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ART RESIDENCY:

International artists live in the nude for ten days

 

Yelena Myshko (a Ukrainian artist) recently went on her first residency ever. She spent 10 days with a nudist community of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park in Canada. In this residency by Arts Unfold called Naked State artists create artworks hat explore questions such as: What is nudity? Does stripping away clothing rid us of class, gender, and personal expression? Is nudity always sexual?

 

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Odalisque, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Odalisque, 2019

 

How did you find out about the residency programme? How did you apply?

My friend Marija Snieckute discovered the residency, thought it was something for me and then she let me know. She’s an academic I met in a feminist reading group. Not sure how she came across the Facebook post about the residency, but the character of my works made her think about me when she saw it. She encouraged me to apply.

 

 What does your regular, art residency day look like? 

Sleep, eat, walk, restart. Just kidding! I do take things easy and find it hard to keep going with my art because of the relaxed atmosphere. This was the first time I did a residency and found it challenging to manage all that free time. I was struggling with the different electricity plugs and bad internet, so most of the time I was trying to get my devices to work. But I managed to work in bursts, creating two series of photographs.

 

Tell us about the work/project on which are you working right now?

Now I’m trying to manifest some projects we cooked up with Salima Essakkati, better known as Avant-Garde Imam Salima El Musalima. We announced our collaboration in the summer through an article in a Dutch newspaper. It was based on our criticism of the local feminist milieu. We address it with a pro-active attitude, proposing feminist actionism as a solution for the mainstream artworld stagnation. Initially, I called our collaboration Public Enemy, but it gradually transformed into the hashtag #redwomenarecoming that we envision as a post-Guerrilla Girls, post-Pussy Riot and post-FEMEN movement for female performance artists. We want to shake up the world and seize our place in it.

 

In your experience, what distinguishes working as part of residencies from working in your atelier?

Management of free time. When I work at home, I’m usually busy with paperwork. I’m constantly applying for open calls and writing proposals to handpicked people and places. A lot of work goes into self-promotion. But I’m going to upgrade my game with mailing list software SendBlasterPro. At home, I struggle to get myself to make art and can manage to carve out 30 minutes of my time if I’m lucky. At the residency I had all the time I wanted, which was unusual for me and I was simply overwhelmed.

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

Does the change of context help you in the creation process?

It did help me to try something completely different from what I usually do. I really immersed myself into the naturist way of life at Bare Oaks that opened my mind. Although I had a clear predefined concept of what I wanted to do there, I managed to try something else that spontaneously happened. I have mixed feelings about the indoors series with house plants but am still quite happy that I did it. I found the curators feedback particularly useful. It helped me to reflect on my artistic practice and create the indoor series.

 

Do you place an emphasis on your work or rather on meeting people and exploring the city/your surrounding?

I fully surrendered to the experience. Visiting Canada, Toronto and the countryside was an interesting experience. Despite the jetlag that I wasn’t prepared for, it was kind of a culture shock to drive around there in a car. It is a completely different world from the Netherlands! Everything was different, huge spaces, see-through money, different electricity plugs, people that didn’t conform to the national stereotype. It was a lot to take in! Also being naked outdoors at Bare Oaks, seeing people live their daily lives like that, that was quite impressive. I wasn’t fully comfortable with the nudity but did quite enjoy the whole experience in the end.

 

What challenges and opportunities did the residency involve?

The biggest challenge was the jetlag. It was my first “time travelling” to the other side of the world and I didn’t have a clue what it would be like. The jetlag made me quite sick. I couldn’t manage to fix my sleep pattern and became paranoid. Also, the nudity felt quite invasive. With clothes on you feel protected, it’s as if you’re in a cocoon. At Bare Oaks we were all naked, at least from the waist down, even when it got rather chilly. But the opportunity was to experience this completely unique way of life in nature. It was something I’ll never forget!

 

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Adlocutio, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Adlocutio, 2019

 

Name three objects which are the most important to you during the residency.

I work with my body so that’s my primary tool. In terms of objects, my camera, laptop, and iPad. It’s the holy technological trinity that facilitates my artistic practice. I would also like to name internet, because my life is unthinkable without it. But it’s not really an object.

 

What is the role of institution in your residency? What does it provide you with?

I wouldn’t say that the residency was institutional. It was organised by Arts Unfold but I guess that’s more like a collective. Also, I wouldn’t call Bare Oaks an institution, it’s rather a place that facilitates an alternative way of life. Naturism has kind of an inferior position in the society, so it’s rather an alternative to the institution. However, I did get a loan from Fonds Kwadraat, a fund that is more institutionalised. My proposal was approved by a committee and I had to sign an agreement to refund my loan monthly. However, there was a somewhat institutional framework to the residency as the curator Teresa Ascencao accompanied us throughout the experience and provided feedback and assigned homework.

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Plantmother, 2019

What would you recommend to artists going abroad for an art residency?

Be mindful of the jetlag! It’s not the best idea to travel long distances for a short stay. You won’t have enough time to adapt to the new environment. To avoid being unable to plug into the electricity network, bring an international transformer kit that works with your plugs. It’s also a good idea to bring some medication against diarrhea, just in case. I can also advise to bring some good humour, it will help!

Edited by Dominika Tylcz

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Pudica, 2019

Yelena Myshko, Naked State, Pudica, 2019

ART RESIDENCY: In this series of interviews we ask artists and creative professionals what art residencies mean to them and what benefits they bring to both sides. There is a wide range of art residencies available and it is crucial to make artists aware of such possibilities, recommend the most interesting ones, and allow art practitioners to share their experiences. Alongside the interviews, we also publish articles with selected open calls from around the world, and run a Facebook Group “Open calls/Residencies/Opportunities for artists” where the arts community can share more opportunities and experiences.