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Saari Residence

16.12.2021

At Saari Residence’s Summer Well: Morag Iles

Morag Iles Kuva: Ruth Gibson

Photo: Ruth Gibson

In her dissertation Analysing Artist Residencies in Scotland: What impact do residencies have on individuals’ artistic practice? (working title), doctoral student Morag Iles examines the effects of residencies on artists’ livelihoods, work and practice of art. In an interview with Irmeli Kokko, Iles talks about her research and its challenges.

How did you come up to start research on residencies?

The research topic was developed collaboratively by three residency organisations in Scotland; Bothy Project, Cove Park and The Work Room.  The University of Glasgow (with support from Glasgow School of Art), alongside representatives from each organisation managed an interview process, which led to my research appointment. The research is funded by the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Prior to successfully applying for the PhD, I was working as a freelance producer and project manager. These roles included securing residencies for artists, as well as managing residency programmes as part of a meanwhile spaces project.

What has been most challenging in your residency research? 

There have been three major challenges in my residency research. Firstly, negotiating current political ideology which equates value and impact with growth and productivity. In a society that is driven by goals and outputs, how do we articulate and discuss the benefits of residency experiences, which are often non-linear and non-hierarchical? How can we present ideas of care, slowness and failure as being both important and alternative to growth and productivity? The second challenge has been finding the appropriate language and format to disseminate the results of this study to the multiple stakeholders involved in the project. And finally, each residency organisation I am working with provides a unique residency experience. Therefore, I’ve needed to ensure the research methods I use celebrate each sites individuality, representing the diversity of residency opportunities in the field.

How and to whom can your research be useful for?

The aim of my research is to develop an evaluation framework that can support residency organisations to capture artists’ experiences of residencies beyond the restrictions of ‘measurable outcomes’. Developing such a tool prioritises artists’ experiences, encouraging and supporting artists to reflect upon their needs and consider the opportunities provided by different residency models.

Embedding the project within academia, adds data to the growing residency research field. By concentrating on residencies in one geographical location, Scotland, I can begin to map how residencies are impacting on artists’ livelihoods, work and practice. Such evidence will support Scottish policy makers to understand the role residencies play in contemporary art making in Scotland.