On Residencies & Hypermobility

Letter from Beijing

September 9, 2009
by Riiko Sakkinen

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      Riiko Sakkinen in Beijing
      Photo: Inmaculada Díaz

      I know almost too much about residencies. This year, I've been working as residency expert for Pepinieres Europeennes Pour Jeunes Artistes, a big umbrella organization for over 100 residencies for young artists in Europe. I've been brainstorming a new website for them. It will replace their traditional application and selection process, and will function as a match-maker between the artists and residency hosts. The idea is that it will offer more horizontal communication between the two parties. There are different residencies and different artists with many different needs. Every princess should find her prince.

      At the moment, I'm doing a residency at MA Studio in Beijing. MA Studio is a tiny new organization run by the Spanish artist Judas Arrieta, one of my best friends. I like the idea that it's from one artist to another; Judas knows what we need from his own experience as an artist. The residency coincides with my participation in the 798 Beijing Biennale, and right now I'm actually working with Judas on a series of large scale paintings. We’re presenting them next week at the studio with Finnish food and vodka at the reception (generously sponsored by the Embassy of Finland). Today, we install an exhibition of all the artists-in-residence here at the LAN Club, a restaurant and bar complex that is hosting a gallery space and was designed by Philippe Starck.

      I think that a residency should start before the artist arrives physically at the site and should continue after his flight leaves to go back home. I've witnessed many conflicts between hosts and artists, mainly because their expectations don't meet. Either the match between the residency and the artist was not good or there was not enough (or any) communication between them before the actual residency.

      I think this residency at MA Studio is my last one for a while. I'm going to have another kid in April and this year I've been traveling more than I’ve been at home. I'm tired of traveling and I think it's overrated. On Monday, I came from Macedonia back to Beijing. In a week and half, I'm going to Berlin, then home for two weeks, then to Lisbon, then home for a couple of days and then to Maldives (that's for work, too, though it may not sound like it). My wife is not too happy with this schedule.

      People tell me that, though I don't have money, at least I travel a lot. Those friends that don't travel all the time are dreaming of seeing new places and new people. I dream of spending more time in my studio and with my family.

      I recently participated in a meeting of Pepinieres in Luxembourg where we planned future mobility of young artists. I think that the other participants thought that the artist should travel even more than they do currently. I tried to speak about the green values and carbon footprints. Almost nobody was interested it those themes.

      Why do artworld people like art works that speak about ecology but don't try to act ecologically when producing exhibitions or designing residencies? I admit that I don't act the right way neither. I tell to myself it’s because I'm just trying to survive and that I can't say no to any work that brings a small amount of money home.

      According to John Adams, professor of geography in University College of London hypermobility causes more polarization between rich and poor, more anonymity and less convivial community and less cultural variation.

      When he's not traveling, Riiko Sakkinen lives in Cervera de los Montes, a tiny village in the province of Toledo.

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