Residency at ArtCEB, Botopasi, Suriname

(c) Julian Vadas

Residency at ArtCEB, Botopasi, Suriname

"I am thrilled to describe my experience during a two-month residency period at ARTCEB, in Botopasi Suriname, at the end of 2011.

Botopasi is a small village deep in the vast expanse of mostly untouched Amazonian rainforest in the interior of Suriname, South America. Populated by the friendly Saramaccan people, Botopasi is a special location. It is extremely remote. We had to travel several hours by boat to reach the village from the last stop of the roadway (although small airplanes do service Botopasi).

The endlessly charismatic Isidoor Wens is the organizer of ARTCEB. Having been born and raised in Botopasi, but also having been a professional artist and gallerist in the Netherlands; Isidoor is perfectly suited to facilitate the residency of foreign artists in Botopasi. He goes out of his way to ensure a maximized experience for his residents in his home village. He enables the relevant opportunities to interact with the locals and learn about the local customs. Furthermore, he can easily make arrangements for local excursions into the rainforest or to nearby villages.

ARTCEB proved the perfect setting for my residency goals, although I am sure it is not the best fit for everyone. The remote setting and casual atmosphere of the village would limit the logistical feasibility of some projects, but that is kind of the point. I see an artist’s residency as an opportunity to shine new light on one’s relationship with their own art by way of altering the setting and constraints of the conception, creation, and presentation of it. By this approach, ARTCEB is an aptly suited place to conduct a residency.

The limitless potential for new artistic insights at ARTCEB has a direct relationship with the decidedly limited logistical capacities of the location. It is a long and not so simple journey to arrive at Botopasi. Art supplies are almost impossible to get a hold of in the capital of Paramaribo, let alone in the depths of the interior. Electricity is available only a few hours each evening, and even then it is prone to go out. Internet is extremely erratic and likely unavailable much of the time. Time of day and even the day of the week are almost completely ignored in the village. It is very hot and there are a lot of bugs.

It may sound like I am listing grievances, but rather I am listing advantages. This type of setting will definitely shake up how you approach your project. I see that as very helpful, and difficult to reproduce in another setting, even if it may be frustrating momentarily. The certain obstacles that one will face here obligate the artist to develop their ingenuity to arrive at a successful artistic conclusion, gaining much insight into the process.

A certain artistic method may seem obvious in a modern atelier, but in a sweaty, buggy rainforest village with the local children scrutinizing your craft with curious befuddlement, the seed of reconsideration will grow. As the children and other residents question what in the world you are doing, so will you also. There is no better way to evolve your process than by applying such an organic method of inquiry to it.

I cannot endorse the residency at ARTCEB enough, but it is necessary to have realistic expectations. If you seek the unhindered execution of a preconceived project specifically as envisioned, perhaps seek another venue. Rather if you want to challenge yourself, have a lot of fun and new experiences, and grow as an artist and as a person, this may be just what you’re looking for."

Julian Vadas – New York, USA


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