‘The Hypermobile Icarus or the ethical responsabilities of AIR programs’ (2011-2012)


Artist-in-residence centres (AiRs) exist to facilitate artists and curators with a time and space away from their usual environment, it is emphasized by most AiR networks, and to stay and work elsewhere ‘for art’s sake’. Many residential art centres lay down the terms guest artists have to comply with, such as producing an exhibition at the end of the period, or they want the artists to accomplish a project in collaboration with other artists, or they look for some interaction with the public. As we will argue, though, besides its heterogeneity and valuable inputs, the phenomenon of the AiRs creative model in the 21stcentury is in need of a thoughtful re-evaluation, as the process of creative commodification and compulsive nomadism could undermine the positive contributions that AiRs have achieved so far.

In recent years, a much-needed and very varied process of self-assessment took place within a good number of AiR networks. The organization of a plethora of seminars and conferences, like the ones in Cairo, 2009, Warsaw, 2009 or Amsterdam, 2010, exemplify the recent interest in questioning the given for granted functionality of AiRs, while reflecting on the soft power and global responsibilities of these programmes.

In 2006, the European Parliament declared that mobility, a sine qua non for artists and other cultural professionals since many years, “should become a natural element in the professional career of all Europeans”. The European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts) study team recognized mobility not simply as occasional movements across national borders that may be useful to advance artistic endeavour, but as an integral part of the professional life of artists and other cultural workers today.

Thanks to recent studies undertaken within different cultural policy organizations, and in a lesser measure by some AiR networks, we now have comprehensive material regarding artists mobility within the European context. All the same, as the ERICarts Mobility Mattersstudy remarks, there is still much more investigation to be done both, empirically, through the analysis of statistics and testimonies, as well as by establishing new conceptual frameworks.

‘The Hypermobile Icarus’ is an attempt to underline the importance of the process of critically rethinking AiRs, while, at the same time disclosing the possible implications of what has been conceptualized as hypermobility in the specific context of AiR programmes.

‘The Hypermobile Icarus’ is a research project co financed by the Erasmus Young Entrepreneur Program and the ICEC (Catalan Arts Council) and was presented at Regional Meeting of Resartis in Debrecen (Hungary) and at the Transitory Network Forum in the Saloon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade Serbia. A shorter version of the research has been published at ‘On-AIR. Reflecting on the mobility of artists in Europe’, a project coordinated by Transartis.

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