On the Art Spaces and Residencies Summit
I was invited to this gathering as an artist who works in the context of the Republic of North Macedonia and has already participated in quite a number of residencies. As a contribution to that, I would briefly drop my experiences and reflections on the existing models of artist in residency programs.
As an artist, I have most often been involved in collaborative projects, either with one or with several co-workers/co-thinkers. Hence, all my experiences concerning residencies are related to a group or to at least a duo in a residency. I mention this because there isn’t a big percentage of AiR programs accepting group applicants and the experiences here are gathered from a reduced number of possibilities.
In any case, coming from a quite small art scene and from a context with constant crises, traveling abroad has been an essential aspect of the development of my art practice.
AiR as a phenomenon and resource has been already analyzed and elaborated. The benefits and advantages for the artist would be:
– offering time, space, and resources that will enable artists to focus, concentrate and dedicate to a particular problem or work;
– possibilities to establish friendships and professional contacts;
– knowledge and experiences;
– and contributing to both the professionalization and self-reliance of the artist.
There are also some disadvantages and pressures for the artist that I could sum up in this way:
– pressure to adapt the work process to, in many cases, tight deadlines;
– fitting mostly to short-term projects;
– exhaustion (if taking AiRs/applying frequently);
– and (I am not sure if I would like to use this term, but here it is) self-exploitation.
I could sort out my experiences into several types of AiR models:
– the flexible ones (my favorite), promoting an open concept and/or allowing the artists to be inspired and work with the local context;
– those that promote and focus on collaboration;
– the ones with a career-building support and resources (studio and technical equipment, production grants, organized meetings and relations with curators and other cultural workers, etc.);
– the “hotel” ones – you can do whatever you want, but no one cares;
– other types not mentioned above; AiRs developed as a specific project and/or experiment, as collaborations with universities or other institutions; etc.
The effects of AiRs in terms of influencing the international art scene is evident. Globally: by creating contacts, relationships, sharing experiences, etc., they contribute to shaping the international art scene; but also, locally: they can contribute to and influence changes in local communities.
And as everything attractive sooner or later, ends up in its commercial or commodified version, more and more airbnb-like residencies are popping up nowadays.
But if things are functioning so well as if we are talking about some sort of machinery, we could ask ourselves what kind of crisis is on the horizon. Or maybe what kind of crises are desired?
My personal interests aren’t towards art that would fit or enter the art market, that follows the neoliberal logic, nor art that contributes towards normalization. What I am interested in are experiences that could eventually develop new forms and discourses. Being part of an art scene that has contributed to political changes and gathered under the notion of solidarity, I am today abandoning the practice that could fit gallery walls and exhibition formats. Instead, I am more and more interested in art (or whatever we call it) that could contribute towards developing new forms of communities and new concepts of society. No matter what its definition would be – a utilitarian or constructive art practice, my current focus is on the forms and ways of organizing, and even pointing it out as an art practice or not, is irrelevant for me. I believe in all this as a necessity and not as a wish. And what I want to stress out is, the new “art centers”, “art residencies” or “art whatever” should focus on these things.
I felt enormously happy to meet these kinds of practices experimented among the participants of this summit. I enjoyed exchanging experiences with people like Morten, who had totally abandoned not only the form of art (together with its sovereignty and protected status), but also the notions “art” and “artist”. I understand that being afraid of possible recognition and establishment of his current work as art practice is because of the possibility of its commodification and thus feeding the neo-liberalism and continuing the loop of the bourgeois concept of art. Jan Philippe’s feedback about his experiments on democratization in decision making and self-management on institutional level (or more precisely, institution – local community exchange level) were quite important to me; Marijana’s example of the self-organised Magacin and their models of organization, as well. And of course, quite intriguing were Danae’s practice and feminist approach towards the material and immaterial arrangements/ dispositions in space, and its effects on communication and relations developed after it. I will definitely bother her with ton of questions next time when I meet her!
So, what could be the next form of “art centers”, “art residencies” or “art something”? I believe the ones that would actively contribute towards building communities while working, organizing and deciding horizontally (which is not so easy and at the same time runs risks); that would educate through practice and by involving young population (also in a horizontal, active way); and that would work with the (local) institutions on introducing democratic practices within the institutions themselves.
I am not talking about some kind of speculative/symbolic art projects, neither I am talking about the nowadays hype of mimicking the image of the left while perpetuating the neoliberal model. I am talking about practices and ideas that have existed and still exist in the field of culture, but the power of their vision is still being underestimated.
Rereading these my notes in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, I cannot neglect my remark about the crisis on the horizon. Although I didn’t have in mind this kind of crisis we are facing nowadays, it makes me reconsider again the role of art in the world that will come after. I try to imagine and understand the change that will come, some of the hypothesis are ranging from optimistic (even naive) up to very grim, but most likely there will be no back to normality. I just hope we will all exit wiser out of this. And the role of art here, hmm, helping to imagine better society. And the role of the art centers in the days after – places where we could think together and where we would build something better together.
Slobodanka Stevceska, visual artist, received MFA from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje. Since 2012 teaches at the same faculty. In 2001, together with Denis Saraginovski she founded the collaboration OPA (Obsessive Possessive Aggression), whose practices are context based, non-collectible and either ephemeral or distributed in multiple copies. Their work often contains parody, created or twisted reality, mockumentaries, subversive affirmation or over-identification strategy, etc. The last few years, OPA focuses on developing practical utilitarian solutions and constructive art strategies as an alternative to the critical ones.
She has received residency fellowships in France, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic and The Netherlands and has exhibited widely in group exhibitions and festivals such as Transmediale, Berlin; Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin; Biennale of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Transeuropa – European Theatre- and Performance Festival, Hildesheim; Freewaves’ Biennial of New Media Arts, Los Angeles; I Had a Dream, Kunstraum Baden, Switzerland; Victory Obsessed, Zamek Culture Centre, Poznan; Autostrada Biennale, Prizren; etc. She is co-founder and active member of the initiative Kooperacija (2012-2015).
Art Spaces and Residencies Summit is organised by Lokomotiva – Centre for New Initiatives in Arts and Culture in the framework of the yearly program “Contemporary culture and public policies” 2019, developed as part of the project “Program of Lokomotiva in Kino Kultura – project space for contemporary performing arts and contemporary culture” supported by the City of Skopje, Ministry of Culture of North Macedonia and Centar Municipality and Life Long Burning, programme line Performance situation room supported by Creative Europe.