CONFERENCE

Residencies and the art scene

How to build the prestige of the residency so that it could have influence on art market? What are problems regarding various formal statuses of artistic residencies (eg: association, part of an art institution, independent art institution) and how does this impacts on the relation with the art market? What is the legal status of the work? Speakers touched on the question of rights and ownership.
Additionally, speakers looked at issues of locality. Artistic residencies draw on the character of the place. Artists act as cultural intermediaries, communicating a different city narrative. In the wider question of creative cities, it is crucial to identify multiple perspectives which shape the image of the city beyond the property-led regeneration, laborious schemes of thinking about the place, or the virtual forces of globalisation. The working connections between visiting artists and the locale serves as the most effective way to foster real artistic, cultural and research exchange internationally. Artistic residencies help to redress the balance between the cities which are "creation centres" and other cities which are based on "importing" arts and culture.

Invited speakers:
Albena Nikolova (BG), InterSpace Media Art Centre
Friedrich Meschede (DE), Head of Exhibitions/Senior Curator, Museu d?Art Contemporani de Barcelona
Zoran Pantelic (RS), Artist, Director, New Media Center_kuda.org
Moderator: Kaja Pawełek (PL), Curator, CCA Ujazdowski Castle

Below you will find an insight from Friederich Meschede reflecting on the issues raised during the discussion.





FREDERICH MESCHEDE
I would like to start with a story that changed my thinking about residencies. In 1995 as a DAAD curator I was invited to visit Buenos Aires, where the host asked me to do some studio visits. So I went to Buenos Aires and visited approximately 25 studios in one week. Every time I asked the artist the same question: "What will happen if I would invite you to Berlin? How would your life look like if you came to Europe? Would you like to stay there longer?" And almost all of them answered: "Why of course I would stay there". In the conversation I learned that their first city of choice would be Madrid, due to the language, the second choice was Amsterdam because at that time it was popular somehow. And I was surprised that in the year 1995 their third choice for a place for living would be Berlin. So then I asked: "why would you choose Berlin, what do you know about Berlin and why is it so tempting to live there?".
And you have to know that the Institute in Buenos Aires I visited back in 1995 had no exhibition space but a very big cinema. And one of the most popular film screened there was Wim Wenders' "Wings of desire". As a consequence all the artists I interviewed were dreaming of Berlin, remembering Wenders? movie. This was a very important experience for me that a movie, in a very random manner, could be so influential and encourage all these artists to leave their country.
I figured out that a term 'brain drain' that we refer today to the field of science and technology, could describe the situation I encountered in Buenos Aires back then. At the final meeting with the Institute board members and explained that I can't invite anybody, but I can give you some very important advice: you should immediately do an artist in residency programme in Buenos Aires. You should connect the artists here, and encourage the local artists to get to know the international world, by bringing other intellectuals to work in Buenos Aires and open the artists' community to the international art world.
You can imagine, that my host and the members of the board were deeply disappointed about this advice, but still, due to my research at that time, there was even a facility created with a possibility to organize a residency programme. Coming back to Buenos Aires, although the situation in Argentina dramatically improved, I think that are still more of such 'Buenos Aireses', and more residencies have to be organized.
In 1963 when the American Henry Ford Foundation initiated an aritists' residency programme for Berlin, you must imagine that the city was in a terrible state. It was not the Berlin we know nowadays, flourishing with culture, full of energy and initiatives. The first artist who came there in 1964 was Emilio Vedova, a painter from Venice, a city very rich in culture, a city of the Renaissance, so this painter who had a very rich cultural background came to Berlin. In 1964 there was no National Gallery, the New National Gallery by Mies van der Rohe was not built until 1968, no music hall, no concert hall. And in this situation Vedova, accepted to come to Berlin, which builts an interesting contrast.
The artists invited to Berlin by the DAAD are staying for one year. And this is the reason why, in my opinion, this residency is so different to many others. Firstly, we invest a lot of effort to bring our guests to Berlin for more than three months. Because of the legal issues, many residencies last up to 3 months. Nobody wants to invest the effort to force the administration and the ministry of foreign affairs to release a visa for one year. Even in today's Europe it is still a lot of work. I remember when we invited Pavel Braila from Moldova or when we invited an artist from China these days we still had to work months to get the visa, a permission to stay for one year, not as a tourist but as an artist.
And as I already mentioned, the duration of the residency is the very crucial and very important difference comparing to other residencies. We do not invite anybody as a tourist, we want an artist to stay in Berlin for one year and to live there as a citizen, that means we have to organize health insurance, visa for four or five people as the artists often visit Germany with their families, which also means school places, kindergarten places etc.
This is a lot of work before the artist even arrives in Berlin. This 'one year' issue is so important because, after 3 - 6 months every artist feels lonely, homesick and it happens of course that a few artists called me and said "I can't live here anymore. Do I have to pay back the monthly grant if I leave the city? What will happen if I leave now?". I explain, that you were invited as a guest, not as a prisoner, so if you want to leave, do so. And of course this has happened as well, few artists couldn't stay that long or they were coming with their families and hey were leaving the next day to their home countries. But since there are a lot of artists in this programme (about 20 per year) we don?t talk about it so much in public. It also happens that an artist is not simply ready to stay for one year but we try to do our best.

Friedrich Meschede - From 1985-88 Meschede was assistant curator to Kasper Konig and Klaus Bussmann for the "Munster Skulptur Projekte 1987" in Germany. 1992-2008 worked as Head of Department of Visual Arts at the Berliner Kunstlerprogramm/ DAAD.