Secrets of Solitude #1

What is the secret of Akademie Schloss Solitude? Who has not yet been here? How has the institution developed? In this anniversary year of the Akademie, it’s time to reflect back on the last 25 years and to look to the future of Solitude. 25 friends, artists, jurors, and partners were invited to challenge the Akademie with one question each to reveal its secrets.

#1. 25 years Akademie Schloss Solitude – how did the fellows and the program change over the years from 1990 to 2015?
Brigitte Dethier, Junges Ensemble Stuttgart

The fellows are not only exclusively from Europe, but come from all the continents in the world. Along with the ever denser international networking in the Akadamie, you can observe increasing fast-paced developments. The fellows of the 21st century are nomads and hardly ever spend their time at the Akademie on one piece, but rather with interruptions. Everyone wants to simultaneously be everywhere and can no longer allow themselves to stay a whole year. As opposed to in the ’90s, the majority of current fellows have an exact idea what project they want to work on here. The original task of Akademie Schloss Solitude to facilitate a deceleration and a »time without qualities« for the artists here, in which they can develop and implement their ideas without any external pressure, is all the more important since small miracles can happen in such moments of freedom.

#2. Solitude is influencing individual lives of a great number of artists, scientists, and theoreticians from around the world. After the residency in Stuttgart many lives change, a great responsibility and a very powerful tool. What is the vision of Solitude and your mission for the future? What is the role of a residency program in culture policy in the geopolitical context we are living now?
Ika Sienkiewicz-Nowacka, A-I-R laboratory, Warsaw

The experience of a residency influences artists’ lives under some simple conditions: a fellowship, a studio for living and working, and opportunities for sharing professional experience with colleagues for a period of three to twelve months. During this time the institution doesn’t put any pressure on the artists, who are not obliged to produce anything or to participate in any collective project. Respecting the freedom of each; accepting to follow the artists with their own ideas; supporting their individual or collective projects is the genuine position of Akademie Solitude. It seems that this experience is quite rare in the artistic world and that it makes Solitude somehow unique in its way of dealing with artists. As you say, it is a great responsibility and a powerful tool.

What could be the mission of Solitude in the future? Continuing to work as a networking machine that connects talents from the arts and sciences, who were not »programmed« to meet, liberating unsuspected potentials of collaboration that could have a positive impact anywhere, be it in Solitude today or in other parts of the world tomorrow?

Because there’s no single geopolitical context but many different ones, it’s difficult to speak about »the« role of artist residencies. Let’s say on a very general, almost abstract, level that the open and unconstrained contract between artist and residency allows one to explore and to invent infinite possible relations, i.e. to think about the role of the artist in future societies.

#3 1990/2015 is a long way.
A lot of things changed along the way.
The role of Germany in the world,
The idea of Europe,
The relation (and conflicts) between different cultures,
The analog / digital paradigm shift,
The internet, social media and all the rest,
The big crisis,
The (turbo) globalization,
The great feature of the Akademie is that in this hurricane of enormous changes, it didn’t change much.
Are the items mentioned above (and many others) relevant to the Akademie?
There are good reasons to answer yes, there are good reasons to answer no.
What’s the answer?
What are the answers?
Do we need to answer?
Stefano Mirti, Designer, Milan

So many questions! The answers are between the questions, don’t you think?

#4 Every castle has a secret passage. Where does Solitude’s lead to?
Philip Ursprung, art und architecture historian, Zurich

Yes. There is indeed a secret passage. The passage follows an untold story which takes place between art, theater, music, and politics. The story was told by the chairmen of the jury of the academy. It begins with the loquacious Johannes Cladders, the friend of Marcel Broodthaers and Daniel Buren. This secret passage advances through the Junge Wilde to the Minimalists thanks to Johannes Gachnang (also a chairman of the jury) and then continues with the renaissance of German theater in the second half of the ’90s. Gender issues, activism and the Ivy League marked the way for the last 15 years. Solitude’s secret passage is currently leading us with our Indian chairman, Kaiwan Mehta, to another understanding of culture, globalized from a world-wide perspective. Where the secret passage leads, no one yet knows.

#5. In Akademie Schloss Solitude, what is the place of mutation?
Akseli Virtanen, theorist of new political economy and founder of the Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative, Helsinki

The place of mutation is very much related to the »time of better quality« or »the time without properties« already mentioned, which Solitude tries to offer. A time without any social or financial pressure, fully dedicated to rethink and reshape artistic projects and careers. Very often new fellows arrive at Solitude with a fixed project and plan on how to use their time and money. And very often after a couple of weeks being at Solitude they find a different rhythm and things begin to change and modify. Solitude staff always tries to support these changes, which leads to a permanent challenge in the house and also triggers the mutation and adaptation of methods and structuress the institution uses to support fellows best. This might even initiate the establishment of new programs like the Eastern European Network exchange in 2001 or the establishment of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Fellowship in 2011, aimed at writers in political or financial need. And just lately, while trying to find new ways of communicating the onoging exchange of ideas and activities in the house, it lead to the development of a new webportal which everyone can actively take part in and which will be launched by the end of the year. At the same time, for the last 25 years the Akademie has never touched or changed its primary principle: to support artists and to offer them as much freedom as possible.

#6. What is the difference between working (on) a project and playing a project?
Vera Nebolsina, chess grandmaster, Novosibirsk

Artists will usually see no difference between working and playing (on) a project. It is much more the »game with the possible« as Maurice Blanchot called it where the borders between the two are completely blurred. It is rather an open-ended game which opens up new spaces, an experimental practice which evades strict control. Or to cite James A. Michener who put it in a nutshell: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ”

For the art institution who tries to help realize and make the project possible, this is a constant challenge as »working on a project« in terms of project management requires not only a certain structure and organisation but also knowing in advance what the end result should be and look like. Therefore, working methods constantly have to be adapted to the respective circumstances and requirements of the single project and very often, this also leads to a more playful approach.