Our personal and professional development, and the development of our communities, becomes richer and more enhanced when we impart and share our knowledge and experience with others. For most everyone involved in this project, Locis has been a journey of learning and discovery about similarities and differences, practice and experience – unearthing and exploring the opportunities presented by working among such an eclectic group of creative individuals. Each of the three project partners, six lead artists, twenty-four participant artists and the communities they lived amongst have been part of that journey contributing to the wellspring presented in this publication.
The Latin word Locis is the dative and ablative plural of the word place, meaning going to or coming from a place. It seemed an appropriate title for an artist-in-residence programme where artists criss-crossed Europe learning from each other and experiencing each other’s cultural environments.
There are a number of recurring themes in these residencies, and in the different impetuses of the three project partners, who shaped the purposely loose parameters of the programme. Among these was the idea of ‘centre’, what that term means today, and particularly what limitations to an artist’s practice still exist by dint of where one happens to be located.
In Ireland the Locis programme was preceded by other artist-in-residence projects which sought to challenge the traditional cultural trade routes where artists felt it necessary to move from the rural north west of Ireland to Dublin and onto London, New York or Berlin in order to maintain or continue their professional practice. As the biggest impediment to international travel is now the amount of traffic you are likely to meet en route to your preferred airport, and the speed of your broadband the only impediment to international communication, it seems entirely appropriate that the centre can now be exactly where you are, or where you choose to base your practice at any time. As proof to this point, within Europe the three project partners are about as different from each other as could be imagined, and the Locis project has been all the richer because of that.
Leitrim County Council is the rural local authority for County Leitrim in the northwest of Ireland. In the 1980s, following a period of population decline going back to the 1850s, many artists started to migrate to the area attracted to Leitrim’s unspoilt beauty and to sustain a living where the cost of living was lower than larger urban areas. A county of 30,000 people, Leitrim now benefits from having one of the country’s largest sculpture centres and one of the country’s most prominent multidisciplinary arts centres. Interest and involvement in the arts permeates all aspects of society. Today almost 5% of the population are employed in the creative sector, and the arts, creativity and the wider creative sector are an intrinsic part of the county’s social, cultural and economic planning and development principles.
The Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń is an arts centre in one of the oldest cities in Poland and the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. The centre was established by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage in 2006 as a part of the programme ‘Znaki Czasu’ (Sign of the Times). CoCA places a strong emphasis on concepts of ‘being contemporary’ and ‘being international’. Its interdisciplinary character and openness towards innovative and progressive research in a variety of expressive media epitomises its active and dynamic role within a regional and national cultural context, and underlines its pursuit of dialogue with other contemporary art institutions operating world-wide.
Botkyrka is part of Greater Stockholm and is one of Sweden’s most international municipalities with people from more than 160 different countries speaking 100 different hundred languages. Residence Botkyrka is run by Botkyrka Konsthall, and the residency is a collaboration between the Department of Culture and Leisure, the Department of Urban Planning, the housing company Botkyrkabyggen, and the Multicultural Centre for Migration Research. Residence Botkyrka promotes site-specific, context-based art exploring the possibilities of art to influence a place and its identity. Residence Botkyrka works in public spaces and supports projects that are difficult to implement without a relationship to the place and its communities. Residence Botkyrka is also interested in the issues of co-creation and how the interaction between people can contribute to social change. As of 2014 The New Biennial for Art and Architecture highlights many of the projects by visiting artists and architects in the neighbourhood of Fittja, where Botkyrka konsthall is building a new arts institution.
Because Locis involved such different partners – a rural county, a provincial city and a suburb of a capital city – each with a different language, a different currency, different social construct and different culture – a great deal of time was spent exploring and bridging these differences. Not that this was a separate task to be accomplished before the main work could be undertaken, rather these discussions and this exchange was the central and integral nucleus that drove the project forward.
Locis was designed to provide knowledge, resources and opportunities for artists to engage internationally. While very different from each other in many ways, the three partners share the same desire to create opportunities for artists to network internationally and to reinforce the belief that a vibrant arts practice should, and can, be maintained from anywhere and that networking across borders can occur from anywhere and with anyone. The programme provided emerging and more established artists from these three regions with opportunities to broaden their practice, to operate across borders and to gain access to international networks.
While the programme was not designed to be about outcomes or finished works of art, much interesting work did happen as a result of Locis and in some cases quite remarkable work was accomplished. However, as a means of encouraging intercultural dialogue among artists, enhancing networking and opening doors to new possibilities, the programme can attest to having achieved that goal admirably.
Philip Delamere, Dobrila Denegri & Joanna Sandell