After a bustling season of FIAC Art Fair and Paris Photo, we turn our headlights outwards and beyond the walls of the capital, where creative hotspots shape the talents of tomorrow. Sheltered from the mainstream hip, carefully selected artists develop their future practice within art residencies based in the suburbs.
Creative hubs all around
Art residencies can take many forms but are, in essence, a space conducive to creation equipped with facilities and linked to an institution where artists are invited (upon selection) to stay and work on an experimental project. Usually, the close proximity between various disciplines and artists from different backgrounds sets the condition for enhanced collaboration and experimentation. In a nutshell: a living laboratory for creative imagination driven by a communal spirit. Or the artist 9 to 5, if you will (yes, we do need a little bit of structure once in a while).
As one of the most emblematic residencies, allow us to cite Villa Medicis. Situated on Monte Pincio in Rome, the French Academy for the Arts has been welcoming artists on its premises since 1666. Founded by Louis XIV, the Academy has been graced with the contribution of renownedartists such as Ingres, Berlioz, Carpeaux, Debussy and Garnier.
On one side of the spectrum, there are these historic, gold-adorned, prestigious houses and on the other side, fringy exurban commune-like spaces working towards the exact same goal and achieving just as much. An extreme example of marginal get-together would be Hennessy Youngman'sITSA Small, Small World launched in 2012 at Family Business in New York. At a glance, the show may have looked like a maelstrom of whatever, but actually acted more as a modern, funky version of Le Salon des refusés (literally the “The Rejects Exhibition” founded by the impressionist movement in 1863 after being snubbed by the main Salon) gathering pieces from 500 artists from within and outside the art scene.
In Paris too, many exciting art residencies sprung up and especially above its walls. With the price per square meter always on the rise and Paris intramural reaching a saturation point, it made sense to turn to the suburbs – where industrial wastelands abound – for creative space. Besides, most emerging artists are now living in the suburbs due to the gentrification of many a neighborhood inside Paris, including the old artistic districts. A new promising trend indeed, that is already bearing its fruits.
Komunuma (meaning “community” in Esperanto) is a striking example of the Greater Paris’s renewal. Sponsored by Fondation Fiminco, the former Roussel-Uclaf pharmaceutical lab in Romainville was turned into what could become one of the biggest art labs in Europe. The project comprises 5 buildings which will serve both as an exhibition space and an art residency to admit about 20 artists from around the globe. A grand opening was scheduled on October 20th, 2019, while the final delivery is expected in fall 2020.
Humbler but just as effective, the 6B is keeping our artists busy since 2010. Located in Saint-Denis in a 7000 m2 industrial facility, the self-managed cultural space offers 170 leasable art studios at affordable prices plus communal spaces to work, share and engage with fellow artists. The 6B prides itself in being all-inclusive and proves it by welcoming in a wide array of professions such as musicians, filmmakers, graphic designers, craftspeople, social workers, actors, dancers, painters, sculptors, architects, and so on. The 6B comes out as a creative and reflective space, entrusted with a mission to find new ways to better live together as a society on a cultural, economic and political level.
Also finding ways to improve our society: FORTE or Regional Fund for Emerging Talents (Fonds régional pour les talents émergents), a scholarship program awarded by Île-de-France to artists aged 18 to 30 to help them create their first art work. Stemming from the need to support young creators, the scholarship applies to graduates in the field of music, performing arts, plastic arts, filmmaking and audiovisual media aiming to professionalize their practice. Île-de-France feels this first step is crucial in fostering a vibrant cultural life as emerging artists often suffer from isolation from the main cultural networks, a precarious economic situation and/or inaccessibility to proper resources, such as tools, material and a working space. We were happy to discover one of FORTE 2019 awardees, Lucie Plumet, and her fresh and straightforward teaser La jeune fille et les tocs.
Art residencies are places where to mingle and share, and Reflective Interaction champions this thought process. Half academic research, half experimental creation, the program mainly focuses on artistic, techno-scientific, social and/or environmental issues. They attempt to question the way humans engage and relate with interactive devices through experiments within natural and artificial contexts. Their hybrid identity, nicknamed “R&C”, allows them to work for the benefit of both the public and the industry in that they always transfer their findings either through free license, either through a patent. And their work quite extensively ranges from exhibitions to public debates, performances to workshops, and multimedia installation to software. It seems like all of the twenty-first century is echoed endlessly in their labs until precious pearls of wisdom are extracted from the process.
An experiment with a purpose
Whichever level you’re looking at it from, art residencies are useful, socially healthy apparatus. They do not exist just for art’s sake, no, they all have a purpose. It can be pioneering interdisciplinary techniques, reflecting on issues affecting our world present day, or developing and experimenting with various media. It’s about taking the time to forge an educated, inspired and mindful approach to creation.
We believe artists that have worked on previous personal projects are more fit to meet the industry’s expectations such as juggling complex projects, short deadlines, multiple formats and unforeseen setbacks. And art residencies can help and support the ones in need of a structure like a first step into professionalism. Moreover, experimenting can teach you flexibility, reactiveness, creative problem solving, critical thinking and cooperation. We can tell art residencies do good when see the career evolution of some of our talents such as the artist duo, Elsa & Johanna. The gifted duo entered an art residency working with photo and video from January 2018 to April 2019 at Centre d'art Mains d'œuvres in St-Ouen (just before it was closed down by the city in October to turn it into a music conservatory). Surely enough, right after Mains d'œuvres their work was featured at Paris Photo and Apple mandated the duo to direct a short film titled “Coup de bol” (Lucky Bowl Cut), entirely shot with an iPhone.
From the fringe to the center, from progressive investigations to fast-paced production, from learning to achieving, residencies help pushing forth the next generation of talents with the resources they need to take on tomorrow’s challenges.