Return from Basel
When I was doing the Artspace Sydney residency some time ago, an accomplished residency artist from New South Wales shared her wise words with me. I had arrived exhausted from a year of stretching myself in five different directions, up until the very last minute before going to the airport. Suddenly I had all this time, literally, overnight. Now what? So as we gave our artist slide presentations, seeing the look of bewilderment on my face she said to me, “What’s the point in locking yourself in the studio for most of your time? Three things I suggest: write and visually diarise, really explore your surrounds and meet as many people as you can. Take the time to really engage and be in the place you are in. Do some art too. Delete the timetable.”
So, while at Artspace that is what I did. But that was seven years ago and this time I was overseas! Did the same apply and what was in store for me? I could barely contain myself with the excitement of being abroad – and on a residency – a bonus! So after the initial culture shock of being in an unknown place, with no familiar faces or foreign language skills and with a month of European travel already up my sleeve, it was time to get acclimatised.
Like the rapid flow of the river, my days flew by so quickly. Too quickly. I filled my time with travel on planes or trains to other parts of Europe including Berlin, Finland and Paris to see shows and be involved in a performance festival; tramming to snowier parts of Switzerland; leisurely bicycling around to take photographs, getting lost and experiencing nature (yes, me in the forest), while crossing borders to grocery shop, sightsee, walk up and down steep hills and gather in the many platzs. To be in such close proximity to so many countries was a dream. Alongside writing and visual diarising and experimenting, I took part in a school mural project, an exhibition and several collaborations. Countless galleries and museums were attended, seeing work that was both awesome and so-so.
I sandwiched the beginning and end of my residency with travel. Those experiences seem like a distant memory as I sit writing. Did I imagine it all? I am refreshed. I am eager for new possibilities and more travel, especially to cooler places. Experiencing ‘new’ places is as integral to my life as is art making, exhibiting in far reaching places and of course some cycling.
Did I accomplish what the artist in Sydney suggested? Yes. But also, I paid attention to what I had applied to do. Even though I was not able to create exactly what I had stated at the time, I was able to research the possibilities, approach places to exhibit and acquire a sense of my ideas development. The virtual and real existed simultaneously, each helping the other. I realised that initially the Internet had played a pivotal role in helping me to adjust to being away from my ‘home’ country as well as map finding and place searching. This relationship with the digital realm was one of the impetuses for the art piece I created for the Basement Gallery in Basel.
I feel so fortunate to have had this experience, this opportunity to be in a different place so rich with history, architecture, language and friends. It was a memorable, self-affirming experience. Life experienced afresh.
The ‘gratis’ globe lamp I found on the street in my first week is a reminder that there is an entire world out there just waiting to be explored, inspired and created from. Bring on more, I say …
Minaxi May was the 2013 recipient of the Artsource Basel Exchange Residency.
This article featured in the Artsource Newsletter, Autumn 2014.
Artsource supports the practice of professional artists with the Global City Residencies.