A Relationship of Temporary Time and Place within the Artistic Practices of Art Residency
Gatari Surya Kusuma
How can a social bond be made between the artists themselves and their place, where they stay for a while?
Working as an artist with the frequent practice of writing, researching, and occasionally participate in exhibitions, allows me to get the opportunity to make a trip to be an artist or researcher residency. The first experience as a resident artist/researcher took place in 2015 under the Bamboo Curtain Studio, Taiwan arts residency program. At that time, I was traveling with my collective colleague – Bakudapan –Khairunnisa.
I will put this first experience as one case study in this paper: how the residency institutions have a major impact on the process of artistic practice within an art residency; regarding how the art residency process also contributes value to the institution. Furthermore, I will also put the experience of doing research trips in the context of making works that are regulated independently with a similar time limitation scheme - namely temporary attendance.
I will start by directing the questions: How can the process of exchange between the art practitioners, places, and institutions? Besides, the term residency also refers to temporarily or have a certain deadline to be in that place. Then, how can a process that involves these three aspects occur in a limited time?
At that time, Bamboo Curtain Studio in Taiwan used the "open call" method. Bamboo Curtain Studio is an art institution that makes itself focus on residency and facilitates artists' works. Some of their programs are conducted within the framework of a studio. The open call enables inviting art practitioners to work with communities in Taiwan. At that time, we proposed to submit to work with a group of Indonesian Migrant Workers residing in Taiwan. We want to talk about the kitchen from the things that are not visible, such as power relations, laborers who work, and the knowledge that resides in the kitchen.
We got acquainted with a group of Indonesian Migrant Workers who are scattered in Taiwan. We stayed there for two months. At that time, the first months of our works were to visit and determining a new environment-namely Taipei as a city and a group of Indonesia's Migrant Workers as a research context. The second month was done to think about the final presentation.
In the first month, we met a lot of individuals, groups, or institutions that cooperated with Migrant Workers, especially Indonesian Migrant Workers. In addition, our choice to meet Indonesian Migrant Workers in public spaces such as parks and city station halls (Taipei Main Station) determines how we build relationships with them on the following occasions. Many of these meetings are facilitated by the Bamboo Curtain Studio as an institution. They are not related to the issue of Migrant Workers institutionally, but they do have links with several people who are involved in collaborative work with Migrant Workers, especially advocacy work.
Meeting many people in our first month brought us into friendships rather than professional connections. The intention we had at the beginning indeed was to work with groups of Indonesian Migrant Workers in Taiwan. Meanwhile, at that time we underlined that we were doing research. So, the Indonesian Migrant Workers group became the subject we studied, and we came as newcomers with an awareness of limited time but wanted to do an as deep research as possible within two months. Therefore, when at the end of the first month we realized that the relationship between us was changing, this had an impact on the artistic selection we chose.
The choice to present an artistic medium that is dialogical, and collaborative is a decision that came from the research process and consideration of the relationships that have been built -that is, already blended between friendship or research work scheme relations. We think a lot about our position as researchers as well as artists who are very aware that we are present and related to them with a certain intention and limited time. Then, reflection on how relationship caring works needs to be considered. With all these considerations, we made a performative lunch and invite friends Migrants, Migrant Workers activists, and some friends we met for one month.
During lunch, we prepared a script. Some people take on the role of guides. In the middle of lunch, there was a discussion that was deliberately arranged to cause friction and discussion between the lunch participants. We — myself and my colleague Khairunnisa — just sat behind the curtain imagining what was being discussed because the conversation took place in Mandarin.
When finished, then we went out to chat and greet invited guests. Two weeks later, we had a farewell lunch. What distinguishes the first one is that we do not have a scenario, and the luncheons occurred just like a general mealtime. I remembered that afternoon we took a lot of photos together. The situation is as emotional as when I was about to part with my friends after the Senior High School exam. It was touching and it deserves to be remembered as a friendly experience.
Back in 2019 my colleague, Monika, and I traveled to the northernmost island in Indonesia, Morotai Island. We traveled there for research for the sake of collective work for the Singapore Biennale exhibition. We stayed for two weeks. We started our research to make an artwork by looking for some people we knew and were able to provide us with information about Morotai Island from the perspective of the residents.
Finally, we met one of our friends who was also building a non-governmental organization focusing on plantations on Morotai Island. We came and we stayed in his place. Then, he also introduced us to some of the residents there.
We stayed for two weeks and met many residents there. Every day, we cooked together, sat in a shop, lay on the beach, and we did not forget that we also visited several resource persons' houses in purpose, to conduct interviews. From the start of our arrival, we explained our intention that we wanted to interview, and we were collecting stories of myths and food migration that occurred on Morotai Island.
The difference is, at that time, I did not feel confused about how the relationship should be created because from the very beginning we knew for sure that we wanted to make a work about myths and food migration on Morotai Island. Prudence to the field also occurred when we were interviewing and positioning ourselves. For example, by realizing which times of day you can be bothered to visit or not. It can also be keeping a note or recording gesture that must match the concentration.
The two case examples above show the difference between conducting an art residency program and registering with an established institution or doing it independently but with the same intention: producing works of art. To discuss this further, I will sharpen the view to social bond what has been and will be developed through the initiation of the habitation program.
When an artist or researcher travels to live in a place, it is inevitable to build an attachment to that place. By seeing and getting closer to the place (place), it is the same as considering the story, the articulation of the power at work, to the geometric of space as a starting point for creating social bonds in artistic processing.
Meanwhile, from the Bamboo Curtain Studio case example, they prepare themselves as institutions to open to the value of the place. One and the most important thing is that they do not demand to have tangible works. They are flexible and negotiable in the standard of success of an art project. The decision as established institutions become important decisions in thinking about social bonds formed when an artist came to habituate. It is because not all labor can be counted and visible from a work that hangs indifferently on the gallery wall.
The second example. Being a researcher who has the intention of artistic practice who travels and lives on Morotai Island for two weeks, becomes another layer when discussing institutional schemes in implementing the art residency program. The need to be in a residential location does present itself as a research need.
However, from this case example, I learned that the originality of the relationship that is built while in the field (fieldwork) is an achievement that needs to be counted. Ranciere calls it a le portage du sensible, about how aesthetics will always go hand in hand with politics to convey experiences and abilities. In this case, it is not an institution that becomes a political agent but the perpetrator of the residence. Then, space and place become an aesthetic. Therefore, when both - the body as a political agent and space, a place as aesthetics - will produce good works as a form of ethics that is born from a place where it is needed and originated.
Referring to the writings of Claire Bishop in his book Artificial Hells, the criticism that often comes to research work as a process of making works is the disconnection from aesthetics. It is as if artists forget that they need to create works and are immersed in the process of working in the field during research. However, if we use Ranciere's theory of the sensibility of work, is it possible that these aesthetic values are not limited by space but are also able to calculate the invisible work behind them? Not only the hard work of the artists but also their daily practice as a knife of open analysis that favors human action and the impact of efforts to build social ties while living as well as several diverse potentials.
1. Bamboo Curtain Studio is a member of Artist Res, the initiator of the Intra Asia Network for mobility AIR & Artist, regional representative of the International Network for Cultural Diversity, and the Asian Arts Network, country representative for the Asia-Pacific World Cultural Forum. They can design residency programs based on individual needs, such as visiting important exhibitions, performances, and joining arts communities and cultural events.
2. Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. New York: SAGE Publishing. Page: 130
3. Pink, Sarah. 2012. Situating Everyday Life. New York: SAGE Publishing. Page: 23
Bishop, Claire. 2012. Artificial Hells. London: Verso.
Certeau, de Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. London: University of California
Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. New York: SAGE Publishing
Pink, Sarah. 2012. Situating Everyday Life. New York: SAGE Publishing