Liam GillickA Variability Quantifier (The Fogo Island Red Weather Station), vinstallation view, ile Fogo, 2022.
Photo: courtesy of the artist & National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The Artist-in-Residence, Just Another Tourist?

Nathalie Desmet
Ever since the Grand Tour of Europe came into vogue in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, artists have been encouraged to travel and encounter other cultures. The increasing availability of art residencies1 1 - In this article, I do not discuss production residencies, which offer artists technical equipment and support to make work, or mediation residencies, whose primary aim is aligned with a democratization of culture. in distant and unusual places reflects the ever-closer connections to the idea of tourism. Being a tourist implies “temporarily living in places other than in one’s everyday context”2 2 - Giorgia Ceriani, Mathis Stock, Philippe Duhamel, and Rémy Knafou, “Le tourisme et la rencontre de l’autre : Voyage au pays des idées reçues,” [em>L’autre 6, no. 1 (2005): 74 (our translation). and promises — as it does for the artist-in-residence — an experience of time and space outside of the contingencies and constraints of daily life, often entailing travel that has a significant impact on the environment.

Although a vast typology of art residencies exists, there seems to be a consistent mandate to place artists in a local and social context, particularly in the case of research, exploration, and creation residencies. These implicitly or explicitly invite artists to enter into dialogue with the environment and even solve problems, which leads to increasingly profound interactions with the surroundings. In 1996, art critic Hal Foster emphasized the ethical issues stemming from the position and exteriority of artists who appropriate ethnographic methods.3 3 - Hal Foster, “The Artist as Ethnographer,” in The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), 171 - 204. Just as we might rebuke some tourists for exoticization, the development, through temporary residencies, of transient human relationships without follow-up or redistribution could correspond to a form of social extractivism.

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This article also appears in the issue 111 - Tourism

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