I've been meaning to reply to this thread for ages so I'm glad the topic
is being renewed. Its absolutely serendipitous as I'm in the middle of
preparing an exhibition/experiment here at FACT that deals with this
topic - opening on 13 March, called Climate for Change.
The exhibition is one in a long line up of
exhibitions/festivals/conferences lately discussing artists' responses
to sustainability and climate change. I know you're primarily using the
term 'environmental' in a geographically-specific context but a bit
about the exhibition's environmental focus nonetheless: aware that
environmentalist ideologies all too often exist in a narrow framework
that pits naturalism against inexorable capitalist development, and
strip people of agency over their own lives, we wanted to expand the
concept of 'environmentalism' to include other topics that are just as
relevant and pressing, and ultimately linked - housing crisis, food
crisis, financial crisis (peak oil & peak credit), to name a few.
The focus is a space for collective discourse and action as a way of
facilitating a number of perspectives on this complex and often
oversimplified topic. The main gallery uses the ‘social centre’ as a
model, inviting Liverpool groups to use FACT’s space and resources to
host their own events and workshops. Many of these groups participate in
what Simon Yuill calls 'distributive practices': “a ‘way of doing’ that
seeks to propagate the knowledge and resources through which it is
generated, and which itself also generates, so that others may adopt and
adapt it“, and the exhibition posits that these self-organized groups,
through practicing new governance systems, DIY strategies and
alternative politics, have a key role to play in sustainability debates.
Essentially, we're turning the keys to the door over to local community
groups - so hosting multiple residencies, labs, discussions, workshops.
Underneath this will be a number of artist residencies, where the
strategies we're taking relate to this discussion. In particular its
worth highlighting our partnership with Eyebeam, where they are sending
over three of their senior fellows - Steve Lambert, Jeff Crouse and
Hans-Christoph Steiner – each in residence for a week to 10 days
throughout the exhibition. We're calling their participation the
Sustainability Road Show (after their Sustainability Research Group and
the Road Show model their Eyebeam fellows have come up with, also
relevant to this discussion but I'll let them elaborate if they like).
This is a bit different from what has been discussed here already in
that it’s an exchange supported by one organisation/institution
(Eyebeam) to another (FACT), rather than the individual artists coming
to work in residence with us themselves (though we’re doing some of that
too in the show, with N55 and the Ghana Think Tank project) (...and have
a few other artist projects as part of the show that aren’t necessarily
residency-based - Melanie Gilligan, Stefan Szczelkun, Anthony Iles
curating a screening/discussion series based on Mute’s 2007 green issue,
AIDS 3D, etc).
Couple of points to your questions:
Sarah Cook wrote:
> 1. "what are the necessary conditions for weaving people together
(technological or otherwise)... [during] a time-limited residency in a
specific environmental and geographic place?"
In early discussions with Eyebeam this was high on the list - how do we
get the fellows working well in a Liverpool context? A large part of
this we hope will be solved by the cross pollination local
self-organized groups working in the gallery at the same time as
out-of-town artist residents. Its a shared studio - they're using the
same space and resources so will ideally share information almost
accidentally. No doubt this shared space could also become a source of
(potentially useful?) conflict. One of the projects they're proposing is
a Liverpool city wiki, so will require lots of talking and socializing
(the social aspect being another key strategy - one that The People
Speak use a lot too, making conversation and sharing information enjoyable).
We're also ditching the hotel rooms and instead putting the artists up
with staff, friends, friends of friends, and community groups - in spare
rooms and couches where they'll naturally feel more a part of the city
and hopefully offer an exchange.
To Simon's point about moderation/facilitation - part of our gallery
space is a residency/office space for all the artists and community
groups, and I've earmarked myself a desk space in there so I can spend
as much time as possible doing this. I agree that many of the skills
required to be a good facilitator are those of a good curator too.
> 2. "how do you manage the successful delivery of projects if the
artist can only be onsite 8 days before the project launch or has to
leave the day after, or you only get access to the presenting venue two
days before the opening? How do you bring people up to speed, both those
local and those coming in from afar?"
Perhaps a minor point here but one of the strategies we've come up with
is having, alongside the fellows coming into residence, also inviting
Eyebeam's technician (Jamie O'Shea) to be in residence leading up to the
show, helping to install - working with our technicians to set things
up, where they share skills and knowledge between them that will
hopefully help integrate the artist residents into our community. Its
going to be interesting to have a different type of residency alongside
the more typical artist-in-residence.
> 3. "how can you respond to place when you are in a new place, with
new people, seeking to work together in a limited time-period, mindful
of existing relationships and histories and geographical constraints to
create something meaningful and lasting?"
We've got it good at FACT for a couple of reasons - Liverpool is an
extremely friendly city, where we definitely feel the advantage of not
being a 'large hub' as Mercedes notes (though still an important hub in
the UK’s cultural landscape!), so things happen more quickly here. But
also we've got a solid mechanism for integrating many people we work
with into the local community with our tenantspin project. In its 10th
year, the community broadcast project initiated by Superflex has been a
huge success – extremely meaningful and lasting - and having them in
residence here, in our building, so closely integrated into our
activities and programme but led by Liverpool tenants themselves – means
that we have an in-built mechanism for integrating new artists into our
community. They act as these key ‘facilitators’, who are both inside and
outside our organization.
I know many of these strategies are old hat for a lot of you on this
list but it will be interesting to see how this kind of thing works for
our own institutional context. We can feed back on how those things go
and I'll read carefully this discussion for some more ideas and points
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