Antenna #3 - China
"How to take part in, and what to expect from Chinese artist-in-residence programs?"
"How to operate as a foreign artist in China?"
"How to establish a collaborative relationship with Chinese art institutions and initiatives?".
These are the questions that this Antenna addresses. We talked to Kira Simon-Kennedy; cofounder and director of China Residencies about the residency field as a whole in China, and to artist Charlott Marcus who spent half a year in IFP residency in Beijing. Furthermore we spoke with the director of I: project about running a residency in China.
This Antenna has been realized based on the event "Created in China. The artist's experience" that DutchCulture organised on November 3rd in Amsterdam, NL. We want to thank our colleagues from the China desk of DutchCulture, China Residencies and all the speakers for their involvement in realizing this edition of Antenna!
A Huge Boom
Antenna talked with I: project, which is a residency program that started in 2014 founded by the two curators Antonie Angerer and Anna-Viktoria Eschbach. They are dedicated to build support structures for artists and open possibilities for long-term dialogues between artistic, curatorial, research and other modes of knowledge production. I: project space is operating completely non-profit. The space is located in the old Hutong area of Beijing and is combining an exhibition space with a residency studio for visiting artists from China and abroad.
Antonie Angerer and Anna-Viktoria Eschbach with resident Michael Bodenmann on the left. (Photo: Antenna)
Antenna: We always try to advise artists to find a place with a profile that really suits their project. We feel that a good measure-made-match between host organization and resident artist is crucial. What kind of artist are you looking for? What kind of artist are you not looking for?
I: Project Space: We are looking for artists that want to get involved and become part of the project by formulating their own ideas. Each artist has to apply with a project. Since we are located in the Hutong area and our studio is not very big, fthe residency is more ocused on research. Also due to the whole concept of the space we are not looking for artists who just want to have a studio to produce, it is meant for artists that want to realize a project that can only be realized by coming to China. So we are looking for motivated artists that want to come to China and get involved or engage in a conversation with the space or its surroundings.
Artists are cultural and social changemakers, says Kira Simon-Kennedy, cofounder and director of China Residencies. Antenna met her in Amsterdam and talks with her about the new non-for-profit organization creating a directory of artist residencies in mainland China. China Residencies believes diplomacy shouldn’t just be left up to politicians.
Kira Simon-Kennedy; cofounder and director of China Residencies. (Photo: Antenna)
Antenna: How did you start China Residencies?
Kira Simon-Kennedy: It started when I was working with a friend, Crystal Ruth Bell, at Redgate Residency in Beijing. We heard about other residency programs in China. We realized those residency programs didn’t really know each other. And artists outside of China didn’t know that there were many other residencies in China besides the residencies that had websites in English. So we thought: let's just see and explore what is out there. We quickly discovered there where residency programs in all kinds of places and started to map them and visit them. Then the ball started rolling: “Hey did you hear of this other place?” and so we went from one to the other. We crowdsourced all of our information and tried to be as transparent as possible. We tell anyone: "If you hear of anything, let us know." because this is really how we found out about these places.
Antenna: Is the Chinese residency field changing?
Antenna: In what way?
Seeing the Light
Artist Charlott Markus was in residence for half a year at IFP in Beijing. One of the reoccurring themes in the work of Markus is dislocation. In her body of work she takes objects and dislocates them. When she went to China she asked herself: “ What would happen if I’m the one getting dislocated and how would this effect the work?” Charlott talks with Antenna about getting lost, making work, unravelling layers of meaning and the role of censorship in everyday China and in the arts. (photographs in this article are by Charlott Markus)
Left: a covered statue; part of the 'Seeing the Light'-ritual. Right: textile covering a car in the Hutongs against dirt.
Many years ago Markus was into film and during a film course she was following at that time she was introduced to Chinese film. She remembers being deeply moved by the works of the fifth generation of Chinese filmmakers who where dealing with censorship in a subtle poetic way. In these films messages and meaning where encoded in metaphors and allegories visible in the rich textiles and colours. This early encounter with Chinese cinema wedged its way into her current works and the ways she now is using colours and fabrics herself. Her journey to China functioned as a way to find out more about this symbolism. During the six months she spent there she took daily walks through the city, looking at ways in which fabric was present in daily life, going to textile markets, speaking with designers, gradually unravelling the meanings of textiles.
Left: a painted wall inside the Hutongs. Right: Installation of the work 'Matter of Gradation' by Markus at Intelligentsia Gallery in Beijing
During her walks she started to notice that a lot of objects in public space where covered with textile. Cars for instance were covered to protect them against the dust. Every now and then she would come across statues of which only the face was covered with textile. To understand the meaning behind this tradition she contacted a feng shui master. He explained her that the covering of the face was a traditional ritual for prosperity called ‘Seeing the light’. First the eyes of the sculpture are being painted by a feng shui master. Afterwards the sculpture is uncovered by the owner. From the moment on that the face of the statue is revealed it is alive and sees his master's eyes, who will acquire prosperity. The ceremony became a metaphor for Markus's own journey.
Listen to the full interview with Charlott Markus here:
A Visit to the Countryside
Miss Frog Wing in front of Lashi lake, close to Lijiang Studio’s residency. Photo: Antenna
Antenna was warmly welcomed by Frog Wang, the artist manager of Lijiang Studio. Lijiang Studio’s residency is located at Lashihai, a town of Hainan, on the south end of Lashi lake. The residency is immediately adjacent to a local family’s house, with which it has close bonds. Because of this particular situation they are interested in work that can be relevant both here and elsewhere. Frog Wang gave a tour. look here for an impression.
Breath & Whisper
The Breathe Residency programme offers artists and curators of Chinese descent an ideal environment to reflect on their practice, research and make new work under the support and guidance of the CFCCA team within an international setting. Residencies usually last up to 3 months. The Whisper Residency is open to artists and curators of any background, but they must be UK based and interested in exploring ideas around contemporary Chinese culture. It is the perfect residency opportunity for recent graduates or emerging curators who wish to have a "taste" of China, as the duration of the residency is only 3-4 weeks.
Experience: 24 hours in the Life of an Artist in Residence – Owen Leong
An article by Arts NSW ; an arts and culture policy and development body in Australia about a day in residence at Swatch Art Peace Hotel.
6:45am First thing each morning, I have a large cup of coffee in bed. My window overlooks East Nanjing Road and the Huangpu River. I check the air quality for the day on my phone, look for any urgent messages and speak with my amazing husband, who’s holding the fort in Australia.
7:15am I grab my bag and head out into the as the city wakes and people head to work. I catch the local bus to the gym, where I like to keep fit. The discipline of weight training and the focus of running both give me a sense of clarity and keep my mind sharp.
9:30am I walk back past the office workers lining up for breakfast at the morning street food vendors, or I catch the bus back to the residency. The hotel provides breakfast in the communal kitchen, where the artists gather each morning. It is a great space to share important information with other artists about individual experiences of the city and the residency itself.