Grafodroom @ ResArtis regional meeting : Vilnius & Nida
From the 2nd to the 5th of October, Hannah & Mari travelled down to Lithuania for the Res Artis annual regional meeting which took place in Vilnius (at the art academy) and in Nida (at NIDA Art Colony). A lot was learned, information gathered, people met and so as not to let it fall by the wayside, here’s a (very long) summary of the trip.
DAY 1 (2 October / Thursday)
15:00-21:00 Res Support Workshop for emerging residencies
We arrived just 10 minutes late for what looked likely to be the most useful workshop for Grafodroom. It seemed that, in a room full of emerging residency organisers, we may have been at the earliest stage of head popping out of the egg. This was a feeling that cropped up more than once during the conference and it was a good one – the fact that, in this so-called state of emergence, we were already getting access to the situation of the conference. The workshop began with a powerpoint presentation, running through all the important things to know when starting a residency. Also mentioned in the presentation was ResConnect, which is a system Res Artis has for membership in which a more established residency centre sponsors an emerging one, gifting them not only membership but also acting as a partner and mentor.
After the presentation, we moved into groups to try and quickly write up our visions and missions. Grafodroom were placed alongside Catarina Serra from Cerdeira Village Art & Craft and Judith Vindevogal from Walpurgis Music Theatre. The group was led by Lea O’Loughlin.
We realised pretty quickly that we were a long way off quickly writing a vision statement. It was emphasised that this should be max. 1 sentence in the fashion of a tagline i.e. snappy. We had lots to say about what Grafodroom was about, but funneling it down into a small cluster of words wasn’t easy. The important things we felt we should get into ours is that Grafodroom is a “laboratory” or place for experimentation (“nest” was an alternative suggestion); that it was motivated to retain traditional heritage; that it explored innovative and inventive methods; that it was predominantly printmaking; that it was not only printmaking.
The Support Workshop did provide a supportive boost and many little snippets of useful information. However, it felt much too short to do more than skim over each of the important topics and exercises. Hopefully some of what it brushed over can be left to the back of the brain to manifest into something and jump out at the right moment.
18:00-… Residencies Library
The Library was opened and we added the “Grafodroom infobook”, stitched on the bus down. A bunch of books from the other residency centres at the conference came back with us and can be found down in the basement if looked for.
19:00-21:00 Opening reception + short presentation of Lithuanian residencies
Whilst is was nice to have a quick introduction to a few local residencies, the presentations really focused on larger spaces and their current day successes. It would have been nice to have heard a little more about how they got themselves started and what shot them to the sizable institutions they had become. The featured residencies were Arts Printing House, Rupert, Kaunas Photography Gallery, Contemporary Art Centre and the meeting’s host, Nida Art Colony of Vilnius Academy of Arts.
That said, the wine and snacks which followed led to some great conversations, most pragmatically worth remembering being the talk about funding with one who really knows. Here’s her advice:
– UNESCO can fund flights and are good ones to approach when starting out with funding. The funding does come at the cost of planting UNESCO branding on all available surfaces and they fund flights only, so this doesn’t directly translate as having all the residents’ travel costs covered, but it can be a big help.
– The British Council. Embassies.
– Introducing your residency to funders: Start by sending an email asking if they would have time to meet you for coffee and discussion. If yes, great, if no, say that you understand and instead send them by email information about your residency for them to look over when they get chance.
– Finding private sponsors : have a look at art organisations that already are funded. Check which companies they are funded by. Try and find the staff member in the company who is responsible for “philanthropy” or “culture” or similar. It’s likely that their contact details won’t be shown but their name will. Google.
– Start small. The most difficult situation for a residency which has been funded for a year to be in is to not be funded the following year so you don’t want a lot of funding if you’re not confident of a similar deal the follow-up year. If you do get funded, it’s wise to take the money with thoughts for the longterm, telling the funder for example that you would rather publicise only 1 out of 4 residency places per month as “costs covered” and save the money given to cover the other 3 places. This means you get the +s of attracting attention to your “one place all costs covered!” residency but that some will still apply for the other spaces, saving you money for next year when the funders might give you the cold shoulder. Do it like business.
DAY 2 (3 October / Friday)
09:00-09:30 Opening speeches
09:30-11:30 Review of Central Asia, Eastern Partnership Countries and Russian Federation:
Twenty Years of Bilateral Exchange in the I.S. and Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus – Susan Katz (CEC ArtsLink, RU)
Some interesting thoughts came up with this one . Funny that, in this case, the “west” was considered the U.S.A. When a scandinavian residency represented asked about the possibility of their involvement, a confused reply stated that they couldn’t yet be involved as they were not in eastern Europe, missing the point, it seemed, that they could be an alternative spot to represent the west. Mari asked about the potential for pre-existing partnerships between the U.S.A. and eastern European countries to work alongside CEC (ie bolstering Grafodroom’s links with North American printmakers), however the response suggested this wasn’t likely.
Mapping Residencies in the Target Region – Mark Vennegoor (Res Artis, NL)
Though this project is now on pause due to lack of funding, it could be a good source in the future. As an exercise during the lecture, we tried to map Estonia and found many more residencies than expected.
Central Asian Art & Culture Network and Beyond – Stefan Rusu (Dushanbe Art Ground, Tajikistan)
Eyes Wide Open: Seeing Beyond Exotic Beauty – Nini Palavandishvili (GeoAIR, Georgia)
12:00-13:00 Parallel workshops in groups
For these workshops we split up to cover more ground, with Mari joining the workshop ‘Residencies as education & research centres’, led by Rasa Antanaviciute & Vytautas Michelkevicius (from Nida Art Colony) and Ika Seinkiewicz-Nowacka (from A-I-R Laboratory/CCA Ujazdowski Castle, PL) and Hannah joining ‘Host-resident ethics, hospitality’, led by Kaspars Lielgalvis of Total Dobze brilliance and Karol Fru:hauf (from BridgeGuart Art/Science Residence, CH).
HOST-RESIDENT ETHICS, HOSPITALITY
The title of the workshop wasn’t the most promising, but the most promising Mari was on and the second most promising was full. And the fact that Kaspars was running it gave this choice extra points – I knew that Total Dobze had recently become homeless and so was interested to discuss the topic of physical space and its potential uncertainties, which I could imagine “host-resident ethics” twisting round to.
We began with a room full of independent brainstorms, each writing down the first things that came to mind on the topic – questions, problems, areas for investigation, etc.
From the Grafodroom pen came something like:
– Changing/non-secure situations in terms of space/building
– How does the artist balance independent project + engagement with residency space/city (and what part do we play in this – open call wording)
– How to handle a resident with a project that becomes overly ambitious? (to interfere/help or not)
– The host’s responsibility to provide an audience for the resident’s presentations, workshops, exhibitions, etc (uh, this maybe with Ptarmigan hat half on)
Some other topics brought up by the group:
– how to find the “right” artists (or how to present your residency in a way that expresses its true nature)
– What is public, what is private? In terms of physical space and artwork/art process
– how to get locals involved
– how to create a sense of community
After a lunch break, we met in a circle around the topics and went through a few of them as a group. Of course, the day was too short to touch funding. We began with the problem of the residents’ visibility/gathering audience/what is made public. The tip repeated by more than one on the topic of gathering an audience for your residents’ events was to latch onto a larger body. Hold the event in a more popular space/as part of a larger event, or, create a larger event yourself, involving local artists, musicians, etc and use it as a platform for your resident to stand on.
A Nida representative took up the topic of community, talking about the non-constant “rituals” that emerge at the colony – be it basketball playing or daily morning yoga – and the importance of allowing these rituals to be temporary, to come and go with changing sets of people. We all stressed the importance of eating together.
RESIDENCIES AS EDUCATION & RESEARCH CENTRES
15:00-16:30 Presentation of workshops’ results & discussion
Flexibility and adaptability in remote residency models: shifting contexts
Reputation and influence of residencies, residencies as incubators and social partners for local communities
Residencies as education & research centres
Host-resident ethics, hospitality
Artistic production and evaluation of residencies’ results
These presentations left us wanting, with the comment that is was a more or less pointless exercise in patting each other on the back. With time cut short, questions from the audience were called upon only if positive, and most of what was said by all seemed common knowledge from the off. Given 4 cards to hold up after each presentation as a reflection of: I have an idea / I have a question / Interesting / Not relevant; a non-committal mexican wave of orange reflected the diminishing enthusiasm and perceived lack of opportunity for meaty discussion in the room.
Thankfully, we could let off steam during the following coffee break, which was another chance to meet people and discuss the topics in a more direct and natural manner.
19:00-19:50 Performance Contemporary?
This one, we mostly skipped out as we had Kulka receipts to sort. The last 10 minutes of the performance were funny.
20:00-23:00 Dinner at Restaurant Neringa
During this dinner I was sat by Suzanne who is currently the residency coordinator at Trükimuuseum in Tartu. Also set in a printmaking house, the residency is often attached to printmaking but cannot be solely so, as the terms of their state funding groups many different cultural organisations within the city together, asking the residency programme to serve music and theatre as well as contemporary art alongside the print museum. We had some interesting discussions about the limit of personal contact with residents and how to keep time for yourself when you and your resident are living and working in close range. And of course we kept jumping back to finance, discussing the Trükimuuseum’s handmade sketchbooks as an alternative source of income and the gigantic distance between this figure and the necessary one. Ah, the dream of finding some source of income for residency programmes, dug up by the space independently and detached from complex conditions and their hindering specifics.
DAY 3 (4 October / Saturday)
10:00 – 11:00 Keynote lecture: What Resides in Your Trauma?
Viktor Misiano from the Moscow Art Magazine delivered a fiery and eloquent lecture on friendship and trauma. The abstract, philosophical musing hit the spot sweetly and felt to address many pragmatic questions much more successfully than did the pragmatic answers that the workshops had thrown up.
11:30-12:15 Why do artists go to residencies? Come and celebrate my 20th Artist Residency Anniversary! – Henrik Hedinge (former Nida Art Colony AIR, SE)
This event, in which an artist who was currently on his 20th residency of the year, seemed to be placed in as a lighthearted warning of the problem of residency abuse. Though neither of us stuck around for it, the beginning explained that the artist had brought along photographs taken on his many residencies of the year, and would invite those present to test his memory by asking him if he could place the visual to the particular residency on which it was taken.
12:15-13:00 What’s in it for me? EU programme “Creative Europe”
Wow, now this was talking big scale. Here‘s the full slideshow –
Notes that came out of it :
– The people of Tallinn have the RIGHT to access culture. We can help meet this right that the people should demand.
– Creative Europe can help us in REINFORCING SKILLS.
– This is not (just) art but experience.
– EU member states (+ Ukraine, soon, hopefully…)
– You can buy things for the residency centre, MAYBE, but no renovation work. audio visual equipment only if part of a project that’s not just an exhibition.
– “Transnational exchange of artefacts in an EU dimension”
– Which issues face ALL of the EU?
– “European quality label”
– 3rd country cost (ie. getting the U.S.A. involved) something about 30% of total eligible costs… Grafodroom must pay hotels, flights to U.S.A. etc for both us visiting them and them coming to us (I think).
– Make it PUBLIC. Visibility is upmost. For example, do as NIDA does and ask to work within the local community.
– Think SPECIFIC in terms of project, for example 3 illustrators from 3 countries illustrate poems translated into 3 languages. Project goes into schools and children from the 3 countries write letters to each other.
– “Get disabled people and children involved”
NB : heard a week later about this one, also – INTERREG.
11:30-13:00 Self-presentation of some participating residencies
Dushanbe Art Groung (Tajikistan)
Art East (Kyrgyzstan)
Nordic Artists’ Centre Dale (Norway)
Yarat Comteporary Art Organization (Azerbijan)
Art Commune AIR Program (Armenia)
KIOSK AIR / Oberliht (Moldova)
14:30-20:00 Bus trip to Nida
22:00 diy nightseeing tours
DAY 4 (5 October / Sunday)
10:00-10:30 Review of Central Asia, Eastern Partnership Countries and Russian Federation
10:30-11:30 Artistic intervention
12:00-12:30 Killing and Resurrecting a Residency. The Case of BAC – Baltic Art Center
12:30-13:00 Working with the Local: testing a Latvian residency
14:30-15:00 Summary of the meeting: what did we hear, see and learn?
15:00-17:00 Visits to Nida Art Colony residents sturios
21:00-23:00 Screening of videos created by residents of Nida Art Colony and Baltic Art Center
Day 5 (6 October / Monday) ECOLINES