Artist Residencies: A Report by Shiro Masuyama

Artist Residencies: A Report by Shiro Masuyama


My home town (Fujinocho, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Pref) is known as an artistic village and there were some artist-in-residence programs such as "Fieldwork in Fujino" and "Austrian artist house" in which Austrian artists are invited for homestays. Wolfgang Thaler, the artist whom I met in Vienna, had been a hitchhiker I had come across in a mountain in Fujino a half year before. He had stayed in the "Austrian artist house" located in an isolated area in Fujino, where only a few buses are available each day. He said "Although Japan is popular among overseas artists and a place they want to go, it is inconvenient that there are hardly any artist-in-residence opportunities near Tokyo."

Though the number of artist-in-residence programs is increasing around Tokyo nowadays, there were very few such programs in 2001. At that time, I lived in an apartment house owned by my parents. Therefore, when I listened to the frank opinion of Wolfgang, who was in the same situation as me, I thought I may be able to implement a program in which I invite overseas artists and introduce them to Japan if I use my own apartment house. I really wanted to realize my idea. Since 2001, I have joined a total of 9 programs as an invited artist. These include:

  • ISCP - one of the most famous international residences in New York,
  • "Hangar" in Barcelona - representing Spain,
  • "Bethanien" - a pioneer of the residence system in Berlin,
  • "IMMA" - the only museum of modern art in Ireland,
  • "IASK" - run by the National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea,
  • and "National Art Studio Goyang".

I have enriched my experience and knowledge of artist-in-residence programs because I am a conceptual artist who may have been inspired by learning architectonics in my school days and who keeps changing works and ideas according to the environments in which I operate. As well, to successfully start a residence program, I believe it is essential to learn the necessary management skills and to foster the required networks. Since 2006, based on my rich experience and networks, I have realized my own residence project "ART No.11" in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, helping to achieve my original plan, and leveraging my position as an artist who continues to travel like a nomad.

Some programs provide not only financial support and residential accommodation, but also studio and exhibition space. Needless to say, such support-rich programs are highly competitive if they are publicly offered. I am disappointed that mainly residences in developed countries (as well as residences in developing countries that are firmly supported by developed countries and through companies) tend to be popular. However, if you search closely resource sites for residence programs such as TransArtists or Res Artis, you will find many good programs which, whilst not financially supported, are valuable for an artist. Also, if your budget is not sufficient when the residence accepts you, money from subsidies and scholarships may be available. You, the wise readers who have read this far, might wonder what the good residence programs that I mention are. The residence means an important way to introduce an artist's work that may previously not be known within the local art community.

Accordingly, the residence can be a good chance to join local art scenes. However, for better or for worse, the artist who joins the program is a "guest" in that place for the residential term. The instance that I feel "This stay is fulfilling." is when I successfully create good relationships and connections with the locals, which enables further steps and activities. Therefore, hosts of the residences should prepare support material for the prospective artist-in-residence that enables the artists to easily assimilate into local art scenes. In terms of location, residence programs can be categorized into urban-type or suburban-type. Because I create works related to the human condition, centred upon a theme of communication, I have chosen urban residences intentionally. I believe this has worked for me. In many cases, I have been able to build nice relationships with the local artists for the after-stay period, because there are always a variety of art scenes in urban cities. Meanwhile, in the case of suburb-type residence programs, you can create your works, relaxed and refreshed in the natural environment.

You cannot expect many guests if you hold exhibitions in a suburban program, because of the location. However, having to entertain fewer guests provides other opportunities, such as it being easier to build up a close relationship with other artists, because you can socialize with them frequently.The residence system might be effective for not only artists like me, who have difficulty working in a project-based market, but also for artists who are unable to make a stable income. This is because it can be a way for such artists to earn income apart from through a commercial gallery or mainstream exhibition. However, it is true that I cannot recommend an in-residence program for all artists, as some art styles make it difficult to accept the change of the work environment that is required. Accordingly, you should confirm in advance whether the program you are considering matches your style or not.

ART No.11