Artist residencies
A scientific approach

Bangalore A-Z_c. Anja Lutz bangaloREsident@Jaaga 2014
Bangalore A-Z_c. Anja Lutz bangaloREsident@Jaaga 2014 | Photo: © Anja Lutz

The German Cultural Promotion has a new favourite child: Artist Residencies are more popular than ever. They involve the artist actively, promote international exchanges, and inspire media interest. Organizations of Foreign Cultural Policy also act as initiators of cultural processes rather than mere presentation platform for art productions, which have already been concluded.

But not only in Germany are the numbers of residencies steadily on the rise. An increasing number of German organizations have set themselves the goal of sending the cultural workers abroad: besides the Goethe-Institut, the Ministry of State for Cultural Affairs and the German Federal Foreign Office also conduct such programs at the federal level. Moreover, the federal states have increasingly discovered the Artist Residencies abroad as successful cultural subsidies. Seven federal states entertain such programs directly or indirectly through state-owned cultural foundations abroad. However, the funding is granted mostly to those artists, who may have a relation to the respective State.

Support diversity leads to conceptual diversity

Municipalities and cities have hitherto held back from sending creative artists. Usually they are based as municipal Artist exchanges with partner cities. Thus, for example, the visual artists from Rotterdam avail themselves the opportunity to work for two months in Dresden, their Dresdner colleagues, in return, in the Dutch port city. For the participating cities such activities often offer the opportunity to present themselves abroad as an art metropolis, to revive the partnership, and to play their role as promoters of culture.        

Thus, in the different cultural sectors in this country there are currently more than 100 programs that allow a stay abroad. It is noteworthy that not only the sponsorship of each program is different, but also their conceptual framework. Typical questions are: Which artist groups are to be addressed? Whether this is a short (two weeks) or a long stay (up to one year)? Will the artists stay in the vibrant centre or in the tranquil periphery? What are the objectives?

The answers vary and show that each program traverses its own way.

Artistic innovation and networking

Despite the heterogeneity, two basic ideas can be identified behind these Artist Residencies, based on a recent poll that the author carried out in the course of his dissertation in all relevant German organizations, operating these Residencies: Thus, some residency programs promote international networking others put the emphasis on creative inspiration.

What was furthermore conspicuous was the fact that visual artists represent by far the largest target group. As compared to other creative artists, they often have the advantage – by virtue of being freelancers – of the necessary spatial and temporal flexibility to enrich their own work by going abroad. Ususally, the focal points of these programs are productive cooperation, artistic exchange, and networking of the residence artists with institutions, local artists, and other program participants. Internationality and cosmopolitanism are part of the artistic self-understanding and global networking is considered, at least since the 1980s, as a prerequisite for artistic achievement.  

An example of this is the program organized by the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore. Every year up to 15 artists are locally housed at various Indian partner organizations and integrated into a diverse accompanying program that includes many Indian cultural practitioners alongside. Thus, the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore aspire for a closer networking with the local art scene and thus a more intense experience of the Indian realities.

Imparting inspiration

The field of literature is the other major focus for the different Residency programs. Here the priorities are slightly shifted: it is less about networking and co-production but rather about imparting inspiration. These programs run on the traditional, historical image of the artist as a creative genius - the new creativity acquired by foreign influences - wherefrom new art flows.         

These programs play an important role, especially in the cultural fields, where artists work alone. The London-scholarship of the German Literary Fund is an example of this kind of Artist Residency. It is not advertised publicly, but rather as a distinction awarded to a renowned author. The ten-week stay in London is organized in collaboration with the Queen Mary College, University of London.        

Regardless of whether cultural inspiration or international networking is the goal; ultimately, the artist residencies are a big win for everyone only if the artists participating and the program are compatible with one another. Only then can Artist Residencies actually contribute to international networks of cultural actors and offer inspiration in a foreign land.