Practice-as-Research: Ten Chances Int’l Art Res, July 2015
The full 10XARTRES event was set to run over the course of three months, and designed as two separate but subsequent residency events. Each has its own pre-event, live residency, and post-event flow and rhythm. The first event, 10XARTRES: Scotland occurred in and around Edinburgh on 20 July–2 August, followed by an event in and around Minneapolis, USA in September. It’s design is artist-led and stealthy; independent of any one institution in either cities’ art scene but intersecting with many, such as the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Walker Art Center, respectively. It’s aim is to fracture traditional artistic methods through live/work structures such that entry points are created and pathways are opened up for residents’ immediate experience of the local art scene, studio, and production, and this occurred in varying degrees.
In this residency, one half of each international cohort were the same artists: Andy, Steph, and Collette, which formed a control group, giving me an advantageous observation across both residency events. I’d begun the project design by investigating how contemporary artists move across borders for and during a residency, and after much solicitation and conversational research, invited Andy Ducett (MPLS) and Steph Mann (EDI) to undergo the international experiment; they were my control constant. Over time, resident Colette Rayner (GLA) was added to this control group. The three remaining artists in each cohort were made up of individual variable artists that only experienced one or the other location.
This trifecta of international artists (control group) was the first essential aspect of the overarching residency design, and the second was to move each residency from the isolated country into the striated city over the course of it’s designated time.
10XARTRES: Scotland began in the small rural village of Gifford, located 20 miles east of Edinburgh, for five days and then moved into the city center for the remaining 10 days, occupying an empty storefront in the busy Tollcross neighborhood on Lady Lawson Street, formerly a Bargain Spot £1 store.
The Scotland international cohort was comprised of seven emergent trans-disciplinary resident artists: Andy DuCett (MPLS), Stephanie Mann (EDI), and Collette Rayner (GLA), Luke Burton (LON), Anne-Laure Franchette (ZURICH), co-instigator James Currie (EDI), and myself. All residents were invited on recommendation from other artists in my peer group in the art scenes of Edinburgh as well as Minneapolis, my two homes. When soliciting recommendations, I inquired about emerging artists of rigour who work across disciplines and were complicit to undergo a small itinerant social studio for a two week duration.
In this Scotland residency, two new variables were essential to the unique design: 1) I collaborated with an artist-administrative partner, co-instigator James Currie, recent MFA graduate from ECA. He was responsible for filling one resident slot, and invited Anne-Laure Franchette. James also served as the embedded host of the Gifford segment, sited in an unused 18th-century estate house kept in his family called Braewell. 2) This rural component integrated both living and working in the sited studio, creating a framework of labour, recuperation, and camaraderie in one Place over time. In the past four years of my art residency experiments, they have always been strictly urban, and the sited studio, called headquarters, or HQ, has only been for working, not also a sleeping and down-time site. Residents have always been housed elsewhere in the City, which was designed into our forthcoming Edinburgh City Centre segment.
However, beginning the residency event in the close quarters of the rural house of Braewell proved an effective method to create an intimate live/work environment from which we would all undergo residency together, uncertain of ourselves and each other as we stepped off of known ground into this mutual space. The relatively quick manner in which we could enter this mutual space was due in part to lack of internet distractions in Braewell house and in part dwelling in a simple five-room abode together. Indeed, through negotiations small and large, accumulative moments of trust, vulnerability, and antagonism were felt, experienced, and sometimes, sorted.
The same Gifford residency cohort then moved into Edinburgh City Centre on 24 July, to occupy storefront Headquarters for ten days, with 24-hour studio access but no sleeping or showering facilities. Here, in the urban location, the residents lived not in the sited studio as they had in Gifford, but rather with each other, across two flats in the city, Londoner Luke staying with Steph in Haymarket and Minneapolitan Andy and Swiss Anne-Laure staying with us in Bruntsfield, two different by nearby neighborhoods. Collette Rayner, Glasgow resident, reflects that ‘the difference between collective live/work and just work sites wasn’t either better or worse, but definitely different, and encouraged different behaviours and thinking.”
This residency design is innovative in that instead of ignoring the everyday lives of local residents and demanding a complete dislocation of oneself from one’s work and family life, it is designed around them. It’s blueprint incorporates work schedules, job, and family obligations by leaving the specific structure of the days and weeks up to the residency core itself, to decide together. For example, the residents together coordinated the time slots during the week they could all meet in the Bargain Spot HQ studio, so that Steph could still work 9-5 and James could spend time with his pregnant wife and young son. This is an example of a requirement mechanism put in place by me, and then given to the cohort to form for themselves.
For local residents, this kind of wrapping of the residency occurrence around their established lives and needs has been positive, and for many, if they could not be accommodated in this way, they simply could not have participated. Steph reflects:
One thing I didn’t anticipate is that– once we left Gifford and came back to Edinburgh, I had to go back to work 8am-4pm most days while we were in Tollcross– how hard it would be! After staying up late working with everybody at the space, I would sleep for a few hours and then go to my job, and spend my whole time thinking about what everyone [at HQ] was doing while I wasn’t there.Steph M.
The aspect of being ‘in residence’ in one’s own town is a different way of perceiving one’s time, everyday world, and habitus. Once experienced, this new approach to framing one’s everyday is reported to have an energizing and iterative effect long after the residency is over.
In most residencies, especially in the US, artists are required to pay a fee in order to participate; this project commits to flip the script. First, it engages a certain ratio of local residents, and then, it aims to work around the Local Residents everyday job schedules, send them home at night to be with their families, and last but not least, pay them for their time and intellectual work. In both Scotland and Minneapolis chapters, each resident received a $300USD artist stipend and those Europeans traveling from outside to Edinburgh were reimbursed, whilst Andy Ducett and Steph Mann’s overseas travel to/from the US was bought outright by myself. Our itinerant nature meant we had no overhead nor rent to pay at any of the four locations; all the money we gathered and raised went directly to pay these artist stipends, some of the communal meals, and a continuous supply of iced beer in coolers and hot coffee. Whilst many supporters donated time and space, for example, land-owners and artists Cameron Gainer and Olga Viso waived their $400 host fee for the little Minneapolis HQ house, the total budget of both 10XARTRES chapters, was $6,200 USD with 50% funded through a U.S. student loan and a small PRE grant through ECA, and the other half through my and my partner John’s own pocketbook.
I have given the name 10XARTRES, or Ten Chances, No Hustle Art Residency, to this discursive art residency event because it aims to bridge the gap between academia and the real world for artists. It enables serious emergent artists of rigor to step back from the ‘Hustle’, as it’s known in the US, or everyday life preoccupations, tasks and concerns, and instead engenders a time and place for generation and re-generation of imaginative ideas inside the social studio. Ideas can be recurrent, and sometimes need a second chance to find their groove. Give them three. Give them ten.
- Aikengall is located within the Lammermuir hills in The Southern Uplands, which rise sharply from the narrow flat coastal plain near Dunbar on the East Coast of Scotland. The land rises from sea level up to roughly 1000 feet in a short distance and the area is divided by deep ravines and river beds. Cocklaw Hill (1046 feet), the highest, is separated from the Lammermuir Hills by the Aikengall Valley.
This area is very close to Gifford, where our residency began. This old photo, taken at Aikengall in 1948, was found in the wall in Bargain Spot in Edinburgh City Centre, where our residency ended.