Practice-as-Research: Ten Chances Int’l Art Res, September 2015
The full Ten Chances artists’ residency (10XARTRES) event was set to run over the course of three months, and designed in two separate residency events; the first had already occurred in and around Edinburgh at the end of July, followed by this event in and around Minneapolis, USA from 7-20 September. I wrote some designs similar to the Scottish residency, however, the Minneapolis event experience was drastically different.
The Minneapolis cohort was comprised of six emergent trans-disciplinary resident artists: Andy DuCett (MPLS), Stephanie Mann (EDI), and Collette Rayner (GLA), all three artists involved in both events thereby creating a control group. They were complimented with artists Stephen Kavanagh (EDI), Drew Peterson (MPLS), Derek Ernster (MPLS), and myself. All residents were invited on recommendation from emerging artists in my peer group in Edinburgh as well as Minneapolis, my two homes. When soliciting recommendations, I looked for artists of rigour who work across disciplines and would be keen to undergo together a small social studio for a duration of three weeks.
Following the recent Gifford/Edinburgh model of moving from rural to urban, we began in the live/work site of Night Owl Farm, in rural North Branch, 45 minutes outside the City. This is a very rough-and-ready site – no working toilets, pitching tents, and firing up one propane-fueled hob – though it did have cell signal capabilities (and thus the Internet, for some), a water pump, and electricity. Here, our embedded host was Minneapolis artist Rosemary Kimball, who co-runs the working farm. At this initial site and the outset of our time together, we met as veritable strangers (with the exception of Andy, Collette, and Steph) and spent our time in conversation, looking at each other’s work, tending the crops by day, and getting to know each other through communal farm work and campfire conversation.
After four days, we then moved into a storefront HQ in the Minneapolis city center, initially as a work site only. Once in the city, however, the three guest residents were variously housed, with Steph staying at Andy’s house, and Collette and Stephen actually dwelling in the work studio City HQ. This turn came about by sheer pragmatism; I was no longer an embedded host in Minneapolis, having transitioned to Edinburgh, and so could not effectively secure a dwelling place for the guests, as the local residents (except Andy) could not accommodate them in their homes. This was a first for me, as we had always been able to house one or two guest residents in our home, but now I, too, was crashing on couches. Having (some) residents dwelling in the HQ work space changed all the dynamics entirely.
On reflection, this Minneapolis event was the most personally difficult of all my residency work throughout the years. Stepping back across the border to a Place where I was once an embedded host without working with a currently embedded host was deeply problematic. This aspect made it so that I was administering without my legs under me, quite unmoored, and I couldn’t open up the necessary and crucial pathways for the residents, especially the Guest residents, nor could I participate fully, as I could in the earlier Gifford/Edinburgh event.
Each resident in this Minneapolis event was paid a $200 USD stipend, and one Scottish resident, Stephanie Mann, had a paid airline ticket (approx. $800 USD), whilst we’d given the others, Collette and Stephen, $400 USD to contribute to their international airfare. This occurred because when I first designed the project in late Winter/Spring of 2015, as part of the social contract with Andy and Steph, their long haul trans-Atlantic airfares would be completely provided by the residency administer, myself. During the prior Scotland event, Collette became such an integral part of the social studio with Steph and Andy that we literally extended a last-minute invitation to her to join the Minneapolis cohort, already fully formed, and therefore could only give her partial travel stipend.
As the two new Minneapolis residents, Drew and Derek, couldn’t house Collette and Stephen for various pragmatic reasons, preparation time constraints made it so that Collette and Stephen had to also sleep at the Studio HQ, a situation that had never occurred in a residency project design for me before. This factor split up the cohort in curious ways, as the merry Steph/Andy/Collette trio from the Scotland event were now divided and this left Collette feeling quite isolated. It also split up the designated spaces within the Studio HQ, a small carriage house behind Cameron Gainer and Olga Viso’s home. As Olga was the Director of the Walker Art Center at the time, they’d kept the carriage house for visiting artists, and generously offered it up as a site for our Studio HQ.
Two rooms that would’ve been for general studio and social use to the entire 6-resident cohort were now cut off as live-only spaces, one for Stephen and one for Collette. This resulted in only the small kitchen and living room being usable to all, and residents working late at night had to contend with those trying to sleep whilst those working during the day had to move around all the wet towels and toiletry items in the bathroom. The kind September weather allowed for common use of the side yard and gardens, however, and residents also went outside of a 30-meter boundary around HQ to engage the City of Minneapolis much more than they did in Edinburgh. For example, Collette interviewed micro-nationalists across town for her work and Stephen made rubber molds of various imprints on public sidewalks in scattered locations to take back to Scotland for casting.
Here in the Minneapolis location, our pathways took us much further afield throughout the cities. This was in part due to the nature and geography of American living; streets are wider, most individual dwellings are detached houses instead of high density tenements, almost every house has large gardens and yards, and cultural spots are often miles apart as the vast majority of residents drive. The infrastructure of all but the largest American cities- i.e. Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, do not support a robust bus or other public transportation system. The spread of the urban space greatly affected our artists’ residency form, rhythm, and flow.
Unlike in the earlier 10XScotland event, in which all three guest residents resided with the locals in their own homes, here, only out-of-towner Steph stayed with Andy, something they’d arranged months prior. In addition, Andy’s house is located 10.4 miles from Studio HQ, where all the action was happening, and so their domestic activities and convivialities felt remote, mysterious and hidden to everyone else. The outcome of this was such that the intimate one-to-one bonds formed simultaneously to all by the guest-host dwelling relation, essential to my other residency designs, did not in fact occur. These one-to-one bonds have been shown to strengthen the overall core group trust, and, to support this claim further, their absence here was debilitating; once arriving into the urban space, the larger core group, including myself, became more fragmented, passive/aggressive, and individualistic