RESIDENCIES AND NORMALITY OF PLANNING

POSTED 27.12.2022

Text: Zhenya Chaika

Photo: courtesy of Olesya Ilyenok. The image was taken during the artist's residency stay at Artkommunalka. Erofeev and Others

Residencies are a mode of professional activity that supports artistic process, its value, and implementation. Residencies, in their essence, are incorporated into the normality of artistic practice; they help with planning. At the same time, art residencies exist in a rather specific format that, perhaps, is not as important for the artists' portfolio as the participation in an exhibition or a festival. However, participation in a residency obviously takes a lot of time, requires logistical efforts, and most often involves mobility.  A residency is something that cannot be undertaken without planning, and the very fact that art professionals have scheduled residency stays in their calendars indicates that they are building their path in a certain way.

Let us have a look at residencies, keeping in mind the two levels of planning they require. The first one can be called ordinary planning, the second one — extraordinary.

The logistics of the residencies is not solely about dealing with the questions of where, for how long, and supported by what travel funds. Quite often, when discussing the conditions of an upcoming residency, we forget that when we go there, we leave our home behind, and this is a different experience for everyone. For some, it is an opportunity to sublet their apartment for a while; for others — running errands, stemming from the need to make sure the lives of those who depend on us — be it children, parents, neighbours, pets, or plants (the list if different for everyone) — continue running as smooth as possible in their absence. So when leaving for a long time (to participate in a residency, for example), we should think about whether we can outsource our list of cares, and if so, who we can delegate it to. 

We cannot ignore that many of those who participate in the residencies have a permanent job or other tasks similar in nature. For now, let us focus on the things that can be added to the conditional "list of cares". For example, when we leave, we need to make sure there is someone who can fill in for us while we are away. We also need to finalise things more quickly or even do some things in advance so that our absence will not be a burden for the colleagues.

Leaving home, getting out from under the "reclusion cap" (1) that our house is designed to provide, we seem to run the risk of literally becoming "carefree" — freed from our usual cares. "In the most general sense, care is a species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our world so that we may live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, ourselves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web." (2)

In other words, at the ordinary level of planning, the artist is simply a person who builds their regular network of care, making sure the degrees of control and responsibility are correlated, directly or indirectly. The artist is a person who takes care, even if the sole purpose of this effort is to make sure that their own world does not fall apart. 

It is worth mentioning that the world of cares often revolves around different tasks: it is full of clothes and dishes that need to be washed, food that needs to be cooked, doors that need to be closed, lights that need to be turned off. That is why, even if it is lovingly put together, the world of cares is quite difficult to take with you. Manifested through lists, requests, instructions, and farewells, it always remains in a place that we leave behind. Without it, we risk plunging into holiday mode, unless the normality of ordinary planning —like sand in a sandglass —flows smoothly  into the normality of extraordinary planning.

Moving into extraordinary planning can be characterised by reprioritising the list of cares. It would be too easy to say that in a situation of ordinary planning, the artist is the one who takes care, and in extraordinary planning — the artist is the one who is taken care of; the one who, as it were, is "placed in a jar of nutrient medium" (3) or "travels to a resort" (4).

Demonstrating that care is always greater than specific actions or phenomena, Joan Tronto notes: "Care is about meeting needs, and it is always relational: the skinned knee of a child who fell off his bike isn’t only about scrapes and germs, it is also about creating the conditions for [them] to feel safe in the world." (5) Care encompasses many elements that form a secure environment. We can assume that care is exactly what enables us to live feeling safe, and present these parameters of safety (6).

The feeling of normality inside is one of the signs that indicates that a space is safe. It is achieved when you do what you planned to do without asking the question "Does anyone need it now?” (7); when you talk to people and “feel that you are like-minded" (8). Extraordinary level of planning literally helps to temporarily remove those cares that you cannot take with you, and revise the list, putting care for your own artistic process in first place.

At the same time, a major part of the ordinary planning is taken into account by default inside an art residency: a temporary house is given, endowed with parameters that we do not have the capacity to change. Under these conditions, the artistic process, in fact, turns out to be the most accessible point of application of the power of care. Extraordinary planning is a configuration of obligations that can be called privileged, but I would like to call it normal. This is a trick that lets air flow in the world of cares.

The essay is based on communication with artists who shared their experiences in preparing for, staying at, and experiencing art residencies in 2022.

 

Olesya Ilyenok (Artkommunalka. Erofeev and Others, Kolomna)

Andrey Chugunov (Polart, Norilsk) 

Mikhail Dobrovolsky (Vyksa AIR, Vyksa) 

Alina Desyatnichenko (Peredelkino) 

Vladimir Seleznev (Peredelkino, Piranesi Lab)

Anastasia Bogomolova (Crosspolinations research trip, Sweden)

Paul Antick (St. Petersburg Art Residency) 

 

(1) This is how artist Mikhail Dobrovolsky describes his day-to-day life at home.

(2) Tronto J.C., 2015. Who cares? How to reshape a democratic politics. COENELL SELECTS. An imprint of CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS. Ithaca and London, chapter "When We Understand Care, We'll Need to Redefine Democracy".

(3) This is how artist Alina Desyatnichenko describes her experience from the residency stay.

(4) In the conversation, several artists compared their experience of this year's residencies with going to a resort.

(5) Tronto J.C., 2015. Who cares? How to reshape a democratic politics. COENELL SELECTS. An imprint of CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS. Ithaca and London, chapter "When We Understand Care, We'll Need to Redefine Democracy".

(6) See how Vlad Strukov develops the concept of securitization: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1057/978-1-349-95269-4

(7) Olesya Ilyenok’s quote.

(8) Andrey Chugunov’s quote.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Zhenya Chaika is a curator, educator, writer, and art-manager based in Yekaterinburg (Russia). She is implementing a format of artistic residences in her work since 2008, through organizing residences, reflecting on them and building up the professional discourse around the topic. 

Zhenya Chaika is a co-founder of the Association of Artistic Residences in Russia (airofrussia.com), that aims to solidify the community of residences practitioners in Russia, to make support possibilities for artists more visible and consistent, and to maintain the cultural exchange accessible in different regions of the country. Working internationally from the very beginning of her trajectory, she also fosters the possibilities of artistic interconnections worldwide. 

She holds a MA degree in Aesthetics and was nominated for the Innovation National Award for contemporary art four times; and got the award in 2018 for her participation in the 4th Ural Industrial biennial of contemporary art, where she was the curator of the artist-in-residence program (2012-2018). In 2017-2018 she also was artistic director of the Ural branch of National Centre for Contemporary Art. 

As an independent curator Zhenya Chaika designs and embodies educational programs that are focused on development of artistic knowledge and integrity in art scene; writes and publishes texts about residences, social and theoretical issues that lay behind, e.g., mobility, hospitality, time-space features and aesthetic aspects of artistic production. Currently is working on the book on metaphorical typology of artistic residences “Artistic residences. How to cook them”.