Air Treffen Day 1 Kunsthaus Essen

Air Treffen Day 1 Kunsthaus Essen

October 14, 2010

The packed cafe-coffeebar space of Kunsthaus Essen was the ideal starting location for the AiR Treffen: we were friendly connected to each other in a lively atmosphere. Words of welcome were spoken by Johannes Gramm, president Kunsthaus Essen and by Uwe Schramm, director Kunsthaus Essen.


During a 2-hour round the AiR-organizations at the Air Treffen presented their programmes, intentions, and aims; so everybody got to know who is doing what, where and how. The AiR pitch made a big impression on all people present, because of the rich variety and power of initiative. See the right column for an overview of the presentations.

Panel 1: AiR Flux

AiR-Flux focused on recent developments in the AiR sector in NL and DE.

  • Which AiR-models can be discerned?
  • What developments took place recently?
  • What's going on now among AiR-programs, and what can we learn from it?

AiR Flux introduction by Heidi Vogels

Heidi Vogels, coordinator of the AiR Platform NL, gave an overview of recent developments in the Dutch artist-in-residence sector. In her talk she stressed the fact that ideas about how to create facilities for artists' mobility are continuously in flux.

Even when host-organizations manage to set up a stable and consistent program, things continue to change: the funding organization changes its policy, or the city develops a new cultural policy, or the building needs repair, or the artists change their ideas of staying in residence. Therefore as host you need to have a strong answer to the question:"What is my idea behind giving artists this specific opportunity to stay and work physically here?"

Christiane Kuhlmann, curator at Kunsthaus Essen, moderated the discussion firmly, by sticking to the question how to handle this continuous AiR flux.

AiR flux: sowing desire, harvesting despair?

The AiR flux seems to create desire and despair: that was an important issue during the discussion. Despair is a big word, but indeed more and more artists apply for residency programs, and more and more residencies search for the perfect match with the ideal guest. So much efforts from both sides! The residencies working on even better procedures, the artists writing even better applications, with only a very small chance of being chosen.

  • How to deal with the increasing offer and demand?
  • How to stand out with your residency program amidst all those other residencies?
  • How to avoid becoming too competitive and too demanding?
  • How to create fair application procedures, in order to avoid frustration?

* Uwe Schramm (Kunsthaus Essen) said that artists always will try to use all available channels to be able to work and to get into the art circuit, artist-in-residence programs are no exception. So don't be too stressed about this competitive mood, it will always be there. Try to offer your AiR program as you want it to be, as good as it can be.

* Maja Bekan (Kunsthuis Syb) pointed out the advantages of an ongoing application procedure, which works very well at Kunsthuis Syb. So: no deadlines, no postbags full of applications. Instead a continuing opportunity to send in applications. Because of this the candidate sends in a project proposal at the moment it suits him or her. And the residency host can enter in a dialogue with the candidate about when and how to realize the proposal.






* Peter Schmieder (Künstlerhaus Dortmund) told about the changes in strategy of the Künstlerhaus residency program. They were "fed up with" all those proposals of artists trying to do something with the coal mine history of the Künstlerhaus. Now the residency program is limited to a yearly Summer Residency for one artist, which is embedded in the whole program of the Künstlerhaus. The residency is 'only' part of the program. By giving clear information on the website about its profile and projects the Künstlerhaus makes clear what kind of residency program they run, and what kind of future candidates are asked for. There is still an open application. But...only one will be lucky. Everybody knows that. It's the way it is. Fair enough.

* Sarah Indenherberge (FLACC) explained that at FLACC there is no application in the form of a project proposal. At FLACC everything revolves around developing a project together with the artist. It all starts with mutual confidence and from then on creating the working period. FLACC wants to develop projects, of which the artist never would have dreamt before.

* Jantine Wijnja (Hotel Mariakapel) stressed the importance of the conviction of the residency. At Hotel Mariakapel the guests are asked to confide to very clear demands, such as producing an exhibition at the end of the residency. The specificity of the location, facilities and context of Hotel Mariakapel ask for a specific way of working. Be clear about your conviction, so artists will know why they would apply and if they make a chance or not.

Panel 2: "Long-distance Romancer"

"Is a residency still about being far away physically? Could it also be about a change in attitude, nearby? Sometimes I decide just to sit down in another chair. I close my eyes. I'm elsewhere. It's an inspiring experience." With this impression moderator Phoebe Helmhold, designer at Essen, started the 2nd panel at Kunsthaus Essen.


Video message by Odile Chenal

Odile Chenal, program director at the European Cultural Foundation, sent us a video message: "The concept of an artists' residency is no longer attached to geographical mobility. While formerly a residence was about going somewhere else in a geographical sense, and mainly outside one's own country, artists also want to go now in residencies in their direct environment, in their own cities. They can experience difference there and be challenged in working in a social, cultural, or professional context they're not familiar with. In fact 'Otherness' can be, in distance, very close!"

Chenal's video message sparked a lively debate. Each panel member strongly advocated the value of either long-distance or around the corner.

Henry Alles (P.A.I.R.) passionately supported Odile Chenal's message. According to him it becomes difficult to discern what is different and specific about an environment elsewhere, because of the process of globalization. What used to strike us as clear otherness is now hidden under a globalized, seemingly accessible layer of familiarity (English language, MacDonald's, soap television series, highways, apple computers, etc.). The team of the nomadic Peer Artists In Residence acts from the conviction that in your own environment, in your local culture, you can discern where the differences are, what is really specific, what is really at stake.

Felix de Clerck (AIR Antwerp) passionately defended the so-called 'old style' residency. It's wonderful, he said, to have this once-in-your-lifetime experience of artistic freedom far away from home. An artistic freedom, which is generated by a physical freedom, a freedom to be detached and cut off from your comfort zone. That is what you need and what will stimulate you to think over the routine in your perception.

Gaston ten Horn (M4 Guest Studio) told how one of the most succesful residencies at M4 was the project by an artist who lived in the same building. In her own bed, behind her own desk, at her own table she couldn't concentrate on the project. She only could do this project by closing the door of her own appartment, cutting herself off from daily routine, and then staying for two months at the residency studio 10 meters around the corner.

Rob Groot Zevert (Foundation GANG) explained the reasons to start a residency appartment in Oberhausen, Germany, which is just half an hour across the border from where he lives in Arnhem, the Netherlands. To deal with people, who are just a little bit different from what you are used to, is a big challenge; because you can not stay romantic, you can not stay with first impressions. An AiR nearby makes you really get to know the other better.

Kim Zieschang (One-Month-Marxloh) supported the idea of short-distance and also short-term residencies. Many artists don't want to go far away for a long time, because of limited finances and because of professional obligations, family life, and friends. A big advantage of the residency project at Marxloh, which she set up for 6 artists from Rotterdam, was the opportunity for the artists to dive into the former industrial Marxloh environment without being totally cut off from their Rotterdam environment. So there was the possibility of an ongoing dialogue.

Rona Rangsch (Künstlerhaus Dortmund) concluded the discussion by speaking wise words: all those options (long-term & short-term, long-distance & short-distance) of course are no general guidelines, let alone dogma's. It all depends on the demands of the residency host as well as residency guest. Different models exist next to each other. But it is indeed clear that from both sides, hosts ánd artists, there is a strong need to adjust the existing concepts of artist-in-residence to changing demands and circumstances.