POINT OF REFERENCE

Photographs by Felipe Neves

1. What is a Residency?

A residency, traditionally, is a space where an artist, or a curator, musician, writer– creative people in general– go to separate from their own everyday lives, often distant from where they normally live, to have some space to create something. It might be for a purpose like a final outcome: a painting, a book, a performance…or just to develop an idea. I’ve done both kinds of residencies myself, and initially they often [make you] feel like you're out of space, out of time, out of your comfort zone, so they can be quite uncomfortable. But actually the more challenging they are, the more productive they often are.

2. What is the main structure and process?

The structure here, with the twelve artists for In Residence, is really in parallel with the project downstairs [where the long durational exercises were taking place], and it really grows out of there. The idea that someone might enter the space downstairs and develop a new relationship with their body, mind, and thoughts is really mirrored with what the artists are doing upstairs. 

3. What is the output?

They are not necessarily developing a specific work, something they have to make, so there is no outcome they have to produce. The thing, really, is about re-analyzing, re-thinking, and re-feeling their way through what their normal processes are. How might they work? What do they think about their work?

4. What is special about the Australian artists?

It’s so fruitful, so productive, to be a group together, so many people talking about ideas in a very informal way. One of the things that is so special about this is the fact that these twelve artists come from such different backgrounds and often different disciplines entirely. There is a photographer, people that come from dance, people that come from a more theatrical background, people involved with scripting out a performance, performance artists, visual artists… So all of the conversations about how to produce performance or a performative work– record it, document it, archive it, think about it, write about it, present it, film it– have been discussed by people that are coming from different positions, but now are in the same position of finding a way through these ideas themselves.

Marina’s practice was the point of reference, but it was a really open one. I particularly felt that it was a point of reference to go back to Marina’s practice, to go back to ideas of the body, of the artist, ideas of a physical presence in the space, where something is made manifest.

From this we might ask: how is gender portrayed or performed, how is indigenous identity portrayed or performed? All of these things become very important. For example, Christian Thompson's work was fascinating in terms of gender and in terms of indigenous identity. Sarah Rodigari takes a lot of different roles and the idea of playing is very important [in her work]. I wanted very much to connect what Australian artists are doing now with both Marina’s past work and this current project. Her work spans a long period of time, and she has made amazing works in her career, but she’s also done complex things in the project downstairs. It's not a complicated idea in itself, but is subtly complex given the number of people involved and the huge energy that is created. Energy is a complicated, interesting animal. I think she’s working on such a scale that allows for many different responses and I really wanted to choose artists that approached an audience in different ways and those who I thought would be interesting for Marina.

5. What is special in the Kaldor program?

The inspiring thing for me is that Kaldor Public Art Projects is a unique organization in Australia; it supports new contemporary commissions, it is free to the public and it brings works that Australians  might not otherwise see, and often have not been presented anywhere else: they are unique. So, it is a very important part of the landscape. Also I have known John [Kaldor, founder of the non-profit organization Kaldor Public Art Projects] for a number of years, from the Venice Biennale presentations, the Australian Pavilions, and I also worked with him in the Biennale in Sydney, so it’s very nice to be working with him again. 

Secondly, it is good to set my foot in Australia again. I have been away from Australia, in London, for the last 8 or 9 years, and it is lovely to be back and to see what’s changed and the great commitment of Australian artists. The artists here in the residency are so exciting and are from a lot of different places in Australia, so it is very nice to be able to work with them all at once. It is great to spend so much time with them. Often when you work with an artist you have a few hours in a studio, so this is a good extended period.

Another thing that is inspiring is the conversation that has been generated. We have had many guests. Before the public arrived, the artists, myself, and Emma invited them to discuss many issues and questions about performance. We hear about people’s practices: artists, curators, writers. It is good to see a lot of different points of view, from Brazil to New York, about things that are happening at the moment with performance, because it does feel like a reassessment of performance is happening again, now. There has been a lot of research in performance for a number of years, but I think we can feel it as an energy right now, here, which is fantastic.

6. Can you tell us a bit about Marina's work with young artists?

Marina has always had a practice of supporting and mentoring young artists, and having conversations with other artists. She is not precious about it, not competitive, and is very generous with her own time and energy, unlike many other artists with her experience, at her level. She is really interested in other people’s work and that has manifested in working with young people, as well as holding workshops with artists. Marina Abramovic has been a teacher throughout her life and she is constantly engaged in new work. It is astonishing to be able to be here, to have such experience, knowledge and intuition at work for younger artists. When she listens to other artists, she is truly listening as a person with a huge amount of wisdom. Marina is so invested in and open to creative ideas and offers very thoughtful and constructive criticism. She is a wonderful mentor for everyone here at the residency.


Marina Abramovic: In Residence took place @ Kaldor Public Art Projects, Sydney - Australia from June 24 to July, 05, 2015.