- Interview with Maya Errazuriz, Fundación Mar Adentro
- Interview with Lado Darakhvelidze, hybrid artist and journalist-broadcaster
- “How to be at home” by Taru Elfving, curator, writer and artistic director at CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago
- Interview with Arie Syarifuddin, Jatiwangi Art Factory
- Interview with Pau Catà, researcher, curator and initiator of CeRCCa
- “Thoughts on Transition” by Léon Kruijswijk, Assistant Curator at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin
- Interview with Lidy Ettema, Residenties in Utrecht and Amparo Gonzalez Sola, choreographer
It’s been exactly 4 years since DutchCulture|TransArtists published the last issue of Station to Station, and more or less a year since the world went into a lockdown. This lockdown made us realize a new, reflective, issue would be needed. Without being sentimental for the past, nor too enthusiastic about the immediate future, in this issue we are bringing together artists, curators, residency organisers and researchers to reflect on how do institutions and artists adapt to (sudden) changes and what kind of institutions we can imagine after Covid-19?
No wonder the title of this issue is “Living on the edge” – although we are not talking only about Covid-19 and its impact on every aspect of our society, rather we are pointing to alternative ways of operating and existing in the (cultural) world, with or without the pressure of a global pandemic.
In her essay, Taru Elfving describes how some residencies (re)acted and (re)organised during the pandemic, and how residencies can be models for imagining new future and refuse to return to the old normal. Arie Syarifuddin shares his experience as a member of the artist collective Jatiwangi Art Factory in Indonesia and how, because of the travel restriction, they (re)connected with other collectives and different communities in their physical locality.
In the interview with Lado Darakhvelidze he speaks about the inspiration for creating work in these times, as well drawing parallels on the different approaches between Georgia and his current home in The Netherlands. Maya Errazuriz from Fundación Mar Adentro speaks in detail how they as an organisation dealt with the sudden changes of 2020 in Chile, where apart of the pandemic, the year was marked with lots of social uprisings. Pau Catà introduces his research into the art residency landscape in North Africa, and the perception of time in the (post-) COVID-19 era.
Lidy Ettema, organiser of Residenties in Utrecht together with the choreographer Amparo Gonzalez Sola, speak about the open approach of this residency, using the city of Utrecht as a concept, and about reciprocity between the artist and participants, with focus on the importance of the personal change in people, rather than high audience numbers. In his essay, Léon Kruijswijk writes how the private space has never been so closely intertwined with the public and professional space and how organisations translated the exhibitions or events that were planned to the digital sphere.
Among this collection of contributors and different perspectives, we are happy to reconnect and work again with the designer and developer from the previous two issues. As our tradition dictates, this is not your regular online magazine. In the first issue we worked with highlighted words, directly dependent on your browsers’ search history, while for the second issue there were audio snippets you could read.
Now, in the spirit of times, depending on your internet speed and connectivity, you will have the chance to read… or not to read the text. Because living on the edge primarily means breaking free of old habits and taking care of yourself and your immediate surrounding, and in these times of being constantly in front of the screen, overzoomed, and with a corona hairstyle, we are offering you the choice to do exactly that.
Interview with Maya Errazuriz, Fundación Mar Adentro
Yasmine Ostendorf, founder of the Green Art Lab Alliance, speaks to Maya Errazuriz at Fundación Mar Adentro.
Fundación Mar Adentro, based in Santiago de Chile, is a residency programme allowing artists and scientists to gain a deep understanding of Bosque Pehuén; a stunning 882-hectare natural reserve located between the Villarrica and Quetrupillan volcanoes in Auracanía Andina. The foundation brings together a network of collaborators with the aim of integrating diverse knowledges and perspectives to understand the complexity and variety of the world we live in. The forest itself is the starting point. Mar Adentro founded the residency as a private conservation initiative in 2006 with the belief that “to preserve, one should understand”. They conceived the place as an outdoor research lab. Ever since, they have been developing multidisciplinary and collaborative initiatives in art, education, and nature that raise awareness of the value of Chilean natural and cultural heritage. In 2019 they joined the Green Art Lab Alliance. 2019 was an exceptional year for Chile, as the social uprising that had been brewing for years came to an eruption in October, when millions of Chileans took to the streets to join peaceful marches, protests, concerts, strikes and roadblocks calling for an overhaul of the country’s economic and social model. It was world news, empowering for the people and offering real hope for change. Little did we know that this one exceptional year would be immediately followed by one which was, possibly, equally intense …
(Yasmine) How did Mar Adentro adapt or respond to the sudden changes of the last year, namely, the social uprisings in Chile and the pandemic?
(Maya) Since October 2019, we have experienced a multitude of changes, challenges and emotions. All of this has brought tremendous difficulties and hardships as well as significant transformations in our society. The social uprising made us learn to be more adaptive and we had to find new ways to come together for what was then still yet to be. But I believe that the most significant lesson we have had to learn throughout all of this is the need to truly collaborate, to come together and hold dialogue in this moment of a social, ecological and health crisis. In this, our work as a foundation dedicated to creating experiences that bring together art and science to develop knowledge, awareness and action for nature, has become more relevant than ever.
When the social uprising began, various sectors of our society felt there was a strong need to come together to speak about what was happening and to try to find concrete solutions. Many citizen-led meetings (or cabildos as we call them here) assembled to find common grounds and solutions to the outbreak of issues. These cabildos contributed to the political discussion of our current constitutional referendum process. However, many of these gatherings were coming together in specific segments – the cultural sector, or NGOs, the educational sector – all separately gathering. Hence we identified a need to contribute dialogue and exchange that could bring together the cultural and ecological sector: we conceived “Ejercicios Transformativos”, a series of round-table discussions and art mediation activities that address the following questions: What is the meaning of the human spirit? How do we wish to learn? How do I feel part of my territory?
These questions were at the core of the rupture our society was living. The experience was therapeutic and rewarding, in that we were able to achieve constructive dialogue in the midst of conflict and violence. This resilience I believe was an important driving force for what came in 2020.
The pandemic posed other challenges to finding ways to connect and, at least in Chile, to establishing solutions for the food scarcity that was a consequence of the economic crisis that came about after lockdowns and the loss of job opportunities. Everything we did was physical and on-site and we were forced to cancel or adapt all of our programming to digital forms. We also had to find ways to make our purposes relevant in light of all the issues the pandemic presented. So, for example, we transformed our Poligonal seminars into podcast format, and began exploring this medium which was new to us. We created a podcast series composed of three episodes on food touching upon the importance of traditional seeds and seed guardians; agroecology; food and social cohesion; food as cultural identity; and the agriculture-environment relation from an artistic, scientific, educational and even philosophical perspective.
Our educational team also launched Sala Libre, a series of creativity exercises to connect with nature from your home. In summary, we are lucky to say that the hardships these past two years have posed have enabled us to consolidate our team and they have given further relevance and strength to our purpose. If I had to choose three words that can characterise this process, I would choose growth, collaboration, and transformation.
(YO) Can you give some examples of the impact that you have been able to make in your surroundings, both in mindset and concretely, in terms of conservation of the forest?
(ME) When talking about impact it’s important to not lose sight of short- and long-term impacts: conservation projects are very much long-term. Bosque Pehuén, the privately protected area of conservation (PPA) we administrate through the foundation, was founded in 2006 with the purpose of protecting the araucaria (Araucaria araucana) forest. It is located in an area that previously suffered intensive logging and is adjacent to the Villarrica National Park. This in itself is significant as we are attempting to restore the damage that this place has suffered in the past, whilst acting as a biological corridor for the National Park – an extension of its territory.
In terms of research, paradoxically, many universities in the south of Chile have a hard time accessing areas where they can conduct onsite research. Therefore a central part of our work at Bosque Pehuén is to also to offer the opportunity to conduct research that contributes to the conservation of the species present in the temperate forests of this region. We have conducted studies alongside local universities such as Universidad Austral de Chile and Universidad de Temuco, on forest canopies and on the role of invasive species such as wild boar. Both projects are innovative for the Chilean context and these universities have also participated alongside University of California Davis-Chile in a global study of araucaria and the foliar damage they are currently suffering. Some of the results of these lines of inquiry have led to contributions to research, including a donation of newly discovered epiphytes to the National Museum of Natural History’s collection, and publication of scientific papers on the relevance of canopy studies.
The current caretakers of Bosque Pehuén are a family that has been living there their whole life, having previously worked with the owners who once had a logging industry in this place. It has been very interesting to see the relationship transform throughout these years from a logic of extraction to one of protection. Their knowledge of the territory has been key to the protection of this place. However, as I said earlier, we are still very much a “young” conservation project and we have much work ahead of us in establishing relationships with our objects of conservation, and in beginning to truly grasp a more profound long-term impact.
(YO) Did you deploy any methodologies or strategies that can that be translated from local to global?
(ME) More than coming up with new methodologies and strategies, we look to local and global references that have had extensive experience, and we find ways to combine and adapt this work to our own purpose and projects. For example, institutions such as the IUCN published a series of best practices and methodologies for privately protected areas of conservation that have been a strong guiding force for our area of conservation. We have also taken part in a series of ongoing exchanges organized between Chile and California by means of the Chile-California Council. They bring together local conservation actors from both localities to exchange experiences as well as to conduct a series of onsite visits, so that they can have a hands-on learning experience of conservation stewardship and management. Many of our team members also come from the art sector and have extensive experience in art mediation practices. The methodologies and strategies we have designed essentially bring together art mediation strategies applied to conservation management plan strategies. This is definitely something that can be applied to various contexts and territories. There is a lot of information and outstanding work out there, and what has worked best for us is to find the best approaches and then to establish innovative ways to adapt these approaches to our local context, bringing them all together under one specific purpose.
(YO) How do you see the role of Mar Adentro in introducing a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to conservation? What are the challenges?
(ME) We like to think of the role of Fundación Mar Adentro as that of mediator of multiple forms of knowledge and points of view, which come together for conservation in a transdisciplinary approach. An important challenge we have ahead is to conciliate within the territory where Bosque Pehuén is located. This means conciliating ancestral knowledge and the views and needs of the indigenous communities (mapuche) with the scientific, academic and public institutions acting upon those same territories. We are in the process of formulating and consolidating our territorial outreach area – we envision holding the araucaria tree as our core axis, so that we can develop a holistic conservation strategy for this species that truly places the mapuche cosmovision, scientific knowledge, and the public sector perspective on the same level. I think this will be one of our greatest challenges and, if achieved, a truly interdisciplinary approach to conservation.
(YO) Why did Mar Adentro introduce the residency programme and how would you like the residency programme to evolve in light of the pandemic?
(ME) We introduced the residency programme because we wanted to engage in research for nature conservation from different perspectives, beyond the scientific approach. Initially, we had explored Bosque Pehuén from a scientific point of perspective, with a view to constructing the conservation project. However, many of the members of our team, as well as the founder of the foundation, are artists, and that prompted a need to further expand these explorations via different approaches. This is how Bosque Pehuén Residency Programme came about. It was conceived as a multidisciplinary nature research station in which different creators and thinkers could contribute innovative research to our conservation efforts. At the time, there were very few residency programs in Chile, and there was a strong need for programmes to begin to consolidate that sector. What is most interesting about the residency programme is its versatility: it can take many formats, and a programme of this nature can harbor a creative thinking community. It seeks to positively affect a specific territory or context. Our programme is formulated to establish a relationship of reciprocity with its residents. We do not necessarily request specific results so much as ask that part of the resident’s research finds ways to contribute to this territory and to the people that inhabit, it in the same way that nature and territory contribute to the resident’s personal search.
Throughout the pandemic we were lucky to be able to conduct our programme on-site (with the exception of one of our residents, who participated remotely) in November-December last year. It was a wonderful way to end the year, truly immersed in a forest after being locked indoors for such a long time. I believe this experience shed light on some important questions that will help us evolve our programme through the pandemic and beyond. We continue to value the power and effect of the forest and are placing stronger emphasis on residents of the forest as the agents of change in their respective communities. Our role is to identify meaningful forms of interaction with these local actors and communities so that we can create collaborative projects with significant ecological-educational impacts.
Interview with Lado Darakhvelidze, hybrid artist and journalist-broadcaster
Hybrid artist and journalist-broadcaster Lado Darakhvelidze (GE) creates flexible participatory platforms. He focuses on media, often incorporates its elements, such as the format of an interview, broadcasting, even borrows its aesthetics in order to investigate its socio-political impact. In Lado’s work these social and political issues are not rendered through broad and general conceptual apparatuses, but through personal voices and narratives. Lotte Geeven talked to him about the role of art in times of crisis, via reflections on both Georgia and his current home in The Netherlands.
(Lotte) You recently returned to Holland after a period of time in Georgia. What have you been working on there?
(Lado) I have been interested in the role of history in the region. It seems to me that regional players have considerably instrumentalised these histories, and nowhere is this clearer than in the classroom. For this reason I have been collecting regional history books from the Caucasus region. The situation would be comic, had it not been so tragic. The regional countries (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey) narrate the same key historical events in their schoolbooks very differently. These educational as well as ideological interpretations have been very effective in terms of consolidating national identities, but at the same time, they have produced massive misunderstandings, and they often open animosity towards their immediate neighbours, which has led to many open conflicts.
(LG) Where does this come from?
(LD) Historically speaking, the Caucasus has always been on the periphery of major world powers or ideologies. It has been a contentious point between East and West, between Hellenic civilization and Persia, Byzantium and the Arab world; later, when the power centres shifted from North to South, it fell between the Russian and the Ottoman empires. Due to these histories, the countries of the region and its cultural as well as political identities have been transitional and fluid. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the small nation states in the region were faced with a power vacuum and had to invent their own identity and ideology, their own national narratives.
While I was in the region I asked children from the seventh and eighth grades to read these stories to me, and I recorded these history lessons. The idea is to create a website with a body of work consisting of comparative and reflective textual and visual material, with the aim of ensuring a continuing resonance with an international audience.
(LG) Did the children understand your intentions?
(LD) I gave several art lessons last year at public schools in Tbilisi, so I had already had some ground to stand on with the kids: I had their trust. During my lessons on composition, painting, colour and form, I found time to discuss history books with them, and these conversations also involved their teachers and parents. Together, we started unravelling historical narratives. I tried to show them the other point of view – somewhat different from the pseudo-nationalistic heroic narrative that is taught in the school curriculum. In my artistic practice I try to reveal structures that envelop us. Simply put, I like to make visible the societal bubbles we are part of or subjected to. Topologically speaking, these bubbles are called cross-caps.
(LG) Did you continue your practice during the current COVID-19 crisis?
(LD) During the first wave, like most of us, I spent my days indoors in my hometown, Arnhem. One morning my friend Roman Rozenberg knocked on my window and proposed that we respond to the city’s call for proposals for engaged social projects. Together, Roman and I started walking the empty streets and we drew up a plan. As a result, the idea for Museum TV Station: The Corona Edition was born. I have been working on Museum TV Station since 2010. The broadcast format and citizen journalism are central to this project, but this time, the pandemic created a new actuality and new context for the work. We wanted our corona edition to provide physical and artistic space for the active participation of fellow residents of Arnhem.
(LG) How did you start?
(LD) In the early weeks of May 2020, Roman Rosenberg, actor Jacques Riebeek, and I went out in the streets as a local Arnhem-news crew. Carrying camera, microphone, and folding chairs, we walked through the city centre, rolling along with us a COVID-proof Plexiglas shield which functioned as a television screen. We invited passers-by to participate in Breaking News, Museum TV Corona Edition. Many people were curious and happy to sit down and engage in dialogue with us. We wanted to hear how they were experiencing the pandemic and lockdown and we invited them to consider this matter through social and class dimensions, to locate and analyse their own placement in the societal stratosphere. The pandemic affected different classes differently and this was our opportunity to raise awareness of such matters – especially class – since usually, neoliberal discourse sweeps these issues under the rug. We applied some topological mapping methods from the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan during our street interviews.
By drawing a bubble (a cross-cap) that represents society, and asking citizens where they would position themselves, we laid a pathway for vital discussions. We drew these bubbles on the COVID-proof screen and communicated the concept of topological thinking to the interviewee.
(LG) You seem to be able to make people feel comfortable talking about difficult subjects. How does that work?
(LD) The mode of humour and a sense of understanding local society is crucial when planning street interactions. During interviews we employ tact and empathy with interlocutors. That’s why for this project I invited Jacques Riebeek, a Dutch actor who has a basic knowledge of Lacanian four discourse theory – Jacques is someone who would allow people to think out loud and make them feel at ease. We created a YouTube channel with three episodes based on these street interactions and we looked for a way to fictionalise them as scenes. In these times of corona, balcony and roof movement became a symbol for safe and meaningful connection between people. This sparked the idea to turn my studio roof-space into a safe collective activity platform, where physical distancing could be sustained, for and with our neighbours. We used it as a stage where we could perform scenes, sing songs, practice taiji regularly. Next to that, we broadcasted whatever we came across in our neighbourhood that we thought might be useful to share during these difficult times. These were practical solutions which help people to deal with the difficulties of enclosure, including online piano lessons for kids and the taiji lessons which were streamed live from the roof and visible for the neighbours three days a week for six weeks.
(LG) Did everything go according to plan?
(LD) As in Dostoevsky’s novels: characters who want to do good end up being obstacles to others. I felt this a few times during this project. On the roof we were shooting a video clip, The Sound of Music, at night when suddenly a neighbour screamed: “Hey, you! When is this all going to stop?” She had her window just beneath our roof. You know when artists are working on something they think is a great project, they cannot imagine they are an obstacle to others. This poor neighbour was fed up with our noise. But for the most part we are happy with the results. We are still in a process of digesting and analysing the project in order to move forward.
(LG) We are now in an extended lockdown in the Netherlands, will there be a fourth edition?
(LD) After the third episode I travelled from the Dutch bubble to the Georgian one, during the highest peak of the pandemic. This is a completely different story. I wrote a comedy script for the fourth episode about a Total Lockdown taking place in November 2020. Let me give a little sneak preview: when people arrive at Tbilisi airport they are taken by the government to so-called “corona hotels”. They are put on a bus without knowing where they are going: not the name of the place, nor the name of the hotel. All passengers in the bus are kept in the dark. Basically, the government is temporarily kidnapping its citizens, and everyone goes crazy in the bus. Parents with a hungry child, a man with a very bad toothache, a diabetes patient running out of medicine, a freedom loving student from a European university rebelling and lecturing about his right to freedom of movement. It was a bus full of people with their own plans and desires brought to the former Soviet skiing resort town Bakuriani in the Georgian mountains. In this imagined episode, covering the few hours on the bus, serious tensions take place, translated into a comedy genre but based on real life in times of crisis.
(LG) Is there a lesson to be learned for art institutions from your practice?
(LD) In general, art institutions have noble ideas! Many of them are trying to attract positive solution thinkers. In times of crisis, the engaged arts have a chance to intervene in their own localities through dialogue in order to generate a greater class consciousness.
How to be at home? Reflections on residencies in transition
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
- Arundhati Roy, 2020
When the global pandemic brought everything to a standstill in early 2020, many in the arts experienced a deep sense of uncertainty. Yet for some, busyness-as-usual also gave way for a desperately needed pause. As the state of exception has been extended for months on end, inequalities in access to funds as well as to time and space have been drawn into ever sharper focus. Who has the support necessary for adaptation, for professional reincarnation or amplification online, or for the balancing act of work and private duties of care?
The financial precarity of both artists and residency organisations has intensified. The situation sheds light on significant differences in funding structures. A residency’s funders will determine the profile of its residents. While residencies have in recent decades sprouted everywhere, the residents circulating between them are not representative of all the corners of the world, nor of diverse local arts communities. Strong public and private funding has allowed artists and curators from the global North access to nearly everywhere. Yet when their flights are grounded, the funding streams that accompany these residents also dry up.
The current crisis has accentuated the imbalances of power and access that have been persistent, even foundational, in the field of artist residencies, despite all the outspoken ideals of transnational dialogue and collaboration. It is high time to work out what the amplified calls for inclusivity and structural change in the arts mean for residencies. Who is not represented, whose practices are not recognised and supported, and why?
This is not solely a question of who travels and to where, but also of how residencies nurture transformative and reciprocal encounters across cultural, disciplinary and other boundaries. How to facilitate unpredictable trajectories and long-term engagements, rather than merely efficient exchanges with predetermined outcomes?
The pandemic has forced those who have the privilege to do so to withdraw to literal and metaphorical islands around the globe. Virtual connections have become indispensable, challenging the arts’ recent addiction to cheap flights. Feet firmly on the ground, yet work mostly in the Cloud, it is now necessary to reassess those circulations that make our work in the arts, and our very existence, possible.
While the pandemic has emphasised distancing, it has likewise asserted the urgency to think away from detachment. It is the latest reminder of the more-than-human communities that our everyday practices both impact and depend upon. What does it mean to be mobile at this time, when global connections are accelerating both the spread of disease and the exploitation of natural resources?
Due to the tempo of months-long stays, residencies have been able to accommodate quarantine periods when travel has been feasible. Residencies with sufficiently flexible funding bases have also been quick to engage more locally based artists, or to shift all activities online. This has spurred on the establishment of new models already in the making pre-pandemic.
These developments simultaneously slow down travel and speed up online activities. On the one hand, locally embedded practices and community-building are emphasised, on the other, international careers require presence in virtual professional networks. The cogs do not stop turning, nor the oil flowing, even when we stop moving. The ecological footprint of the internet and digital technologies already rivals that of global aviation.
Accelerated circulation, whether air miles or data flows, must be assessed not only in terms of its environmental impacts, but also in its social sustainability. What forms of mobility and connectedness could work towards socially just ecological transformations in the arts?
Redirections for reciprocities
Could the pandemic be a rupture in the all-pervasive flow of fossil-fuel-powered progress towards ecological breakdown? What kind of a portal could it be for artist residencies?
In recent years artist residencies have began to address the structural inequalities and unsustainabilities that haunt the present. Some residencies have identified their role as distinct from the commercial art world, focusing instead on collective, performative and transdisciplinary practices. As cosmopolitan cities are now unaffordable for many artists, residencies have become significant lifelines for local artists. Increasing emphasis is also given to regionality, as the problematic euro-centricity of movement patterns has become evident. Funding is redirected, for example, to allow artists in the global South mobility between neighbouring countries.
The critical reworking of financial models is only one aspect of structural reassessment that is happening at the heart of many residency programmes today. Some residencies are operating as collective platforms to foster the skills and knowledge needed for ecological reconstruction. Some have manifestly social and locally rooted agendas, while others offer temporary asylum and international peer networks for artists who are suffering under political persecution. Increasingly, residencies are working not solely across geographic distances – they are also working to bridge the boundaries between arts, sciences, and other fields.
The pandemic has also revealed how artist residencies are able to adapt their work to diverse conditions and contexts. A return to accelerated international circulation is undesirable to many, as slower and longer commitments, grounded in specific communities and ecosystems, are valued ever more. This paradigm shift might not be such an ill fit for residencies, after all.
The year of radically reduced travel has shed light not only on the potential of virtual connections, but also on the reasons why face-to-face meetings, embodied experiences and immersion in an environment continue to matter. Through these recalibrated lenses, it is time to ask: What does it mean to gain or to grant temporary residence in a specific locality today? What kind of reciprocal promises and obligations come with it – for the artist and for the organisation?
Time for rehearsals & refusals
As residencies work towards socially just and ecologically viable transformations, time is of the essence. Further emphasis, including new funding incentives, is needed for lower-carbon travel options, and for a slower pace in general. Yet this calls also for continuities beyond the model of a months-long residency stay, such as collaborations fostered perhaps even for years across distances and disciplinary or other divides.
In response to the current planetary crises, there is a need to focus attention both on locally embedded, and on globally networked approaches. Residencies can offer safe spaces for this urgent and challenging labour of critically situating our practices in the negotiations between divergent perspectives.
This demands acknowledgement that the work of maintenance and the work of mediation are both essential to the residency. Practices of care require attention in response to, for example, virtual and stay-at-home residencies. What does it mean for residencies of the future to act as homes away from home – both for those who are at home, and for those for whom nowhere is quite home? How can residencies cultivate sustainable practices on these trembling faultlines of interdependency between personal and professional lives, here and elsewhere?
The very notion of home calls for reworking today as it sets the coordinates for terms of access and of care. To recognise the planet as our home is to discover responsibilities rather than simply a right to roam. This implies that the temporary resident becomes a participant not only in a network of peers, but also in a more-than-human community specific to the multifaceted ecosystem that the residency is part of.
Now is the time to take time for collective, embodied, multisensory, imaginative, experimental and immersive enquiries in the face of many unknowns. What may be needed now, most of all, are residencies as radical space-times for reciprocity, recuperation and revision – as refusals to return to the old normal. Residencies can then act as rehearsals for alternative futures in the present.
This essay builds on my editorial research for the anthology Contemporary Artist Residencies: Reclaiming Time and Space (Valiz, 2019) – and, particularly, the in-depth knowledge of my co-editor, residency expert Irmeli Kokko. A longer version of the essay was published by the Finnish Cultural Institute in London in December 2020.
Reference: Arundhati Roy, “The Pandemic is a Portal” published in Financial Times 3.4.2020.
Interview with Arie Syarifuddin, Jatiwangi Art Factory
Arie Syarifuddin is co-founder of the artist collective Jatiwangi Art Factory in Jatisura, Indonesia. During the lockdown last year, the collective initiated several actions to mobilize support for, and connect with, local residents.
(Heidi) How did you deal as an artist collective with the travel restrictions caused by the pandemic last year?
(Arie) We have had to pause our residency program since March last year, but this was also a good thing for us because we could focus on the issues in our region. So instead of inviting an artist to come to us, we (re)connected with other collectives and different communities in the Majirenka region – we helped each other out. At first, we teamed up with friends, the local community cooperative and a motor gang redistributing food and hand sanitizer. Over time, together with the local hospital, we organized new COVID-19 test locations in the region. In August, when everybody was so tired and bored with the lockdown situation, we started to organize public events again. We set up a bodybuilding competition for the factory workers, all in line with health protocols of course.
(HV) Can you tell us more about this bodybuilding competition?
(AS) The bodybuilding competition has existed since 2015 with the aim of redesigning our cultural dignity, so to say. Our region is known in Indonesia for its roof tile production. There were about 100 roof tile factories here until the arrival of foreign industries for the production of garments – shoes for example – for global markets. So we introduced the cultural heritage of the ceramics industries in our region to the local authorities by organizing events like the ceramic music festival. The body-building championship is a way to provoke people's thinking. Through these art programmes we gently hack away at the government's system. Factory workers are strong and their bodies are well formed because of the heavy labour that they do, they don’t need to go to the gym. The contest is held between the factories in our region and the winner organizes the contest the following year. It became quite a hit, with factory workers taking selfies to show off their muscles. It’s an event people look forward to every year.
(HV) How did it work out this year?
(AS) During the lockdown we moved the event online. This did feel a bit strange, but it is an event that is important to the community. We also invited artists to contribute to a monthly discussion which we organized first online, and later also in person: a forum for communication about events in the local area and in other regions, and to facilitate exchange across these regions. Our village is located in a remote area, where currently big highways and other structures including a new airport are being constructed. The villagers don't seem ready for these changes. So we think it is important to make them more self-confident and conscious about their own needs, and about the changes that are happening around us, and to stimulate more critical thinking. We also invited the local gangsters, or hustlers as you call them – those who sell roof tiles for inflated prices, for example. It is interesting to see them become shy when they have to relate to the community in a different way. They are not used to that position.
(HV) What happened to your projects and exhibitions abroad in the meantime?
(AS) We are collective of 25 artists and over the past few years we have all been busy with different programmes abroad. Some shows continued, though directed from our home location. In general, thanks to the pandemic we have had time to slow down, rest, and reflect on our activities so far. One of these projects is the making of Terracotta City. We initiated this project in 2018 with an idea that we would redesign our cultural landscape so that it could become more sustainable, also in lifestyle. Terracotta City is not so much about the material but also about what it all means – the clay, the land, and our cultural identity – in a cool way and in the context of the massive developments that are now taking place. We made an agreement with local factories to do this together. In 2019 we introduced the Terracotta City project during the Indonesia Ceramic Biennale. It became our bridge to (inter)national attention and recognition.
(HV) As an independent artist collective operating within and outside of the art context, how is your relationship with your local government?
(AS) We always find a way to evade the restrictions, though of course we respect health protocols and so on. In Jatiwangi, the local government is also aware that we are smuggling new ideas through their policies. For example, for the Terracotta City project, we invited our governor as an artist in the Ceramic Biennale – not in his role as governor but because he is also an architect. In that way we included him in our cause, and he signed our declaration. We are not inside the government system, we are more like their shadow. Our projects aim to create awareness of what is happening, and to act upon that.
Interview with Pau Catà, researcher, curator and initiator of CeRCCa
Pau Catà is a researcher, curator and initiator of CeRCCa, a center promoting research and creativity in Llorenç del Penedès, a small town not far from Barcelona. Through CeRCCa, Catà initiated curatorial projects and research concerning cultural exchange in the Mediterranean. Over the years this has resulted in the North Africa Cultural Mobility Map, an online platform offering information about residences and mobility initiatives to artists and other art professionals interested in developing projects from within North Africa. Catà recently concluded his PhD research: Moving Knowledges. Towards a speculative Arab art residency proto-history.
(Heidi) As you write in your abstract, “Since the 1990s, art residencies have expanded exponentially on a global scale. In line with this development, grew a widespread interest in critical thinking about art residencies’ assets and, most importantly, their challenges”. In your research you state that even as these timely discussions take place, there is an important area in the history of art residences that remains under researched and lacks a cross-cultural perspective. What motivated you in this research journey, what was your inciting incident? Is it also connected to CeRCCa?
(Pau) There is no specific moment or event, rather, my research is the outcome of my interest in history, and my experiences as initiator and organizer of CeRCCa. It is true though that a particular text was crucial in my research: Annika Waenerberg’s Glimpses from the history of travel among artists (2005). Waenerberg’s short piece of writing triggered me to ask myself certain questions, particularly concerning the reasons why artists travel. Her article challenges the origin of artist residences, while including practices that engage with the journey outside of the artistic field. One such practice is pilgrimage, which is all about journeying, producing and exchanging knowledge, and documenting other peoples and places. This became a trigger for me to further explore and go beyond the existing history of artist residences.
(HV) And how is this connected to (contemporary) history?
(PC) We are living in an era in which we need to deconstruct the official (or hegemonic) history so that we can make visible other genealogies that have so far been neglected. The need to rethink our pasts springs from the realisation that our history has been too often adopting extractivist practices. The most clear example of that is Colonialism, and linked to it the exploitation of humans and non-humans. The need to care and interact with our surroundings through empathy – as for example is generally proposed by feminism – becomes urgent if we want to better understand and continue living in the place we inhabit. Through this ecology, what is proposed is to adopt alternative ways of knowing through care.
Care is therefore at the centre of my research and its proposal to challenge the way in which the history of art residencies is currently explained. Although little literature exists on the topic, there is a consensus that places its origins in the nineteenth century with the emergence of artistic patronage and the art colonies. It is interesting to notice that often, artistic patronage was based on capital accumulation, which became possible through exploitation during the colonial and industrial eras. Industrialization, or more precisely, its rejection, is essential to the evolution of art colonies which functioned as a way to escape grim circumstances in the cities. As argued by Mary Louise Pratt in Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (2008), the idealization of the rural within the European context went hand in hand with the exoticization of the indigenous in the colonies. Indeed, the many expeditions of artists, archaeologists and botanists to the colonies, which were aimed at documenting and gathering knowledge, often resulted in the simplification of the other – whether this other was a rural community in Germany, or an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest.
As the initiator and coordinator of an art residency, I found these possible origins, grounded on the accumulation of capital and exoticism, somewhat problematic. What became even more worrisome was the realization that these two foundational aspects of the art residency are not so much part of a bygone past, but persist in our contemporary context.
(HV) Can you give some examples how you experienced this at CeRCCa?
(PC) The creation of CeRCCa was the outcome of a process of in-depth research into the art residency field. Through this research one thing that really struck me was the nature of the places and spaces in which residencies take place. From fastuos castles to pastoral farms, beautiful islands or industrial loft-like spaces, it seemed that one of the characteristics of art residencies is that they happen in exceptional locations. That wasn't the case with CeRCCa. Although attractive and quite bohemian, the space of the CeRCCa residency is an old house that formerly belonged to a family that came from a poor background. Although situated in a rural context, the village is traversed by many issues which continue to transform its urbanism and landscapes. This contemporary rurality has often been met with disappointment by the visiting artists.
(HV) Why did you turn to North Africa as your field of research?
(PC) Besides the art residency program, since 2012 CeRCCa has been developing several research and curatorial projects that seek to exchange with similar spaces in the southern Mediterranean region. We cannot forget that Europe has not always been a fortress. In fact, through history, the Mediterranean has also been a space of encounters. Interestingly, though, this common history is often neglected. The aftermaths of the events of 9/11 shifted neglect into confrontation. As a space that is rooted in its local context and that wants to react to socio-cultural issues, CeRCCa was aiming to build bridges between the two shores of the Mediterranean.
(HV) How did you approach this new terrain?
(PC) Although the main art residency networks such as TransArtists and Resartis provide a rich and insightful variety of resources, in 2012 little information could be found regarding the art residency landscape in North Africa. Together with the Alexandrian based organization El Madina for Performing and Digital Arts, we set up NACMM _ North Africa Cultural Mobility Map, with the objective of addressing this lack, while at the same time setting the grounds for future collaborations. Thanks to funding support from ALF and SouthMed CV, the project was later joined by other partners from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Palestine. While addressing several of the issues raised by partners during networking meetings organized in 2016 and 2017, NACMM became the seed for Platform HARAKAT, a project that connected the different art initiatives, in thought and curated events, and that has become fundamental for my PhD research.
(HV) And how did you approach it in terms of your research?
(PC) In my PhD Moving Knowledges: Towards a speculative Arab art residency proto-history, the term proto-history refers to a time frame that starts approximately in the 700s and ends in the 1800s, when the official history of art residencies starts. By looking at Islamic and Arab intellectual heritages, and the tradition of the journey within Muslim cultures, my aim has been to provide new perspectives. Can the journey be understood not just as a physical action but also as an emotional, intellectual and a spiritual practice?
At the same time I asked myself: Who am I to propose an alternative histories of the art residency by looking at Islamic and Arab traditions? Indeed, too often history and its narratives are framed from a position of privilege and exclusion. Through identity politics, so in vogue nowadays, my identity could be seen as that of a white, European male researching from within the so-called western academy. Taking the above into consideration, there is currently a tendency to think that my privileged position necessary leads to the legitimization of hegemonic discourses. Instead, the history that I propose is both speculative and fragile, not robust, nor firmly structured or hegemonic. What I try to argue is that the research endeavour is fragile by nature. In this sense, through the adoption of artistic research, academia continues to be grounded in criticality and experimentation. The alternative history I am proposing wants to be able to be questioned and further developed.
(HV) The research is closely intertwined with your practice. What will be your next step?
(PC) As previously stated, my project is fragile – it is precisely this fragility which allows me to open it to other voices through collaboration. This is why I am now contacting several artists, curators and researchers from the Arab world to expand the project into a shared, networked and creative space while testing its relevance.
(HV) How do the challenges for residences that you have indicated resonate with the reality we find ourselves in today?
(PC) In a way, the overall topic of my research is the perception of time. This seems to be even more relevant to the contemporary art residency scene in the (post-) COVID-19 era. Essentially, what the pandemic has made explicit is a key aspect of the art residency: the monopoly of being present in a place. In my understanding, the practice of residences needs to further expand into processes of caring in a sustainable manner. How can we understand the time of the artist and the time of the art residency from a non-linear perspective? A time that goes beyond the before, during, and after the residency period, while at the same time paying attention to the logics of ecology and permaculture? Adding to that, the chronology I propose in my research is cross-temporal and cross-geographical and so provides, I hope, fertile grounds from which we can envision alternative pasts and possible futures for the art residency.
(HV) How does the current move to the digital relate to this?
(PC) In my understanding, the digital realm is potentially a space and a time that we also need to approach with care as it can provide some of the tools to solve several of the issues affecting art residences. On one side, the virtual space – though never understood as a substitute for the physical – can address issues of accessibility and privilege. On the other, through sustainable knowledge sharing, it can become an antidote to extractivism. This combination of tools (analog and digital) could give artists and residences the necessary information and interactions to start the journey long before they get on a plane to the next residency. At the same time, they can become key to the continuation of the project after the physical time in the residency finishes. The residency would be then a stopover within a journey, not the aim of the journey itself. This can open up other modes of working and living together in which artists and residencies establish an organic and ecological relation through permanent care. This care is not only directed from the organization towards the artists, but most importantly, from the artists towards the residency, as an organism and its contexts that we should inhabit together 1.
Thoughts on Transition by Léon Kruijswijk
“The world is bursting at its seams”, is a thought that has often crossed my mind lately, on reading or watching the latest news reports of occurrences that unsettle yet another element of our systems, structures and histories. This is something that we all experience from the microcosm called home – or at least, this is the case for those of us who are privileged enough to have a home and to be able to stay there. I think many would agree with me when I say that we are in a reset-mode, as if we are disconnecting the Internet cable for a moment to reboot. The moment of disconnection is taking long though, becoming – hopefully – a phase of transition with a yet unclear direction.
When the first lockdown was following the virus as it rapidly spread across the globe, art institutions saw their programmes close to vanishing into thin air. As a response, these were pushed into the digital realm, where possible, when having the means. Some of the online content could be characterised as the product of rushed efforts to translate the exhibitions or events that were planned to the digital sphere, to have a way to attract visitors in some way, as life in public space came screeching to a halt.
The domestic space has become the new centre of production, consumption, and political control, and this has only been accelerated by the lockdowns, as Paul B. Preciado wrote for Artforum 2020 May/June edition. Preciado argues that we are not merely confined to our home, but that home has become the centre of an ever-evolving economy of tele-consumption and tele-production, our behaviour traceable through the data collected by Internet giants. Indeed, even when only considering the countless online meetings that I have held from my living room in the past months, for work purposes or as a substitute for art events, it becomes clear how the private space has never been so closely intertwined with the public and professional space.
An example from the first lockdown that thought-provokingly responded to the sudden change is the Artists in Quarantine program of the museum confederation L’Internationale Online. Fifteen artists were invited to reflect online on their working and living spaces, conditions and places, attempting to grasp sudden shifts and to rethink the relationship between public and private space, both online and offline. The lasting result is an online archive with short videos, writings and posters – timely documents that reflect on the current condition of confinement. For the series, the artist Maja Smrekar blasted the left-wing anthem The Internationale daily at noon from her studio out into the street and through the windows of the neighbourhood – including the Slovenian government buildings. She began this practice shortly after the strict lockdown started there in mid-March, and continued until Labour Day on the 1st of May – a day that came to be marked by large-scale protests against the national government for using the pandemic as a means to restrict freedoms.
Other than that, the artist’s dog and cats responded to the daily-played song, which only strengthened the Russian avant-garde tradition of affinity between proletarians and animals, which holds both as important contributors to the production of freedom. The work is an example of how the small space of the home can suddenly become a stage on which the imagination runs wild, where fiction starts to come alive. Also, it shows how there is a thin line – maybe only a window –between individual protest in the private space and collective demonstrations in its public counterpart.
While the summer of 2020 allowed for possibilities to enjoy parts of what the art world usually can offer in analogue life (made possible only by the observation of strict hygiene measures) institutions and festivals had more time to rethink and re-strategize their fall and winter programmes. With intensifications of lockdowns looming, extensive online programmes popped up in the second half of the year. The annual Austrian festival Steirischer Herbst decided to have two parallel programmes: the offline programme at multiple venues in Graz also reinvented itself as the online media consortium Paranoia TV. This method of programming became an archetype for the way we live now – bound to our place of residence by governmental advice and opening up to the world through the Internet.
Ahmet Öğüt was commissioned to make the documentary film-essay Artworks Made at Home (2020; was online available until 31 December 2020). The collection of videos showed artists creating work in their domestic surroundings, and addressing that context. By doing so, they discovered and invented new meanings of home as a universal notion. The mundane rooms of apartments and houses become spaces for imagination, action and critique, twisting and mocking the ubiquitous semiotics of everyday life with a sense of humour. The videos from more than seventeen artists were made long before lockdowns became a global phenomenon. Nevertheless they remind us that feeling liberated in public space and having utter freedom of expression is not a given in any socio-political context. The domestic space often is a sphere for safety and intimacy, but also it is also a space for unfettered imagination and critique.
The wave of protests by Black Lives Matter movements that followed highly questionable events in the USA and expanded globally is another crucial phenomenon of the past months. The protests sparked discussions about deeply rooted institutional racism, increasingly prioritising this complex topic in the critical realm of contemporary art – at last, and, hopefully, with long-lasting effects. It became impossible for institutions and platforms to ignore this movement’s fundamental questions. Back in 2019, the Rietveld Academy and the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam (respectively a BA and MA art program) had initiated the introspective Unsettling initiative with the aim of becoming radically inclusive structures of education, actively working between and beyond their programmes and discourses. The initiative has organised, inter alia, walks, talks and events, and it has responded directly to racism experienced on academy grounds through thoughtful discussions of such moments with the academies’ communities. The ongoing program is a brave and necessary effort, which must be fully developed and realised collectively in order to pose the ultimate question: “who are ‘we’?”
2021 has only just begun. As the pandemic, with its far-reaching consequences, unfortunately drags on, positive tendencies should not start to flag. What these artworks and programmes can show us is that even though our cosmos may be reduced to a few square meters, expanded with an infinite virtual realm, the temporarily confined space can function as a site for discussion, imagination and critique. What they ultimately underline is that – pandemic or no pandemic, from a private to a political level – change should come from within.
Interview with Lidy Ettema, Residenties in Utrecht and Amparo Gonzalez Sola, choreographer
Residenties in Utrecht offers the city of Utrecht, in the middle of the Netherlands, as a workplace to an international artist. The concept was dreamed up by Lidy Ettema, with the intention to expand the residency’s boundaries: when in Utrecht, why work with only one organisation, for a small amount of time? One of the artists engaged on this city-wide programme is the Argentine-born choreographer Amparo Gonzalez Sola, whose residency began in 2019 and is still ongoing.
(Bojana) The residences you are organising as part of the Residenties in Utrecht programme operate differently to a typical residency, offering accommodation, studio, variety of working facilities, and so on. Can you tell us more about it?
(Lidy) Our residences are different from others because they start in a different way – from Utrecht’s rooted networks. A lot of cultural, social and educational organisations are interested in hosting the same artists, they all realise the value that this artist could add to their own audiences, their own students, or to the participating local residents.
Residenties in Utrecht started with this idea of sharing international artists and connecting them to different people and organisations in our city. In the beginning, this involved mainly the cultural festivals in the city, but almost as soon as we started, the (art) schools in Utrecht joined, as did the University of Utrecht, HKU, ROC Midden Nederland and the IMC Weekendschool. Nowadays, social organizations are also involved, with the result that we can offer the city of Utrecht as a residency’s workplace.
A residency usually starts with one of the organisations hosting an artist, and then we, as a platform, inform the organisations in our expanding network about this artist, attempting to make connections with as many relevant institutions as possible. It is a two-way relationship: the artist has opportunities to work with new organisations, but also to see what other connections they could make with what Utrecht has to offer. Our residency is for artists who want to share their expertise with different groups in the city. Before they come to Utrecht we are in contact with them, to see what they are expecting, and how we can plan their meetings.
(BP) Amparo, you were selected for the Residenties in Utrecht programme in 2019 - how did you come with the idea to work in The Fifth Season in Den Dolder? Did you specifically ask to work in this place or did it happen organically?
(Amparo) As a choreographer, my way of thinking about dance is in terms of relations. Over many years, I developed a project in a Buenos Aires institution for young people who are socially vulnerable, have problems with the law, have a drug addiction, or other issues. My project there concerned the question of how to rebuild relationships. In 2016 I was in Utrecht creating a work that was later presented at the Spring Festival. That was where I met Lidy, who became interested in my way of working, and connected me with some other organisations that shared this interest.
Among them was The Fifth Season, which offers professional artists a residency in a mental health setting. Hence, the idea developed: I would stay in Den Dolder as an artist in residence, while developing collaborations with other Utrecht based institutions (like ROC MN (Creative College) and Hogeschool Utrecht (master Community Development). I was invited to stay in Den Dolder for three months, and my first idea for this project was to work not only with the patients, but also to include the therapists, doctors and other workers from the institution. I was aware that the institution had a complicated relationship with the neighbourhood and so I thought it was important to involve the neighbours as well. The second idea was to explore with them possibilities for “reciprocity”: finding ways to give back to the community.
I didn’t arrive at the residency with a fully-formed plan on the theme of reciprocity, it doesn’t work like that. I made use of the moment. For example, every Monday there was a therapist cooking with clients and I started to join them. As we cooked, I would propose some exercises. This is how the project was made, step by step. My stay was planned for three months, but it was extended. This is another great thing about Residencies in Utrecht: the flexibility to develop the stay according to what is needed in the project.
(BP) Lidy, can you reflect on what Amparo said – how do you see this way of working, this holistic approach towards a residency? From your point of view, how do you deal with the logistics? I’m sure it requires improvisations from your side, but also good connections, and empathy?
(LE) For me, working with this kind of an open approach is basically the only way to connect people who do not usually meet. I don’t mean thousands and thousands of people, but rather, that this approach could have a real impact for individuals, which I find more important. Our mission is to bring people together and to overcome society’s polarization. One of our main selection criteria for the artists is that they are open to this way of working. That is why Amparo’s project was so interesting to us – we were thinking together about what the next step could be and what would be necessary to make it happen. The artists have to be open to the networks that they are planning to work with, and the same goes for the participating organisations. It is always about asking questions, both to the artists and to the organisations: What do you want, what do you need, how can we help you to achieve your goals? And just by listening, it is possible to develop good connections that are valuable to all of us.
(BP) The idea of reciprocity is a central concept for many residences, approached on different levels and in diverse ways. This connection with the community is becoming more and more important not only in the work of the artist, but also for the community itself and what is left behind after the residency is over. How did the community, and by that I mean everyone involved, react to your project?
(AG) For me this process was very strong and very rich, and I know the same is true for the people who participated – it was a transformative experience. During the project, everybody wrote what they felt or thought in a short message, and this made it possible to reveal connections and to create new ways of relating. As I worked on the project I was thinking about how to create value for the community that would continue after I left. I discussed this frequently with Lidy, and together with the ROC students who joined me in the residency, as well as the therapists, we created seeds for the project’s practical continuation.
(LE) I remember a visit to ROC MN school, where Amparo did a few workshops, presenting her project in Den Dolder and talking about why she was working there. Some of the students commented that they never thought art could do something in society, in a different way, rather than just presenting it as theatre. So this idea that the artist brought was really important for these students – and you never know in advance what the important idea will be.
These concepts can be small-scale but intense, so the artist gets invited to do similar projects for different audiences, because people realise that something is happening on a personal level with the participants and/or audiences. This is our focus: the personal change in people, rather than high audience numbers. We see these residences as really helpful in combining different audiences, urging organisations to work with more or less unknown organisations, but also in helping the city to grow as a community.
(BP) These kinds of projects are also never-ending, not only for you as organiser and artist, but also for the people involved. You were talking about the real impact such projects have on individuals, rather than looking at the audience as a number. How do you think this idea would translate to a different city, village or a completely different culture?
(LE) I think you could reproduce this idea anywhere, but of course it has to fit a city’s character. As Amparo said, her residency was not fixed upfront: what we offer is the city as a workplace, so the artist can experience it for themselves and decide what they want to do. We can connect artists with the right people and organisations. What our society needs is truly strong connections. You don’t need a guideline or a handbook for something like this – just be open, share and listen to each other so that you can try to find your way of shaping residences together.
Editors: Bojana Panevska, Heidi Vogels, Lotte Geeven and Lonneke Bär
Copy editor: Daisy Hildyard
Design: Miquel Hervás Gómez
Web development: Ulises Soriano Palao
Issue launched in Amsterdam on the 26th of February 2021.
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