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Saari Residence

16.12.2021

At Saari Residence’s Summer Well: Angela Serino

In her research on residencies, curator Angela Serino examines what residencies mean to artists and explores the different dimensions of time for an artist during and after working at a residence. In her interview with Irmeli Kokko, Serano explains how the pandemic has affected artists’ work and how residencies have also had to re-evaluate the sustainability of their activities in a new way.

What kind of changes has the pandemic brought to residency activities? In practices or values.

To sum up, I would say that the pandemic has affected residencies by creating urgent needs to

  • reflect on the nature of the activities (what can be done online vs what necessitates a physical presence); and how possibly to integrate these two realities (online and offline); 
  • consider what is the ecological and emotional impact of continuous travel 
  • rethink a more sustainable model of international mobility and how/where to fund it 
  • seek other ways to engage with localities (and communities) in longer term 
  • include issues of social justice and ecological impact in the discussion of the future of residencies programs

International residencies have played an important role in enabling artistic work, especially for visual artists. According to your own observations, how has the pandemic affected artists?

For artists based in the Netherlands, this has meant for sure adapting and changing their projects, but on the basis of financial support, it was still granted both for the projects in residencies that could not happen, as well as for the new adapted ones. I doubt that this was possible for many other artists in or outside Europe. 

On the content level, I think some artists have found ways to adapt their projects to the new conditions and still find ways to produce them, while others have reflected on the experience of the pandemic itself in new works. Some have instead lived this experience in more private ways which will become visible in new works in a later stage.

Now that traveling is re-starting, how does the future of residencies look like for you?  What do you expect to happen in the residency field?

As a forced halt to the life and the activities of several workers (cultural/art workers included), the pandemic has undoubtedly instigated a series of reflections on the sustainability of the residency model as we know it: namely as a continuous movement of artists and curators traveling from one country to another for short periods of research/encounter.

However, now that the global emergency seems to soften more and more, I’m afraid that changes will be possible only if they become an urgent item in the cultural policy agendas. We need to work together – artists, residency operators, politicians, and members of society – to transform wishful thinking into a concrete plan.

In general, I think there are exciting times ahead of us. 

Is there something else you’d like to say about art-residencies?

I can only point out that there have been a lot of interesting discussions on the future of residencies, showing that there is a general need to openly discuss what is not working, not just in the residency field but also in the art world and society at large. There is a collective need for change. And this is very positive: it’s a precondition for anything new we want to do.

Angela Serino: Cultivating Time. Kunstlich. Vol. 39, No 2, 2018, Unpacking Residencies: Situating The Production Of Cultural Relations. https://tijdschriftkunstlicht.nl/vol-39-no-2-2018-unpacking-residencies-situating-the-production-of-cultural-relations/

Residencies as Learning Environments

Irmeli Kokko