I recently temporarily relocated to Innsbruck for a residency at Kunstlerhaus Buchsenhausen. By recently, I mean a little over a month and a half ago, and this only highlights the temporary conditions of the endeavor, in that I am already a third of the way through my time here.
Since I landed, I have done two public events, attended one exhibition opening, caught up with my movie viewing, made friends with a neighbor’s dog (and the neighbors), gone ice skating twice, pitched four articles, published one, accepted another project for later this year, and purchased roller skates, which I am currently learning to use for purposes other than competitive contact sports. I have learned that landing in a completely new city (and getting to work immediately, no less) is made softer by the privilege of having something close to a network, but also resembling a family. One of the things that has made/is making this residency go by incredibly fast is the constant stealing of free weekends (and weeks) to see friends and chosen family. None of the above would have been possible without the comfort of that soft landing.
I’ve been talking to other friends with similar experiences of being uprooted in this way of whether a residency is part of one’s life or separate from it. This crystallized somewhat with my realization that every time I’m in the city center, I feel compelled to swing by a one-euro store or any cheap home goods store just in case I might need something. This is borne of my habit of passing by a Daiso or Japan Home whenever I happened to be out running errands in Manila, and recreating this habit brings me some comfort even if I don’t have the same responsibilities towards the place where I live here, as I do at home. Which, of course, is still Manila.
But there is that anxiety still, or that need to perform some part of the dance of building a home – even if the choreography is incomplete. (That on the left is TEDi, although yesterday I discovered that Kik has far superior winter tights and craft supplies.)
Beyond the more abstract and emotional aspects of not having a permanent address for an extended period, what residencies make clear is how much work it takes to rebuild a life elsewhere. While the past month and a half easily filled up with equal parts work and leisure, just as much time has gone in to filling in certain gaps: basic needs I could not make room for in my luggage, since I knew I could find counterparts here. What is impossible to account for however, especially when moving to a completely unfamiliar city, is how long it takes to find those counterparts; how long before certain places become “haunts” or a route becomes well-tread. And how do you fill in those gaps (which basically means how long before you feel like yourself again) in the middle of working on things that demand so much of your self (which is how it feels to work on art).
When I first arrived, I thought I had a system figured out when it came to drafting the text I came here to work on. Because it would be approaching a composite of several texts I had already written about the content economy, I figured I could simply make a cognitive map of those texts and the concepts that linked them, and move forward from there.
Going in that direction would have resulted in a draft in about a month, give or take. I could have had a draft which I would just discuss and edit with my curator over the rest of the residency period.
This is not how it works though when your text has a lot of moving parts, both literally and figuratively. At some point, I scrapped everything on the first board, decided I did not particularly like some of the things I had written in my earlier essays. Not wanting to add to the industrial complex of studies (and mentions) of the strongmen whose regimes I was initially studying, I also decided to depart pretty fully from the case studies I had proposed to explore when I first applied for this residency.
The flip chart on the left? It is now on the back of a giant doodle I am working on in my downstairs studio, aka my apartment. Buchsenhausen has two studios for each of the resident fellows: a massive lab, which we all share (and which I bought the skates for), and on top of the shared lab, we each have living quarters where we are free to spend all our time if we’re not feeling very sociable.
So what started as a project that meant to explore the contemporary (as in current, as in TO-DAY) content economy in the Philippines and its repercussions on the state, the public sphere, and meaningful forms of public engagement (something I keep meaning to do and have actually proposed twice, but keep getting unbearably depressed by) has been dialled back by a few decades for one case study, and roughly a century for the other.
I am now working with these two maps. The one on the left is all photos of Andres Luna de San Pedro’s Crystal Arcade, a building I became fascinated by at the tail end of my coursework in Art Studies, and have remained obsessed with since for its resonance with two canonical narratives of modernity and empire: the Crystal Palace expositions which were often staged at the turn of the 20th century throughout Western Europe, and Benjamin’s Arcades Project. But also for how it recalls all these salacious details of Philippine elite history that often tend to overshadow the violence of architecture, and how this violence became such a potent force in the rendering of Philippine society. That is how I want to talk about the formation and perpetuation of narratives which in turn erode public spaces and engagement.
We have a second public program coming up at the end of the month. For that, I will be in conversation with Lisa Ito of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and Cian Dayrit of Saka, still in relation to A Meme is not a Monument…Then towards the end, we have an exhibition at the Kunstpavilion at the Hofgarten, for which I will be showing the text in some exhibition-ready capacity (still have not decided since the text does not exist yet…haha, but there’s still time) alongside work by two or three more artists (on my end at least. Not yet sure what the other fellows have planned).
I should really try to update this more often, if only to get a grip on what I’m working on.