of Ministers
regarding residence and mobility. Curator of the Gothenburg Biennale 2009.

Stella d'AILLY
Gelitin on "Boring Island" - the making of a dreamed residency.

From the beginning Mossutställningar was set up to encourage artists to use the public domain as if it was open and free for them to work in. As free as they might feel in a studio. Or ideally, as on a residency without the continual worry of rent and day to day bills. Not long after we founded Mossutställningar, Gelitin were asked to propose a public art project to be produced in Sweden. No other limits were set on them: no dates: no place; and no fixed budget.
This was in 2005 and Gelitin had recently used hay from Tuscany, pink knitted cloth and a bunch of hard working men and women to make a 60 meter tall and fallen "dead" bunny rabbit, gut open and intestines hanging out. The decaying process kicked off as soon as the last thread had been sewn, to slowly rot on a hill in Northern Italy. When Mossutställningar asked Gelitin to think of a new public work their initial response was that they wanted to return to the countryside, be away from the city. On the first site visit in late 2006 they had realized that a small uninhabited island would be isolated enough for them, the kind available in their thousands in the archipelago of Stockholm. Initially we looked at an abandoned island that the Swedish military could lend us, and Gelitin detailed their plan. But the military changed their mind when they found out what Gelitin wanted to do on the island.
Three years later they moved onto the bare rocks of the unclaimed island of Röko, wearing bright white wedding dresses. The year prior Gelitin fell in love with Röko as if it was a human, and the island does resemble the shape of a smooth bottom. The boat that brought the men to the island also carried planks, a water pump, a ladder, nails, lighters, sun lotion, plastic sheets, dry foods, cement, rope, long johns and warm jumpers, and a cast iron stove. It was on a hot sunny day and they set about building a shelter in which to live. During the month that passed the men became weathered, tanned and stunning. There was leisure and work. The dresses got darker and increasingly besmirched and torn. At night they would be repaired at the hearth-side. A stone bridge was constructed over the cleft (also known as the hairy crack of the rump) that divided the island. A catamaran built from plastic and wood sank. A stone sauna hidden in a bay stood incomplete on their departure. The illustrated book about their life on the island was dedicated to Florian's children. An advertisement with few details had been published in Art Forum including a drawing explaining the island as the butt of a body protuding through the water and the four members of Gelitin ashore. No press release was issued about their presence there. But they didn't miss the public. The island can be fittingly described as a roundabout, boats passing by in hundreds every day on their way from or to the capital.
Back home this ephemeral work was made more tangible through the remaining photographs. Over the phone we talked about what it meant and they still don't know. But their eyes had a new sparkle. We talk about founding a permanent residency. An annnual deposit of tired artists onto the island. The idea isn?t really formed yet but as we were invited to speak about Boring Island on the international conference on art residencies in Warsaw, we agreed that we could talk about "Boring Island" as a residency. I think artists who work, jetset and toil should sometimes get an opportunity to perform in other ways than expected. With no mod cons. and a wonderful surroundings of sea and sun. No internet nor phones. A temporary hermitage.
Lots of material and money to pay for their regular expenses, plus a salary for having a rough time. And inquisitive citizens, which regular residencies lack. The artists are usually hidden away in their dungeons and the citizens who pay for them seldom know they exist. Unable to ask the artists the questions that need to be asked about the work. Or why they are given the money. Perhaps that's why art residencies are tucked into sequestered buildings such as old factories or castles -indoors and upstairs. And if contemporary artists keep making art that is not beautiful to look at them at least they should be beautiful themselves. Outdoors.

Stella d'Ailly - curator and artist, based in Stockholm. Founder of Mossutstallningar, a non-profit organisation working to widen artistic production possibilities outside the traditional institutional framework.