On visiting Apex Art last week, I was kindly given the publication ‘Life Between Borders: The Nomadic Life of Curators and Artists’ (published by Apex Art). In the forward, Steven Rand writes: ‘We often travel in such a way that we seem to ‘hover’ above the real world. We fly into Artisan International, go to the Artisanian restaurants that serve the art community with people we already know, and who were likely at the last fair or biennial. We tell others and ourselves how much we are doing while at the same time wondering what it is we are doing…What does nationality mean in a place like Artisan? Is the currency hard or social? What is important and what is not? Travel and relocation encourages this kind of thinking. It’s great that it does, though it’s not always fun’.

Encountering a book like ‘Life Between Borders: The Nomadic Life of Curators and Artists’, whilst temporarily based in New York, on an international residency programme, has encouraged me to more actively question my recent experiences and the implications of temporarily being ‘elsewhere’. Up until a month ago, my only experience of being ‘elsewhere’ for any extended period of time was on the two occasions I worked for Wales in Venice, at the Venice Biennale. Venice sounds very much like ‘Artisan’ and what my time in New York has shown me, is that whilst ‘international’, my experiences in Venice were also very Welsh. I was invigilating a show by a Welsh artist, working and living with Welsh artists, and also in regular communication with the team back in Wales. This isn’t a bad thing, just an observation I hadn’t really noticed before.

Being the only current resident in either residency programme from the UK, I felt my ‘Britishness’ in a way I never had before. I also realised I say ‘British’, as having lived in Wales for nearly 7 years now, English doesn’t seem right but I can’t claim Welsh either. When asked where I was from, I would answer Wales, as that is where I call home and also where I travelled from. But yet, that’s not where I am from originally and that’s how the question can also be answered. In this thinking of nationality, I also came to understand how Europe-centric my thinking can be, and how the majority of my socio-cultural and geographical reference points are also from Europe. I feel embarrassed at this realisation but also grateful that my encounters in New York have affected a need for change, which I hope in some way, this residency has already begun. A curatorial residency this may have been, but time ‘elsewhere’ also provides the necessary distance from one’s own familiar way of living, to be critical about it.

To end this series of blog posts, I’m looking at my diary and trying to pull out a few things that took place last week, as the looming deadline of returning home got ever nearer. I began the week with more studio visits at Residency Unlimited, cooked apple crumble and custard (which many around the table experienced for the first time) at the Flux Factory Monday meeting, met with curator Helena Haimes at new gallery The Third Policeman, who I was put in touch with by artist Patrick Coyle, who I met at the ICI talk the week before. Around the middle of the week I met with curator Blair Murphy at artist-run project space Field Projects, Curator/Producer Jess Rolls, previously based in Bristol, then London, now New York, who I first met during Sanctum, visited artist studios at ISCP, meeting artists Joseph BuckleyTove StorchCalori & Maillard and Ghost of a Dream, visited NURTUREart, meeting with Director Marco Antonini and that same day the RU Happy Hour, where I learned that RU are going to continue Breakfast Club (yes!). At the weekend I took part in Flux Factory’s annual State of Flux, which openly evaluates Flux’s current processes and operations, the organisation and collective, what’s working and what needs to improve, went along to CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP: The Definitely Final Exquisite Contraption Party and to the Jewish Museum for Unorthodox: On Museums, where international and local curators discussed unconventional and nonconformist approaches to programming at their various institutions, but worryingly often left the visitors/public/audience/users out of the conversation. The weekend came to an end with Wieteke Heldens‘ one day pop-up show Once Upon a Line, sharing new works made during her residency at Flux.

I flew home on Monday, arriving back in Wales on Tuesday 1st March. In the Apex Art forward mentioned at the beginning of this post, Steven Rand speaks of being busy without knowing what it is that we are doing. This statement really resonated with me, as in many ways this residency was a collection of beginnings, beginnings that will only become somethings with time.

Thank you Flux Factory & Residency Unlimited – this residency has been made possible with a grant from Wales Arts International and the Jane Phillips Travel & Research Bursary, administered by Mission Gallery.

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