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Artist-in-Residence NOW 13: Interview with Mario Caro

1── History of Res Artis

Mario Caro── Res Artis all began in 1992 with an informal meeting of a handful of residency organizers who realized that there was a need to establish a way for residencies to meet on a frequent basis. At the beginning, it was mainly an informal group of people who decided to meet every other year. And that still continues to be the main reason for the organization—to provide an opportunity for organizers of residencies and other art professionals who are interested in residencies to come together and address urgent issues within the field. I think that the most immediate issue at that time was to address the fact that residencies were growing and people needed to form a coalition to face the challenges presented by this growth.
Although what we basically do is dedicated to promoting cultural exchange and artists’ mobility, our main interest and focus is the needs of our residency members. Through our programming, we provide a critical forum for organizers of residency programs to develop creative models for challenging cultural assumptions and broadening worldviews.

──── How many members around the world?

Caro── We have around 600 members worldwide in total. When I came into the organization, we had a little bit more than 300. The total number of corporate membership is 85 organizations. This is quite a substantial growth and we think that’s the result of two things. One is that we, as an organization, have become much more visible and people know more about us. Because of that visibility, we have gained more memberships. But it’s also because the field itself has been growing quite a bit, and so that growth I think is also affecting our membership. In 2009, we had a regional meeting in Korea and started to attend to Asia as a whole and its specific needs. We now have eight members in Japan, nine members in Korea, and twelve members in China.

2── Mission of Res Artis

Caro── As I mentioned, what we do basically is to provide opportunities for meetings, which was the reason the organization was created, and we have two types of meetings that address the various needs of our members. We have what we call regional meetings and then we have our bi-annual general meetings. The last general meeting we had was in Montreal. Before that it was in Amsterdam, and we have also had them in Berlin and Australia. As you know, in 2012, it will be here in Tokyo. In terms of regional meetings, we look at Asia as a very big experimental region. We are also closely following the development of the field in other high-growth regions, such as Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa.
Now, I am going to talk about some of our specific programs. We only have a few programs at the moment. One of them is called ResSupport, which is the mentoring program. It’s mainly for emerging residencies, and through that program we offer four different kinds of activities. One of them is a workshop. At all our meeting, we have a workshop that we’ve developed on how to start a residency and what the priorities need to be. It is not just a presentation, but is actually a working situation for participants to develop drafts of mission statements, actions lists, and seek out peers in order to exchange their strategies. Many of the participants have already had some experiences in how to develop their organizations. They have either already found a place, a site, or funding, and they have done some legal work to establish themselves as an organization. All of them come to the workshop from different perspectives, having accomplished different steps towards establishing their new organization, so they can exchange information on each of their experiences.
The second aspect of our ResSupport program is one-on-one mentoring, which is an opportunity to gain access to one of our members with substantial experience in the field. Then we have something called the ResSupport Fellowship. An emerging organization applies for fellowships, a residency opportunity geared to showing organizers from emerging residencies how an established residency works from the inside — a kind of residency for residencies. The first of these was offered by Akademie Schloss Solitude, and we have also offered them in collaboration with the 18th Street Arts Center in Los Angeles.
And then the fourth thing that we provide is access to some resources on our website, and these are very strong. We have a basics guide, which is an extensive guide that shows you every aspect of establishing a residency. We have some case studies and other resources, and social networking resources that provide ways for peers to discuss issues with each other through our website.

3── Res Artis GM 2012 , Tokyo

──── Next, I’d like to ask about the general meeting in Montreal you had last year and also your perspectives about the next general meeting in Tokyo.

Caro── The Res Artis general meeting in 2010 was hosted by Regroupement des centres d’artistes autogérés du Québec, a network of artist-run centers. (One thing about our membership is that we actually have a number of members that are also networks themselves. In some ways we are a network of networks.) RCAAQ developed a very strong proposal. We then sent out a call for proposals to our members for our 2012 meeting in 2009. And we had a few interesting responses then, from which Tokyo Wonder Site was picked. The one for Montreal was picked actually before I came into the organization but it was a very strong proposal. They came up with a theme that we agreed to, and we then collaborated on developing the program for the three-day conference.

──── What did you talk about in your general agenda and why did you choose those issues?

Caro── The theme was called “The Americas: Independent Artistic Practices in the Era of Globalization”. It was mainly talking about the north/south relationships within the hemisphere. There is a lot of disparity and unevenness in the Americas between the north and the south. One of the things that I am very proud of regarding the conference is that we had simultaneous interpretation into three languages, which is a very expensive thing, but it was all done in English, French, and Spanish. Logistically, it was also very challenging because there was much to coordinate in scheduling the panels.

──── What sort of programs of Res Artis Meeting 2012 are you planning?

Caro── TWS originally proposed the agenda as “New Horizon,” and finally agreed on ”New Horizons for Creative Platforms”. I think it’s mainly addressing what is on the horizon and it’s not going to be just about Asia, but obviously the situation in Japan would be a focus. We’re currently developing the program.

4── Japanese Residency Programs

──── Could I ask you about your impression on Japanese residency programs, for example, Akiyoshidai and other residency program which you have seen?

Caro── I think that, like the rest of the world, the residencies here seem to range widely. Obviously the older residencies, like Akiyoshidai, have established themselves and are known worldwide, and then recently there are also many newer ones. I think what Japan can offer is such a great variety since there is such cultural diversity within Japan. The location of a residency here really matters a lot. A residency in the US, if you have a residency in the Midwest of US such as Ohio or Indiana, may not make that much of a big difference because it’s a very broad cultural region, but here there is much more cultural diversity within smaller regional shifts here. I think an artist who is looking for a residency in Japan should do some homework in order to figure out where exactly in Japan they want to be — because Japan is not only Tokyo.

──── From your point of view, what are problems that Japanese residencies may have?

Caro── I think a challenge for residencies in Japan is basically to get the word out, to make themselves known outside of the region. And a lot of that has to do with language, to be able to publish their announcements in media and venues that will be read worldwide. This is kind of a plug for Res Artis, but that’s not just Res Artis when we talk about it. We can also use Trans Artists or the Alliance of Artist Communities. There are all kinds of organizations and websites that residencies here should be accessing, and they should establish relationships in Europe. But I think the biggest challenge is making themselves known worldwide, and a lot of that has to do with language.
I think it’s not just English, I mean, you need other major languages like Spanish. For example, if you want visitors from Latin America, you have to access a network like residencias_en_red. Establishing relationships with that network would really help bring Latin American artists to Japan, and obviously disseminating information in English and French would cover much of the world outside Europe as well. I think people are very savvy about getting the word out within Japan, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter help, but putting out information in different languages is key. Of course, another way of meeting these challenges is to participate in the Res Artis General meeting in October of 2012, which will provide the unique opportunity for the world of residencies to come to Japan.

[Interviewed on August 8, 2011 at YOUKOBO]