Secrets of Solitude #2

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.

#7. The institution is named as »Akademie«. For Solitude, what is the meaning, the vision behind the word Academy?
Marcelo Cardoso Gama, theater director and founder of Instituto Gama de Arte, São Paulo

The function of an artist residency should be compared to that of an Academy in the context of the Renaissance. In short, the academy of the 16th century had the task of establishing the artist as a subject and distinguishing him from a scholar, ingenieur or artisan. The academies of the Renaissance created a new room for discussions and disputes; they made an exchange of knowledge under scholars or artists possible. Outside of the court of the universities and churches, they contributed to the propagation of innovation; this is to this day one of the most prominent tasks of artist residencies. The Académie de France in Rome (now Villa Medici), founded in 1666, can probably be described as the first residential art center, despite the fact that the concept did not yet exist then. It housed young French artists who were chosen by the members of the Académie des Beaux Arts and commissioned by King Louis XIV to replicate antique sculptures for the Garden of Versailles. To be selected for a residency in Rome was considered an honor, an accolade, an official acknowledgment, and entailed the acceptance into the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. This was a clear system of education, support, and recognition from the state, which was tied up to corresponding obligations and distinctions. In this, you can recognize a component of the practice of art houses today. The allocation of a fellowship is still to this day considered an honor and recognition of artistic ability. The realization of an artistic commission is – not always, but time and again – the aim of a residency in a »residential art center«.

#8. Why me?
Mikael Mikael, visual artist

That is a question which should be answered by the juror who chose you. As you know, Solitude has a very unique jurying system. An independent jury selects all fellows. A rotating jury chairman who is in charge of two application sessions names one specialist juror for each discipline, who in turn independently selects fellows in the respective discipline. The specialist jurors are changing with each application round. They have to make a tough decision, especially in visual arts where most applications end up – usually between 900 and 1,000 applications, last time when we introduced the online application system even much more. Out of this high number of applications the juror chooses around eight to ten candidates. This selection system which has been applied since the very first jury in 1990 is based on the subjectivity of jurors and until now, it has seemed to work …

#9. How will Akademie Schloss Solitude’s programming continue to nurture diversity in all its forms (cultural, religious, gender, race, class, etc.)?
Mario Caro, president of Res Artis, New York

Diversity is less something to be nurtured, much more the result of the Solitude networking activities, which have been developing since 1989. In the initial years the Solitude-fellows were generally German or European, but diversity grew quickly and continuously: at first towards Eastern Europe and North America, then South-America and Asia. Now we are making a special effort to invite artists from African countries to apply. But diversity is also restrained by the restrictive European policy towards non-European citizens, for whom it is becoming more and more difficult to enter the European »fortress.« The best thing about diversity is that we don’t think about it as something special; it simply became a part of Solitude’s DNA.

#10. Do you see a change in the relations (personal, work, political, any) between the East (ie. former Soviet bloc) and West European fellows since the beginning of the Akademie and if, how?
Zsófia Lóránd, research fellow at the Central European University, Budapest

Yes, indeed we do see a change in the relations between fellows from the East and from Western Europe and we are happy to say that Solitude did hopefully contribute very much to it. In the beginning, fellows from Eastern Europe had less possibilities to travel, to work, and to exhibit in Western Europe. For this reason, Solitude first introduced a special program in 1990, a travel fellowship for 16 artists from the GDR and from 1993 to 1997 more of these programs have been offered (including travel stipends) to artists from Lithuania, the Ukraine, and Poland. This was a first step to foster the exchange between artists from the East and the West and it was followed by many more, like in 1999 the big exhibition »Solitude in Budapest« in cooperation with the Kunsthalle Múcsarnok and the Ernst Museum in Budapest and in 2002 the festival »A Need for Realism«, in Warsaw, in cooperation with the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle. The festival in Warsaw was the founding stone for a long term cooperation that lasts until today. It lead to the foundation of a new residency program with two live/work studios (today ten) at Ujazdowski Castle in 2003. By implementing this program, the Akademie has fulfilled a long lasting wish to enter into an equal, bilateral exchange with Eastern European institutions and artists. It gave artists from Eastern and Western Europe the possibiity for three-month-stays here and there, and maybe even more important to simply experience the cultural, societal and political realities in the respective countries. This first exchange program was followed by many more, like the very fruitful exchange with young Hungarian writers from Budapest – which you, Zsófia, have been taking care of for a long time – and with other partner institutions from Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia.

#11. Seeing every year new fellows coming and old fellows leaving, is the Schloss sometimes not tired, very secretly, to deal with all the »egos«? More generally, would it be possible to detach art from the »figure of the ego«? Or is the artist’s ego unavoidable, as a projection screen for the rest of our society?
Katya Bonnenfant, visual artist

As in all areas of life, there are also big egos at Solitude, and presumably it’s part of the job of an artist to nurture a certain ego in order to assert oneself in the fields of unresolved tension between art and the market. At Solitude however, different rules count than in free market economy, and fellows with a big ego understand very quickly here that work in the community and communication with others can create exciting projects and ideas. In our daily work, we all try to understand the fellows with their concepts, plans, and ideas and to offer them ways to develop them further. In this way, even the biggest egos become human and endearing. No, we’re not yet tired of this work. Not by a long shot.

#12. For 25 years, Akademie Schloss Solitude has been a fundamental component of the social and cultural life of Stuttgart. What if for some very strange reasons the Akademie would move elsewhere? Where should it go and how should it travel? In German history some institutions have been nomadic (the Bauhaus): what would a moving Akademie look like?
Fabrizio Gallanti, architect, Montreal

Even though Solitude looks very much like a rock solid Stuttgart institution on the grounds of the Solitude castle, it has always been a nomadic institution as well. With all the satellite exchange programs in Eastern Europe, a gallery in Berlin, workshops, exhibitions, festivals and projects in Johannesburg, Budapest, Warsaw, Toronto, Novi Sad, Zagreb, Buenos Aires, in the Antarctic and in New York it has reached out nationally and globally. Furthermore, the 1,200 former fellows who build the Solitude Network are spread all over the world and build little satellites in their home towns and cities. From there they often help us to realize projects with their specific knowledge and support. This means the Solitude spirit is basically everywhere which will soon become evident in the latest publication, the Solitude Atlas, including 145 contributions from former fellows and jurors writing about their home town in different ways and formats. Last but not least, Solitude will soon be offering Online Fellowships on the new web portal which is currently being built and which will transform into a second digital Akademie. The digital Akademie will not only invite former and present fellows to contribute but also the interested public. Solitude is moving in different ways but until now it has always been an important part of the cultural policy of the state of Baden-Württemberg and should stay like this in the future, on the historical premises of Schloss Solitude.