AiR Collection: Undercover

AiR Collection: Undercover

An artist can be anyone: an anthropologist, a spy, taxidriver, stockbroker and so much more. This collection focuses on embedded artists and residencies  that are 'undercover' participants blending in a community, a system or a company.

The Trainee by Pilvi Takala (images above) has been produced in a collaboration with Deloitte and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. In order to realize the project, the artist was working for a month as a trainee "Johanna Takala" in the marketing departement of Deloitte where only few people knew the true nature of the project. During the month long intervention an initially normal-seeming marketing trainee starts to apply peculiar working methods. Gradually she shifts from the position of someone others believe normal to the object of avoidance and speculation.

The videos and slideshow reveal a spectrum of ways of looking after the odd member in a group. Sincere interest and bewildered amusement is juxtaposed with demands directed at the superior regarding the strangely behaving worker.

the spy

The artist who spied on MI6. It was a top-secret mission he couldn't refuse. Painter James Hart Dyke was assigned to shadow spooks for a year, sketchbook in hand. What did he learn about their mysterious world?

Hart Dyke with his sketchpad opposite MI6's London HQ. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Hart Dyke, a painter who has accompanied Prince Charles as official artist on four royal tours, and been embedded as a war artist with the Grenadier Guards in Iraq and Afghanistan, suspected an elaborate joke when he was approached by MI6, the government secret service that deals with overseas intelligence-gathering. "It sounded so unlikely that I reckoned someone was having me on," he says. His first brush with the spooks was a mysterious phone call – "it was from someone I'd once worked with, I can't tell you who" – followed by a meeting over a drink in a pub. "We found a quiet corner, and he sketched out the landscape. Basically, I was being asked to infiltrate MI6 as an artist! It sounded extraordinary. I couldn't have made it up."

read the full article here

The Secret agent

Commissioned by the AIVD, artist Jill Magid (former resident at the Rijksakademie) had conversations with eighteen agents of the AIVD. The codified language of the secret service was sometimes very poetic. 'You have to prove the white raven does not exist'.  This is what a spy could look like: 'His brown hair is styled with gel. The sides are combed back-the traces of comb teeth still visible- and the top is piled in haystacks like an oily Van Gogh field. He drives an old, dark-grey Audi that he himself calls black. He is 38 years old, has grey sideburns and an extremely large forehead. He studied history. He stutters when he is on the phone.' But a spy could equally well be a woman with a pointed nose and dyed, red-wine colored short hair, as shows from the notes of the American artist Jill Magid (1973). Or a fat man with a large face that speaks many languages and who is a also dedicated photographer. Jill Magid knows what spies look like, how they talk and how they behave. In the past three years she spoke for hours with the eighteen agents, often in anonymous hotel bars or at airports. She did that, remarkable as it might seem, on commission of the AIVD itself. Read the full NRC article here

the passanger

Tony Parsons undercover in Heathrow airport as writer-in-residence, collecting stories.

In 2011 Parsons was roaming Heathrows' terminals and air traffic control centre to find inspiration for a series of short stories.

Parsons: "Airports are places of extreme emotion where people come and go and experiences begin and end," said the bestselling author. "Often when we travel we find ourselves in such a hurry to get to our end destination that we fail to appreciate the individual stories and moments happening before us. Having grown up reading Airport it feels like an incredible opportunity to live at Heathrow and write about the people whose lives are touched by it. I am looking forward to sharing these experiences and to reviving the airport fiction genre with my first short story collection."

infiltrated in the british library

"You are feeling sleepy. Well, it’s a library isn’t it? Doesn’t everyone fancy a snooze around 4pm when you’re supposed to be researching the influence of muslin underclothes on the prose works of Virginia Woolf? Well this phrase might come to mean something different during the time I’m in Residence. I was delighted to be asked to be the Inaugural Artist in Residence and I think it’s great that it’s going to be a Live Artist. The British Library has such a rich history across all disciplines but it’s often forgotten how strong it’s links with the stage and performance of all types. I will be searching through these collections plundering and plucking shiny meretricious objects that grab my attention. I am going to be examining Hypnotists through the ages, both in Showbiz and Self-help and seeing where the research takes me. I will be asking for volunteers from time to time. The British Library is a vibrant, exciting place to be these days. It’s always packed with interesting people doing interesting things, banging away excitedly at their laptops. I’m going to be slowing them down, putting them under and freeing them from everyday constraints. Am I snake oil salesman or saviour?
Count down slowly from ten, and find out…"

residence blog


the taxidriver

Rawi Hage was the Vancouver Public Library’s writer in residence.

Tracy Sherlock: I read that you were a taxi driver in the past. What was that like?

Rawi Hage: It’s a wealth of little encounters — I won’t say stories — you have to develop these encounters into stories. A taxi could become kind of a chamber for intimacies, lies, tension. There’s this confinement of many emotions and lives. They are never direct encounters — it’s an encounter through reflection, you’re always talking through a mirror. The physical intimacy is never there. For a few months, I was driving a taxi with my book De Niro’s Game in the car. I always promised myself I would never write about driving a taxi, but then I decided to use the taxi as a metaphor, dividing the taxi drivers into two types: those who wait at taxi stands and those who drive their cars searching for fares. Extract from an interview by Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun August 29, 2013. read the full article here

Innovator-in-Residence, Aaron Koblin, an artist and designer specializing in data and digital technologies and the current leader of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab. - See more at:

Innovator-in-Residence, Aaron Koblin, an artist and designer specializing in data and digital technologies and the current leader of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab. - See more at:
Innovator-in-Residence, Aaron Koblin, an artist and designer specializing in data and digital technologies and the current leader of the Data Arts Team in Google’s Creative Lab. - See more at:

Find the artist

Embedded in Europe’s largest infrastructure project. Crossrail Limited has appointed Julie Leonard as its first Artist-in-Residence. She will create a pictorial diary of Crossrail, capturing many of the personalities and construction scenes across Europe’s largest infrastructure project. read full article here

the luxury hotel guest

Found in catagory ultratravel, in The Telegraph.

Luxury hotels are working with artists to document significant moments and special guests. We look at the most creative artist-in-residence programmes taking place in hotels around the world today.

Artist in residence David Downton captures Daphne Guinness in Claridge's. Photo: Tim Petersen

Claridge’s, London
Fashion illustrator and artist David Downton has the honour of being the first ever artist in residence at Claridge's. As part of his role, Downton will document through his drawing some of the famed guests who call Claridge’s their London base. Notable personalities so far captured by the artist during their Claridge’s stay include Diane von Furstenberg, Dita Von Teese, Christian Louboutin and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The Savoy, London
Claude Monet was the first artist-in-residence at The Savoy in 1901 , painting Thames views from his top-floor room. Since last year, the British artists Stuart McAlpine Miller and David Downes have been invited to follow in his footsteps – the latter using the lobby as his studio, to the delight of guests.
read the full article here

the psychoanalysis

For her Asia House artist residency, Eiko Soga is exploring how the building, its architecture and light and sound, reflect and relate to its current use where multiple activities are undertaken around Asia, and its former use, as the Institute of Psychoanalysis. Eiko’s inspiration comes from the attempt of trying to read between the lines of people’s communication with one another and their tangible reality. As an artist, Eiko is inviting audiences to explore their own boundaries between their inner space and the outside world and for them to explore their own boundaries through psychological and physical sensations.
Read the full story

the journalist

Jan Willem Petersen, founder of Specialist Operations is an architect and researcher. He initiated a research project in post war Lebanon and Afghanistan about the reconstruction efforts and its actors within, to describe the relationships and variables at play. Jan Willem spoke for Trans Artists about his experience and practical solutions to work in conflict areasSpecialist Operations received practical training at the Defense Training Facility (OTCGenie) in Reek, the Netherlands. The course, organized by the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ), was initiated in order to raise a greater awareness on safety issues when operating in conflict areas, included ammunition awareness and minefield navigation.

be someone else too?

The Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation Residency Program, supports the diverse practices of emerging artists, scientists, and innovators. A functioning laboratory hosts the Science Initiative, a world-class team of scientists-in-residence that is open to resident artists for collaboration and experimentation.