Even a quick skim of the residency applications revealed all the facets and stages of art, from coexistence and sharing to loneliness, from passion to exhaustion, and from sincere but fumbling forays to steely determination. Contemporary themes were the most prominent, and I was grateful for the opportunity to review them. In the end, however, I had to ask myself what kind of artistic endeavours seemed to me the most worthy of support right now. The fact that the evaluators change every year provides a meaningful setting for the process and an opportunity to emphasise boldly what is of personal importance to you.
There were many excellent applications. The task of acting as a peer evaluator in my own field was fascinating to me, but tough at the same time, because I would have loved to be able to enable even more artists and to engage in interactive feedback with the applicants.
The themes that emerged from many of the applications included ecology in relation to artistic work and the ecology of the body, challenging the idea of continuous production and effectiveness, appreciating human softness and porosity, working and travelling slowly, listening gently to age and ageing, and restful, dialogic working methods that break down hierarchies.
I strove to enable artistic work that would function and communicate at a deep level with the circumstances prevalent at the Saari Residence: work that would benefit from its peace, nature, excellent workspaces and encounters with colleagues. The residence is a wonderful space that offers time for deep reflection and restful hatching. I was hoping to also enable projects that don’t necessarily aim at a well-defined, preconceived piece of work as output, but where spending time developing the work has intrinsic value. Resting and calming down while your own and shared questions occupy your mind can be enough and can even be the most important thing.
In many of the artists’ working methods, feminist-oriented practices were present – at least the questions. I considered it important for the applicant to be able to articulate their artistic thinking, their experiences of the quality and continuity of their work, how well others understand their work and self-reflection and generosity to the ethos they were presenting. I wanted to pick both new and established artists from various backgrounds and support many career stages – especially the middle stage, which many artists find extremely challenging and even discouraging. I was also keen to support projects and working methods that tend to fall between the cracks of various fields of art. Multidisciplinary approaches, collaborative practices and research-based perspectives were at the heart of many of the applications, and this reveals that contemporary art is increasingly rooted in the dialogue between different spheres, and that artists want to improve themselves in this respect.