The artist in a residence. What is one doing there?

Шишимская горка
09:31, 09 ноября 2020
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"Shishim Hill" publishes a series of texts, which provides insight into various components of the processes around an art residence.

Ars Virtua Artist in Residence: Minecraft Edition, 2014–2015

Ars Virtua Artist in Residence: Minecraft Edition, 2014–2015

An artist came to the residence. What exactly does this mean for an artist? If you consider a residence as a mere act of moving in space with a long term stay at the destination point, it automatically turns into a rather troublesome matter. Just think about it: you are leaving home for one to six months, you need to figure out who will look after the apartment (or is it better to sublet?), what to do with the kids if they cannot join you in the residence? And what about the pets? Plants? And about personal life? And work? And other obligation that require your attendance? First of all, before arriving an artist solves everyday issues that are not directly related to the residence. And yet, what is an artist doing in a residence?

The artist dwells in a residence. Residence viewed as a spatio-temporal unity, with which the artist literally interacts, serves as one of the few pillars for a conventionally feasible theory of art residences. The most authoritative international theorist of residences, Pascal Gielen, defines an art residence through the concept of “chronotope”, which has been long familiar to the Russian reader [1]. However, the immediacy and uniqueness of experience implied here are challenged by the new realities of virtual residences. Strictly speaking, by 2020 virtual space has been proven peculiar more than once, and the course of unearthly time has also been massively studied. For example, there are art residences in gaming environments, and doubting the authenticity of their chronotopes would mean a swift return to the era of steam; but can numerous pandemic-era phantom digital practices of classical residences, which developed under the ideology of virtuous mobility, can be called residences?

Ars Virtua Artist in Residence: Minecraft Edition, 2014–2015

Ars Virtua Artist in Residence: Minecraft Edition, 2014–2015

Indeed, has not the entire world become a residence, having been held hostage by the pandemic? After all, here lies one of the answers to our question: in a residence the artist slows down the time. The residence is an opportunity for a new routine, which is justified and built into the frame of contemplating the artistic process. The main circumstance of this temporary routine: its mechanism starts from the simple friction of random, mostly unpredictable elements. The fact that matches and candles are always at hand does not mean that they will be used, or that extremely slow time will not become dense again with the musk of new ideas and grow so heavy that having left the residence routine it will rush in an ordinary sleepy world with the speed of ideas eager to be implemented. In other words, slow time is an opportunity for concentration, which inevitably leads to acceleration. The intrigue lies in the point when during (after) the residence this will happen.

The hasteless residence time is also an opportunity to overcome crisis, because a residence is the place where an artist finds answers to difficult questions. However, sometimes the residency brings such a differing experience that it is hard to apply it upon returning to the real world. This creates the risk of a new crisis, a new loss.

Nevertheless, most often a residence is an ideal space where an artist formulates and programs the future: comes up with new projects, sometimes finds people with whom to implement them. But this may not happen either. A residence is the most comfortable environment, in which one can realize that the current project’s idea is failing, that it may be necessary to do everything differently, based on other principles.

Despite the inherent opportunity of a residence to change everything, here an artist most often follows his or her own artistic process. Guidance by this process constitutes the golden rule. Even — or especially — when it comes to creating a new project. Quite often, residences engage in a special project. However, any production starts with a tech rider, and this cuts the unknown, imposes limits on a temptation of the residence — to try something new. New materials, new topics, new media. The residence is not the most comfortable environment for replicating the method — permanent workshops or large projects are more suitable in this sense. Although, it happens frequently that a residence related to some large project demands from the artistic production to be successful and at the same time provides something new — for example, a new scale of possibilities.

Nina Bisyarina. Splavni. Artist-in-Residence program, the Ural Industrial Biennial, 2017 / Photo: Evgeny Litvinov

Nina Bisyarina. Splavni. Artist-in-Residence program, the Ural Industrial Biennial, 2017 / Photo: Evgeny Litvinov

Thus, in a residence an artist may or may not work on some kind of a complete story. In any case, the artist is working in a residence. Sometimes it even turns out that the less the pressure of external obligations, the more intensive, voluminous, unpredictable is his work. Perhaps the biggest misconception around art residences is the image of residences as “hotels for artists.” Residences are not a place for fun and entertainment. The residence is a place of professional development and growth for artists; this is where they get support. Fun, of course, you can always bring with you.

Hence, another necessity of an artist in the residence is communication. There are those who devotedly give themselves to communication — formal and informal, direct or indirectly useful networking, conversations connected to the residence or only provoked by it. An art residence is always an occasion and opportunity for new communication. Nevertheless, some artists are utterly responsible — those prefer to work for an achievable result or immediately start writing a report rather than try out the unpredictability of communication.

In general, quite often a residence is something that you need to account for or give something in return. Therefore, for example, an artist presents some work in the residence. The format of the presentation can vary — from the presentation of a project’s idea to a finished piece and an exhibition. There are many intermediate options, and an open studio is the most common one. However, there are also residences, in which an artist does not present the results of his or her work. Such residences are not goal oriented, but they focus on the process. In such residences, an artist demonstrates the process, and if one presents something, then only oneself in all the diversity of his or her own art, and not within the framework of a particular residence.

To sum up, we can say that in a residence an artist does what he or she wants. In general, they just live. The artist“s desires are limited by some basic rules of a particular residence and legislation, but otherwise it is important to remember that an artists” stay in the residence cannot deprive them of basic human and civil rights.

The artists remain true to themselves in the residence. But this may not be exactly true.


Text: Zhenya Chaika, curator, Shishim Hill artists-in-residence

Translation: Anna Bubel Goldfarb

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[1] Contemporary artist residencies. Reclaiming time and space. Taru Elfving, Irmeli Kokko, Pascal Gielen (eds). Valiz, Amsterdam, 2019.

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