April 2021

Online workshops and a digital symposium on the work, visions and networking of artists' residencies in selected regions

Today, artists' residencies are an intrinsic part of the mobility infrastructure in the art and cultural sectors. They also play an increasingly important role for artists' international careers: while until approximately 20 years ago, they were largely a way of continuing one's work without time constraints or financial pressure and intensifying dialogue with other artists and the respective local population, they are now seen more and more as a means of access to networks and new economic and cultural capital. Residencies promote exchange between internationally active artists, the respective local art scenes, an international audience and the art market. As a result, they are increasingly becoming part of an economic and entrepreneurial strategy of their organizers and the participating artists.

The tension between economic and personal interests presents new challenges and dependencies for the chosen artists. On the one hand, Artist in Residence programmes (AIR programs) are - as Taru Elfving and Irmela Kokko have noted (Introduction “Contemporary Artist Residencies, Reclaiming Time and Space”, 2018) - an important part of an artist's career and help determine whether an artist gets to participate in exhibitions or biennials. On the other, however, they are now widely offered by research institutions, museums and business-oriented companies and even shopping centres - a critical balancing act at the intersection between private and public, temporary and permanent.

In addition to the dissipating dichotomy of the private and public spheres, ecological, political and economic crises around the world are widely questioning the mobility concepts of recent decades. Climate change, forced migration and the revitalization of national borders are giving rise to a desire to render AIR programs more sustainable. This includes the more conscious use of the resources available. New concepts are being developed that enable the local population to participate, including digital formats that allow for both a greener approach and the mitigation of the inequality among artists worldwide with respect to accessing such programs.

In 2021, the IGBK will seek out an exchange with artists' residencies and AIR programs in selected regions of the Americas to discuss a number of questions, including the following:

  • How do AIR programs define themselves within their political and social environment and where do they see their contribution to society in the current economic and ecological systems?
  • What are the visions of organisers of AIR programs for allowing artists to pursue their creative work outside of their own cultural spheres?
  • In what way do these institutions promote discourse and creativity at the regional level as well as international networking and exchange of experiences in a manner that is not financially oriented?
  • How can residencies offer alternative infrastructures and open up to facilitate artistic work in the midst of social and societal upheaval, transformation and ecological crises?

Building on existing contacts of IGBK board members and delegates, and drawing on the experiences of established networks in the AIR field, the plan is to exchange ideas with the organisers of AIR programs in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Canada. The project team will get in touch with some of the AIR program stakeholders from the aforementioned regions to discuss the above questions as well as questions arising in these discussions. The results of this exchange, such as quotes, excerpts, notes and images, will be published on a digital pin board on the onAIRISM project page.

An initial online workshop at the end of May 2021, that will also include Eastern European colleagues from the 2020 IGBK project Art Space Connect, will offer participants the opportunity to enter into a direct discourse. A public symposium with theorists, artists with residency experience and organisers of AIR programs from South America and Canada is scheduled for autumn 2021.

The project leaders of onAIRISM - challenges and transitions are María Linares, Andreas Schmid and Moira Zoitl from the IGBK board.