ART RESIDENCIES: 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.
“De Ateliers is famous for being the biggest, the most beautiful and super weird. It’s a match. Before coming here, I was mostly doing research in my bedroom and a swimming pool was my studio.” – says Piotr Urbaniec (b. 1992) a visual artist who is currently taking part in this prestigious two-year residential programme in Amsterdam.
Michalina Sablik: How did you find out about the residency programme? How did you apply?
Piotr Urbaniec: While watching fireworks in Kraków on New Year’s Eve 2018, I decided that I was going to change my life and apply for residencies around the world. A few days later I went with my friend to fly a drone and she said to me that she applied for this “fully-funded two-year residency in Amsterdam”. I pretended not to care, but after, I went back home and googled it and found the De Ateliers website. Only later, it turned out that my friend actually meant a different residency at the Rijksakademie. So, basically I found De Ateliers by mistake.
M.S.: What does your regular, art residency day look like?
P.U.: Tuesday is the new Monday because that’s our open studio day and everyone is in. For lunch, we go out for a really good sandwich on brown bread. Twice a week, I play squash, and I never win.
M.S.: In your experience, what distinguishes working as part of residencies from working in your atelier?
P.U.: De Ateliers is famous for being the biggest, the most beautiful and super weird. It’s a match. Before coming here, I was mostly doing research in my bedroom and a swimming pool was my studio.
M.S.: Does the change of context help you in the creation process?
P.U.: Amsterdam is flat like a painting and it scares me that someday I might end up like a painter. God forbid a Dutch one. You can see Bosch and Bruegel scenography in every window in which all the people (I believe) perform. Sometimes I pretend to do something and sometimes I imagine my neighbours are living in a doll’s house and I narrate their activities in my head (playing Sims in real-time). Also, Amsterdam is expensive, so even trash is nice and rich people are very generous (btw, people not recycle much here). Also, the birds seem stoned all the time and look spooky, don’t look them in the eyes… wait, what was the question? Sometimes the canals freeze and you can ice-skate.
M.S.: Do you place an emphasis on your work or rather on meeting people and exploring the city?
P.U.: Sometimes I feel like a middle-aged artist staying all day in a studio, but then I realise I don’t have any skills and I’m afraid to step on a ladder. I like to be out when there is daylight (my practice is basically “breatharianism”) and Amsterdam gets dark early. Sometimes I follow people with dogs or take a metro to ride to the last stop and walk back. Do you know that 93% of Dutch people speak English?
M.S.: What challenges and opportunities did the residency involve?
P.U.: The main surprise is that you actually work as an artist. You can’t really pretend anymore. It’s like finally living full-time with your girlfriend and being fully committed after having a long-distance relationship with her.
M.S.: Name three objects which are the most important to you during the residency.
P.U.: Water, food, cumulus clouds.
M.S.: What is the role of institution in your residency? What does it provide you with?
P.U.: Now I’m starting to ask myself what they don’t provide me with? Why would you do that?
M.S.: Does your residency finish with an exhibition or does it have an open formula?
P.U.: Basically, I treat every week studio visit as an opportunity to experiment. After two years, there is a big show organised by De Ateliers called the “Offspring”. We also have a dinner with sponsors and last year Brad Pitt came.
M.S.: What would you recommend to artists going abroad for an art residency?
P.U.: Don’t call your family too often, they will never understand that something like this actually exists.