One year ago, in February 2015, Akademie Schloss Solitude was preparing a new fellowship program for web designers, web developers and digital journalists. It was clear at the time that this new initiative would break one of the major rules of artists’ residencies, because the program’s future participants were not supposed to physically attend the Akademie during their fellowship. Even worse, a part of this new program would be dedicated to web residencies that would take place online without any personal contact with the selected artists. For these reasons, I suggested organizing a panel for this conference to discuss the complex use of the internet in artists’ residencies, asking if it might be possible to invite professionals from different backgrounds who were able to share their experience and knowledge on this topic from three different perspectives.
Panelists responded to the following prompts:
1) Practical issues
When did you introduce the internet into your practice? (Some of you probably were not even born when it happened)
Did it improve your management? (In terms of efficiency, visibility, etc.)
Describe the role of the internet in your communication with applicants for your residency, current fellowship-holders and former fellowship-holders; and in terms of networking
Describe the role of the internet in your communication with the community you invite to your activities
Describe the role of the internet in making the results of your work visible to the larger world. Are you interested in local visibility or wider visibility?
2) Web art
Does your institution also support web artists? How do you include them in your residency’s practice?
Do web artists have an influence on the cultural activities you are generating or promoting?
Could you imagine offering fellowships to web artists who would stay at home and wouldn’t need to come to your venue?
3) General questions
How important is the physical presence of artists in an artist residency? Would you agree that this is the “raison d’être“ of an artists’ residency?
What is your definition of an online residency?
Could you imagine an artists’ residency that offered online fellowships? Would you still consider this an artists’ residency?
How could an artists’ residency shape its program to combine online and offline activities?
Four months later, here is a summary of what I learned from this panel:
Benjamín Juárez’s remark about the need to discuss this question not only from the point of view of those who have access to the most modern technologies, but also from a low-tech perspective, including cheap and simple cell phones as tools for communicating
Marie Fol’s experience regarding online exchanges between artists’ residencies explained how it transformed her daily administrative life
Caitlin Strokosch began her intervention by asking, “Who is left out?” Who doesn’t have access to artists’ residency programs? Virtual residencies should be seen as a way to include underserved people; to connect with others
Luc Courchesne refused to draw any border between online and offline environments and describes hybrid physical spaces for sharing the experience of presence in a virtual space. He invited us to look for partner organizations in the same time zone in order to share experiences in a virtual space
Another sentence caught during this panel discussion: “Do not overlook the meaninglessness of meaningful media!”
As a kind of provisory conclusion, I might add that after nine months of experience with our new virtual academy, Schloss-Post, we have experienced something we never thought about before experiencing it and discovering how it dramatically changed our daily practice. When I say this, I mean that we have experienced the permanent interplay and exchange between online and offline activities; the mutual enrichment of online activities by offline activities and vice versa and the unexpected impact and influence one can have on the other. The future of artists’ residencies, one might say, is not online, as the title of this panel discussion suggests; it is located precisely at the intersection of online and offline activities. This interplay will have an enormous influence on the future of artists’ residencies and of cultural institutions in general.