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Report – Locis Residency and Seminar, Visual Artists’ News Sheet, March/April 2014

March 3, 2014

Epicentres of activity
Joanne Laws reports on the EU FUNDED LOCIS Programme – a collaboration between leitrim CO. COUNCIL and counterpart institutions in poland and sweden.

Ulrika Laarson, ‘Our Time is Now’, 2013, Image courtesy of Leitrim Sculpture Centre

Initiated by Leitrim Arts Officer Philip Delamere, who defined the venture’s early trajectory, LOCIS is one of only three Irish-led projects to have successfully obtained funding under the hugely competitive EU Culture Programme 2007 – 2013, which seeks to develop cooperative links across the arts sector in Europe. LOCIS is an artist-in-residence programme devised in collaboration between Leitrim County Council Arts Office, the Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń, Poland, and Residence Botkyrka, Sweden. The title LOCIS – a conjugation of the word ‘locus’ meaning ‘coming from or going to a place’- was chosen to emphasis movement, exchange and the shared character of the programme among the three project partners. Drawing on the success of previous Leitrim Arts Office initiatives such as The Artist as Traveler seminar and TRADE residency, the LOCIS programme builds on established models for sustainable, context-specific practice, promoting the principle that a vibrant arts practice can be maintained from anywhere. Accordingly, the collaborative initiative seeks to facilitate knowledge-sharing, dialogue and cultural, cross-border exchange through the provision of resources and opportunities for artists to engage internationally.

Over a two-year time frame, each participating country sends and receives leading national artists to and from the other two countries, to work with groups of artists from the three regions. It was decided early on that an over-arching theme would be useful in framing each round of residencies, while also establishing a criteria for the selection of lead practitioners. Cross-disciplinary dialogue between art and architecture formed the conceptual basis of the first LOCIS residency (which took place between June and November 2013) with an emphasis on spatiality and new models for sustainable living in rural, suburban or urban contexts. The second phase of residencies in 2014 will engage different groups of artists working under the theme of socio-political discourse in art and the function of art and creativity.

 

Support Structures

The Irish residency, which took place in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, concluded in mid- November with an exhibition entitled ‘SECOND [SIT]’ at Leitrim Sculpture centre. An accompanying one-day seminar was also hosted by LSC on 15November, when the artists involved in the Irish, Polish and Swedish residencies convened to reflect on their experiences thus far.

The seminar was opened by LSC Director Sean O’Reilly, who spoke pragmatically about the important role of residencies in providing experiential spaces for artists to extend the boundaries of their practices. Situated in North Leitrim, LSC has a long-established commitment to the ‘quality of the artistic journey’, evident in the provision of a substantial residency programme and an emphasis on local community engagement.

The seminar was chaired by Project Arts Centre’s visual arts curator, Tessa Giblin, who posited tangible links between contemporary art and architecture early on, framing the seminar’s ensuing content in interesting ways. Drawing on the practice of Céline Condorelli, whose exhibition ‘Additionals’ was showing at the Project Arts Centre at the time, Giblin spoke about artist residencies as forming part of what Condorelli has broadly classified as ‘support structures’ for cultural practice – variously that which “bears, sustains, and props.. cares for, assists, advocates, articulates … stands behind, frames, and maintains … those things that give support”.(1). Artistic collaboration, co-operative activity, thoughtfulness, expertise and friendship, Giblin suggested, are central to the process of making things public, through approaching issues and audiences in context-sensitive ways. Subsequent presentations from the residency groups relayed positive experiences in support of this collaborative ethos.

What Can Be Described Can Also Take Place

The setting for the Swedish LOCIS residency was Residence Botkyrka – an existing artistic programme facilitated by Botkyrka Konstall, with a remit for socially engaged practice. Situated in the suburbs of greater Stockholm, the Botkyrka region is one of the country’s most international municipalities, comprising over 160 immigrant nationalities. Embodying this diverse and changing community, Fittja (a 1970’s Modernist, high-rise housing complex in the area) provided a suburban context for the group to consider relationships between people and the places they inhabit, while probing the idea of ‘architecture as a social product’.

Leitrim-based architect and educator Dominic Stevens led the project with participating artists Elaine Reynolds (IE), Ewa Axelrad (PO), Mattias Åkenson and Jorun Kugelberg (SE). Rather than making new site-specific work, the group used the residency as a platform to seek out further exhibition opportunities, with Fittja’s annual public arts festival presenting viable options for future collaboration. The title of their project, drew inspiration from the famous statement of the Austria philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, concerning the intrinsic power of language – “what can be described can also take place”.

Storyrepelling  – Creating Counter Narrative

The Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń hosted the Polish LOCIS residency, and was lead by Swedish artist and tutor Jonas Nobel. Participating artists Cathal Roche (IE), Maja Hammarén (SE), Arek Pasożyt (PO), and Patrycja Orzechowska (PO) were given the opportunity to exhibit in the large gallery space in December 2013, and worked towards devising a co-authored exhibition of older or existing artworks, with a seminar scheduled for February 2014.

 The residency’s theme ‘storyrepelling’ was pitched in opposition to perceptions of story-telling, linked to brand-loyalty and consumption, which drive the capitalist economy. The provision of time and space for dialogue emerged as a key feature of the residency, allowing artists the luxury of talking about their work in open-ended ways.  Communication became a recurrent theme, with Cathal Roche commenting on the language barrier experienced within the group.  Interestingly, some of Roche’s previous film work has focused on the spoken word, while his work as a musician – involving improvisation and the development of a mutual musical language – seemed to symbolise the group’s experience overall, in their search for common ground.

 

SECOND [SIT]

The Irish LOCIS residency took place at Leitrim Sculpture Centre in Manorhamilton. Participating artists Ulrika Larsson (SE), Natalia Wisniewska (PO), Niall Walsh (IE), and Kathy O’Leary (IE) were mentored by Polish artist and architect Jarosław Kozakiewicz., whose internationally renowned practice involves sculptural installation,land interventionand bio-architecture. As well as presenting at the seminar, each artist displayed new work at the concurrent exhibition at LSC entitled ‘SECOND [SIT]’. The group developed lexicons for approaching issue of local and public space, including the terms ‘sight’  and ‘site’, which  provided the basis for distinctly individual but overlapping inquiries, touching on visuality, visibility, meanings of ‘place’, citizenship and  the perceived ‘afterimages of history’.

Working with local community groups including Manorhamilton’s ‘Men’s Shed Project’, Niall Walsh sought to develop solutions to a perceived short-fall in basic amenities within Manorhamilton, with proposals for new public seating and a bus shelter. Walsh’s Sentries project comprised hand-crafted benches, project documentation, and photographic portraits of local men, who he considers the town’s ‘gate-keepers’, based on their tendency to congregate and ‘pass the time of day with their fellow townspeople’.

Kathy O’Leary’s film Second Sight/Site examines the principles of inclusion with regard to architecture, urban planning and public access, from the perspective of a wheelchair user. Presenting journeys through the landscape from this vantage-point, including urban streets, country lanes and waterways, the film employs satire as a mode of negotiating challenging scenarios, evident in abstract compositions and a surreal accompanying soundtrack.

Ulrika Larsson’s project Borders and Aesthetics probed the politically burdened Irish expression “Tiocfaidh ár lá / Our day will come”. Informed by conversations with locals about the contemporary implications of this loaded phrase, issues relating to active and/or passive living in a consumerist society became important, reclaiming language and prompting her textual response “Our Time is Now”.

Natalia Wiśniewska conducted archival research relating to St. Clare’s Halla derelict former church located on the outskirts of the town – tracingepisodes of small town community life’ and the evolution of the building from 19th century Catholic church, to a community centre. Her project Phantom and Spectre reactivated this former hub by installing ‘anti-windows’, trimmed at the edges with L.E.D lights, creating the impression of activity within.

 

Residency as Site of Production

It has been suggested that an ‘ambivalent vocabulary’ surrounds contemporary artist residency programmes (2). Just as 19th century notions of artistic ‘solitude’ and ‘retreat’ appear incompatible with a modern emphasis on ‘networking’, object-orientated ‘productivity’ has waned, shifting towards a visibility of the artistic process.

 This ‘hybrid status’ was acknowledged during the course of the seminar at the LSC, by Dobrila Denegri, Director of CCA, Toruń, as she discussed the need for a ‘new institutional formula’ in the context of economic crisis, with self-organisation emerging as an important tool. Joanna Sandell, Director of Botkyrka Konsthall, also spoke about the strengths of LOCIS in supporting meaningful artistic reflection and dialogue, stating that “artists used to have conversations, but now they have careers and networks”.

Returning to Céline Condorelli’s thesis on ‘Support Structures’, it could be argued that residencies such as LOCIS provide the ‘discursive foundations’ for contemporary artistic production (3), with LOCIS demonstrating an institutional willingness to evolve and ‘learn by doing’. Such ongoing mutation, negotiation, and improvisation might therefore prove to be the defining features and legacy of this programme.

 

Joanne Laws is an Arts writer based in Leitrim. She has previously written for Art Monthly (U.K), Art Papers (U.S), Cabinet (U.S) and Variant (U.K).

 

Notes

(1) Céline Condorelli ‘Support Structures Sternberg Press, 2009. See also http://www.supportstructure.org/

(2) Laura Windhager & Lisa Mazza ‘Neither Working nor Unworking. On Residencies as Sites of Production’, Open Systems Online Journal , Issue 4, 2013

http://www.openspace-zkp.org

(3) Francis McKee review of Céline Condorelli’s ‘Support Structures’, MAP#21, Feb 2010

http://mapmagazine.co.uk

 

 

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