Meeting in the Ether. The Future of Residencies?

For Akademie Schloss Solitude, the first year since the launch of the Schlosspost web residencies is coming to an end. Three calls with three different topics took place in 2016. For the third and the last of them, four artists out of 117 applicants were invited to take over the digital space and develop their web-based practice further, working remotly from wherever they are: Haseeb Ahmed, Polly Gregson, Megan Snowe, and Paul Simon Richards. The inspiring words by the curators for this call, Apparatus 22, defined the mindset for their residencies and led the way to works ranging from online archives, poetic gif series, and videos to Twitter bots.
What made the artists apply to the web residency and what does the program have to offer to them? Are we seeing the future of residencies?

»Somewhere over the infinite or better said beyond the infinite, a universe has slowly taken shape…

…post-chronological, post-religious-orders-as-we-know-them, post-drugs, post-capital SUPRAINFINIT.« With these prophetic words, the art collective Apparatus 22 invited artists of all disciplines to hand in ideas, fantasies, and objects for »other futures« to add to the expansion of this new cosmos, a »Utopian container for empowering thoughts on identity, economy, politics, spirituality«. Inspired by Derrida’s »l’avenir« (the to come) – that which he calls the totally unexpected, the »real« future in opposition to the programmed and predictable – their concept offered an open space of possibility, an iridescent, productive gap for an imaginary full of empathy, hope, and optimism.

Hope is the New Oxygen

In their concept of the SUPRAINFINIT, Apparatus 22 seem to cite the perception of the Internet that we used to have not long ago: as a promising experimental and free space for new empowering thoughts before privatization, surveillance, robots, and algorithms overtook cyberspace. So ­­what does the Internet still have to offer? What inspired the artists to apply for the web residencies? Apparatus’ call proposes hope and activism: »Ghosts of familiar bleak futures prophesied by media and politicians hover like prowlers in our subconsciousness. Forget about them. Or render them transparent. Hope is the new oxygen.«

Following a research-based practice, the American artist Haseeb Ahmed, who is currently based in Brussels, was immediately convinced particularly by this last tag line to develop his project The Vortex-Faced Being Speaks on the face and metaphors of the wind further on the web in the context of Apparatus’ concept. During his web residency, he experimented and worked with developers to create a Twitter bot as a personification and voice of the wind reporting on its direction and speed from five places all over the world. »I think the web residency program,« the artist explains »provides an opportunity to take web-based practices seriously. Our approach to the web has become too quickly standardized and accustomed. This is a chance to push those expectations.«

Net Art or Visual Arts? A Foot on Either Side

Being visual artists and designers themselves, Apparatus this time didn’t mainly attract creatives from the net art scene, but rather visual artists who also engage more directly with web culture – although it might beg the question, though, whether this distinction is even necessary. Visual artist Paul Simon Richards, from Great Britain, has a foot on either side. He spends most of his life online and thinks about ways to break down the rules of representation by subverting the codes which form our access to it, particularly focusing on algorithms and codes, but yet he tries to use them in a visual art discourse.

The artist specifically wanted the Quasi-Monte Carlo project he worked on during his web residency to exist in a freely available way. Not copyright free, but accessible nonetheless. »The project I am doing is very much about being online, I make the work entirely on screen, I refer constantly to online learning forums. I send footage online to a render farm in France and then I retrieve this data via web links. Then the work is distributed online via Vimeo. Which all fits well within the mind set of the Schlosspost residency.« The finished video in the series Quasi-Monte Carlo will soon be presented on Schlosspost.


Meeting in the Ether is Free and Fascinating

»Meeting in the ether is free, instant, vast and fascinating,« says Polly Gregson. The artist and writer based in Cornwall and France has left London for the fields and is currently researching the effects of rurality on contemporary art practice – mostly by living it. But not wanting to miss potential encounters from the urban art scene, she applied for the residency which offered a parallel online adventure: »I could keep the farm in check and I could also make future relics – vegetables and dystopia: le rêve.« Online and offline, both worlds exist and are real, the divide might even be forever obsolete.

Gregson’s archive of future relics is actually the result of a process of formalization through the application: »I had ideas at the back of my mind that were directionless but hopeful, and the prospect of a web residency made me sit down, formulate a proposal, think about a structure and believe that maybe it would work.«

A Post-everything World Aching With Possibility

Web resident Megan Snowe felt that the concept posed a nice challenge for her work. »I had the idea of my proposal in mind already, but hadn’t found the perfect context in which to pursue it. The concept of the open call opened up new ideas around this preexisting idea in an exciting way.« For her project See Attachments the New-York-based artist composed a series of animated, poetic gif texts »that illustrate attachment in a post-everything world aching with possibility, a SUPRAINFINIT.« The web residency hasn’t necessarily changed her daily habits around her work, she says »which is something that does happen in IRL residencies. Changing these daily habits and physical contexts in which I make work can be difficult to adjust to. Right now, a digital residency is right up my alley in terms of the degree of life-shift it offers.«

Is This the Future of Residencies?

Reviewing the different statements by the artists there is particularly one motivation to join a residency on the web – next to the independence of geographical space and institutional settings as well as reaching a broader audience – that is connecting the dots: its this curiosity about the unknown and experimental, that Apparatus proclaim and demand with their curatorial setting, that is also the engine of the Schlosspost web residency program and its participants – as an invitation for artists to try something new on the web, present experiments publicly without the gravity of a full-on exhibition, and, most importantly, find the encouragement and trust for unusual projects and thoughts or even unformed ideas.

Is this the residency of the future? »It is certainly a future,« says Gregson, and »a brilliant way of opening doors to people isolated or unable to drop their work on a whim.« Ahmed goes one step further stating: »Web residencies turn time in space, particularly cyber space…If supported properly they could have the same importance as longer term institutional residencies. As the artworld network streamlines, residencies become a more important filtering device.«

In the end, physical space and contact will always be important – as going somewhere to another place, and spending time with different people, may have a strong impact on what one does and thinks. But a certain life situation, a special interest or project might make artists have a closer look when they stumble over the next call for web residencies, get inspired by a topic and start playing at the surface of online and offline: »…it has been somewhat strange. I am in the kitchen in gasworks having coffee and then say to a colleague that I have to go back upstairs to my residency.« (P. S. Richards)

We are happy to see you again in 2017 to be part of the next digital journeys with new curators, partners, and topics. Many thanks to everyone who participated this year with their content, thoughts, and expertise!

Clara Herrmann
Chief-editor of Schlosspost