Michiko Tsuda (Artist/ PhD of Film and New Media Studies)
I sometimes reflect on my past experiences of Artist-in-Residence (hereinafter, “AIR”) programs. Artists are sort of like aliens who visit certain places with a piece of security as an outsider. Through my experiences of visiting various places, there have been moments when I realize that some kind of sensors have been set in my body to respond to new discoveries and surprises unique to particular places. Our works are produced using these internal sensors and expressing what is unique to the places we stay as well as the connections and history behind a certain place. Therefore, the process of production itself is a part of program outcomes. Even if we do not explicitly mention these things, producing works while being in a certain place will surely result in some sort of connection.
Is the role of artists to cultivate the richness of a certain area and shed light on it?
If so, wouldn’t it be fair to say that the experiences of artists gained through the various places they have been to are some kind of social contribution?
In this review, I would like to examine a question “Why participate in Artist-in-Residence programs?” based on my own experiences by focusing on differences in experiences of several AIR programs, through referring to key terms I came across at this Res Artis General Meeting.
Do AIR programs have their own purposes?
At “Session 9: Ideal residency for artists” of the General Meeting held on October 27★1, YOUNG-HAE CHANG HEAVY INDUSTRIES, an art unit comprising Young-hae Chang from Korea and Marc Voge from the United States, posed a straightforward question “Why participate in Artist-in-Residence programs?” With this question, the artist talk in this session became more vibrant. In addition, a question from the audience asking “Are residencies really supporting artists?” inspired a fundamental discussion including “What are artists?” and “What is art?” When Chang and Voge said, that the “underlying benefit of AIR programs is to provide an opportunity for artists to experience new places and spend valuable time,” these words seemed to ring a bell for other artists. Thai artist Wit Pimkanchanapong, who works on a project basis, said that once an artist gets one’s carrer off the ground, opportunities for AIR programs inevitably turn up. Other artists agreed with his comment that an ideal AIR program offers “support and a healthy environment not only for artists but also for their families.”
Although an AIR program can take various formats, there are cases where programs are aimed at an activity itself of production-in-residence and others where the term AIR refers to a long-term stay for the purpose of producing creative works to be exhibited at particular art museums or international exhibitions.
Looking back his own experiences in Japan starting with a joint production project at the Yokohama International Triennale of Contemporary Art 2005, which was followed by Koganecho Bazaar 2008, Koganecho Bazaar 2010★2 and Tokyo Wonder Site (2012), Pimkanchanapong said that although he has ended up participating in a number of residency programs in Japan, these experiences were essentially aimed at productions for the exhibitions and that his creative career has not been necessarily centered around AIR programs.
At “Session 10: Museum, Biennial and Residency” held on the same day★3, the speakers introduced a number of examples in which AIR programs functioned as a tool to support project-based production rather than “aiming to be AIR programs themselves,” from their perspective as a director of large-scale international exhibitions and biennials. This coincides with Pimkanchanapong’s creative career path.
In the same session, a slightly different insight was offered by Akira Tatehata. Applying a term “Passage★4” to modern city Nagoya, Tatehata reflected on the “Aichi Triennale 2010.” He said although international exhibitions are not economically viable in many cases, they are “festivals that will continue to exist as transient events” and such experiences will “remain in people’s memory along with the joy of experiencing cultural diversity.” Tatehata also referred to the significance of AIR programs themselves aside from their role as a tool to support the realization of exhibitions, saying that AIR programs similarly “assure cultural diversity” even when they are not aimed at international exhibitions.
At the aforementioned “Session 9: Ideal residency for artists,” Japanese artist Tsuyoshi Ozawa suggested two forms of AIR programs. The first form was based on an example of his own experience of visiting a village of the Pygmy tribe in Uganda, Africa. It was an AIR program in which the artist travels into a hidden village and interacts with local residents utilizing expression skills. The other was introduced based on an example of “self-residency” as a meeting point for an art unit called Xijing Men★5. Through this example, Ozawa suggested a form of AIR program that does not require facilities so that artists themselves can prepare somewhere to stay and work on creative activities, depending on their circumstances rather than staying in existing facilities.
During the process of showing their works at museums and international exhibitions, artists end up participating in AIR programs as their jobs, and this is a style of career development for creators. While fulfilling their original objectives, artists are hungrily looking for opportunities to find something new, make connections and cultivate the purposes of AIR programs. That is what I glimpsed through discussions among artists and curators.
Growth of artists: “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches
I wondered if the AIR programs scheme may share some affinity with creative education in a different style from the ones mentioned earlier in this review. With this thought, I headed for the venue of the last session of the day “Session 13: New Creative Education through the Residency★6.”
When hearing the words “educational institutions and AIR programs,” what we first think of is an activity to invite artists to a university with the aim of promoting exchange between the artists and students as part of its curriculum.
However, Janwillem Schrofer, former President at Rijksakademie, gave his insight on a scheme to encourage the growth of students/artists based on his observations of creative education and AIR programs over 20 to 30 years.
Firstly, as a criterion for individual growth, Schrofer mentioned “Individual Communal” including “solitude,” “equal dialogue with peers,” “feedback from experts,” etc. Then, he divided AIR programs into two styles, in principle; the he first style is a “bottom-up” approach in which artists decide what to do and how to do it, as well as explain why, themselves and take “inductive processes”; and the second is a “top-down” approach in which managers or program organizers decide what will be done, etc. and take “deductive processes”. He said that the primary role of creative education is to carry out bridge-building between students and the field of practices as professional artists while AIR programs are a part of practices of professional artists. Practices of artists include not only creating works but also having an awareness of what and how they are contributing through their works. In other words, it is connected to answering two questions, “What is art?” and “What are artworks?” by being conscious of their roles. Such a process is not something which has been standardized. It is possible only through the creative perspectives of both students and educators. If educators do not know where they are referring to, the bridge-building cannot be successful. Thus, the structure is hard to understand in a simple way.
Schrofer continued by saying that in faculties with a large number of young students or master’s courses with standardized educational programs, “feedback” and “dialogue” as criteria of individual growth could have a slightly different order while more focus is placed on these points by AIR programs. Looking at doctoral courses focused on creative practices★7, as there is a fewer number of students who are generally more mature, in these courses, there are cases where artists with practical experiences go back to university and use it as a place to reconfirm or reconstruct their creative processes.
Connecting this with functions of AIR programs, we can see that the higher education you take, the stronger effect of a “bottom-up” approach you are exposed to instead of “top-down” approach. This indicates a possibility that AIR programs may supplement what cannot be covered by educational institutions.
I participated in AIR programs while studying in a doctoral course of an educational institution, although I did not really go back to education. I decided myself how much time to spend to complete my course, where and in what format I would show my works, etc. During this process, I received lots of feedback and participated in many organic dialogues. It was a relationship in which an existing education program helped to elicit the originality of works and creative activities of students/artists. Indeed, it is possible to replace the objectives of educational institutions with those of AIR programs. In other words, practice-based Ph.D. courses can be deemed as AIR programs with a “bottom-up” approach.
Going back to the question “Why participate in Artist-in-Residence programs?”
Lastly, I would like to go back to my original question “Why participate in Artist-in-Residence programs?”
Earlier in this article, I reflected on my own projects through the General Meeting. Now, I would like to review the discussions that took place at the General Meeting through referring to my own experiences.
First of all, I recalled the “Migratory Project★8,” a joint project with French artists. Some points can be missed not only due to distances and time differences between France and Japan but also due to cultural differences including the language. We approached this project with a focus on “migration” as a means to fill in such gaps. In light of the opportunity for the exhibition, I headed for France to work on the project while preparing for residency. I realized that it was quite similar to the format of the “self-residency” suggested by Tsuyoshi Ozawa. Even with interactions with curators, we as artists are in charge of managing the project by ourselves. In this “self” approach, bottom and top are the same and in Schrofer’s terms, it is a combination of “bottom-up” and “top-down” approaches. Although I did not recognize that I had participated in an AIR program for this project, I can probably say that it was an AIR program for which the underlying theme of “migration” served as an objective.
My experiences of other overseas AIR programs took place in regional cities in Asia including Yogyakarta and Bandung in Indonesia★9 and Busan in Korea★10.
I stayed in Yogyakarta in August 2011. My initial plan was to stay there in December 2010, but I had to cancel my trip urgently as Mount Merapi erupted immediately before my departure date and many of the staff at HONF★11, where I was planning to stay, went to the disaster-affected area as volunteers. So I postponed my trip until the next year. Although my original plan was to conduct video workshops, my focus in Yogyakarta changed after the Great East Japan Earthquake. With encouragement in dealing with mythology as a theme which I had been interested in, I started research on mythology related to the erupted Mount Merapi. Even though it was outside of my expressional expertise, it felt natural for me to deal with the theme at that time in that place. When creating a new work, I set a landing point whether I can achieve it or not. However, at that time, I jumped without confirming my landing point and I haven’t landed yet. The operational team was working throughout various phases of the experiment, providing me with access to the regions. From the sense that the entire process of project planning was left to the artist, this experience can be categorized as a “bottom-up” approach.
In this review, I reflected on my personal experiences from the perspective of the purposes of AIR programs and my roles as a leader of AIR programs. Although all cases were not covered, I wanted to think about the question “Why participate in Artist-in-Residence programs?” based on my own creative activities. Through creative activities and living during AIR programs, experiences of “now and here” among artists or between artists and local residents become inseparable. Amid such circumstances, artists are continuously discovering something new while producing their works. I believe that through these efforts, artists are contributing to cultural diversity and giving it back to the world. I have gained an insight that the purposes of AIR programs, locus of decision-making authority and organizational structures determine how an artist will be connected with local residents and other artists, and thereby shape “one’s experience” of AIR programs.
★1──Res Artis General Meeting 2012 “Session 9: Ideal residency for artists” (@Tokyo Women’s Plaza, 2:00 pm-3:00 pm October 27, 2012). Panelists: Koki Tanaka (Artist/Japan), Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Artist/Japan), Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (Artists/Korea, USA), and Wit Pimkanchanapong (Artist/Thailand). Moderator: Kayoko Iemura (Program Director, Tokyo Wonder Site).
Japanese artist Koki Tanaka introduced his new work from a joint project in which seven pianists play the piano at once. Tanaka said that the idea was born based on his experience of a joint project during the Palais de Tokyo residency in Paris (2005-2006). In light of his other residency-style productions, he listed five criteria of an ideal residence — “No obligation,” “Enough production budget,” “Several times or never ending,” “Connection between the local art scene,” “Supportive” — stating that the most important thing is to create personal connections.
★2──Pimkanchanapong worked with architect Jiro Endo in 2010.
★3──Res Artis General Meeting 2012 “Session 10: Museum, Biennial, and Residency” (@Tokyo Women’s Plaza, 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm October 27, 2012). Panelists: David Elliott (Artistic Director, the Kyiv International Biennial of Contemporary Art (Ukraine) in 2012/Former Director, Mori Art Museum/Germany), Akira Tatehata, (Rector, Kyoto City University of Arts/Diretor, Museum of Modern Art, Saitama/Japan), Kim Hong-hee (Director, Seoul Museum of Art/South Korea), Vasif Kortun (Director, SALT Research & Programs/Turkey). Moderator: Yusaku Imamura (Director, Tokyo Wonder Site/Japan).
★4──Arcades Project (Das Passagen-Werk), a compilation of draft essays by Walter Benjamin, provides his insights on changes in the city of Paris between the 19th century and the 20th century. Tatehata mentioned that the aim of the “Aichi Triennale 2010″ was to recognize Chojamachi as a “passage” left behind the transformation of Nagoya as a modern city and to perform creative activities in an area that reflects desires of a city.
★5──A unit comprising three artists including Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Chen Shaoxiong from China and Gim Hongsok from Korea.
★6──Res Artis General Meeting 2012 “Session 13: New Creative Education through the Residency” (@Tokyo Women’s Plaza, 5:00 pm-6:00 pm October 27, 2012). Panelists: Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook (Associate Professor, Chiang Mai University/Thailand), Chris Wainwright (Head of Colleges, Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon, University of the Arts London/UK), Janwillem Schrofer (Former Director, Rijksakademie/The Netherlands), Masaki Fujihata (Director, Art Media Center, Tokyo University of the Arts/Japan), Max Delany (Director, Monash University Museum of Art/Australia). Moderator: Kayoko Iemura (Program Director, Tokyo Wonder Site/Japan).
University of the Arts London of the U.K. and Monash University of Australia which has a residence studio inside the university primarily introduced their activities of inviting artists to classrooms and promote exchanges with students as part of their university curriculums. On the contrary, Masaki Fujihata introduced Tokyo University of the Arts’ “DOUBLE VISION” (joint project in 2010 by Tokyo Wonder Site, école supérieure des beaux-arts de Nantes Métropole in France, Tokyo University of the Arts and Musashino Art University) which was a project in which students participated in a short-stay exchange program and worked on creative activities both in Tokyo and Nantes as part of their curriculums. Fujihata of Tokyo University of the Arts said as there is a bit more leeway in the education budget compared with the budget for culture in Japan, art education should offer a place for “creative activities” and observe how to draw reactions in people rather than focusing on “lessons” and “literacy.”
★7──The number is rapidly increasing internationally, according to “Remarks on the Geidai PhD program” by James Elkins (Research Center at Tokyo University of the Arts, November 3, 2012).
★8──Joint Project by Caroline Bernard, Damien Guichard and Michiko Tsuda. The Project has been continued through internet from the remote areas such as France, Switzerland, and Japan.
★9──Both programs were supported by the Japan Foundation.
★10──Space Bandee, which had been run by NPO in Busan, was pulled down and its activities are now taking break.
★11──HONF is an abbreviation for “The House of Natural Fiber | yogyakarta new media art laboratory.” HONF carries out new media festivals and AIR programs. HONF directors are Tommy Surya, Vincensius ‘Venzha’ Christiawan and Irene “Ira” Agrivina. Venzha is an artist who participated in a residency at ARCUS Studio in Moriya City, Ibaraki in 2002. Due to limited infrastructure capacity for cultural facilities such as educational centers, museums, etc.
In Indonesia, HONF members have been accepting artists from overseas by renovating their own houses and organizing events. I really admire them. HONF has a clear vision: They invite artists from overseas as part of AIR programs and foster strong connections while working as artists and exhibiting their own works in Europe and other Asian countries. They believe these activities will help improve art and culture in Indonesia, thus lead to benefits for HONF as well. On the other hand, we should not forget the fact that most of their funds are dependent on the Netherlands. I am interested in the future of their cultivation of art and culture which is different in style from that in Europe, the U.S. and other Asian countries.
Born in 1980. Artist. PhD of Film and New Media Studies, Graduate School of Film and New Media, Tokyo University of the Arts.
Solo Exhibitions: “Travelling” (CHUV, Lausanne, 2012); “Occupants and King in the Configuration Forest” (NTT ICC, Tokyo, 2012)
Experiences in participating in AIR programs both in Japan and overseas including residency at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, the Akiyoshidai International Art Village, etc.
Review  Res Artis General Meeting 2012 Tokyo: Meruro Washida, “Possibilities of Microresidences”
Review  Res Artis General Meeting 2012 Tokyo: Toshiro Mitsuoka, “AIR as a Benchmark of Social Mobility”