TrAIN/Gasworks Residency 2007

Erika Arzt and Juan Linares completed the first TrAIN/Gasworks Residency in December 2007. One of the aims of this collaboration is to explore the type of practice specific to international residencies, and Arzt and Linares’ work focused this interest in a constructive direction.

The artists work collaboratively, and are motivated by the question of how it is possible to ‘get in touch, relate to or influence a place or context’. They have answered this question in various ways previously, though site-specific projects carried out within various city-districts including Napoles, Cali; La Bachillera, Seville; Orcasitas (a housing estate on the periphery of Madrid) and Calaf, a small village in Catalonia close to the edges of Barcelona.

The artists both research and infiltrate available channels – such as community organisations, regeneration schemes and initiatives – and proceed from their own informal interventions. In Calaf, for example, they borrowed the colour schemes and guidelines for the redevelopment of the town centre, and used them to carry out voluntary, unplanned but necessary restoration and repairs in the homes of those living on the margins.

Rather than working towards a projected outcome, the artists design unpredictable, open-ended systems of working. Their projects develop over different durations and often intermittently, according to the possibilities offered by funding and collaboration.

The project Tension Orcasitas for example, was initiated in 2006 and is still ongoing. It began with their discovery of a controversial community debate over whether or not to remove a set of potentially hazardous pylons and powerlines in Orcasitas, Madrid. Some citizens demanded that they should be removed completely; others wanted their preservation as a symbolic expression of the identity and history of this peripheral post-war planned neighbourhood. The artists proposed that one line should be dismantled into its component parts, to be reconfigured in any possible way as imagined by the residents. These were interpreted as drawings by the artists, and translated into plans with the help of an architect. Following the injection of further funding, residents will now vote to choose one plan to be realized as a real structure in 2008.

At Gasworks, the residency project developed both from their observation of the area closest to their studio, and from conversations with Gasworks Education and Outreach Co-ordinator Anna Vass. Over the course of their time spent in London, they developed a relationship with residents of the nearby Kennington Park Estate, both via liaising with community associations and management groups, and via informal encounters with residents and passersby. The artists gathered comments about the use of various communal spaces within the estate, recorded from ad hoc encounters and by using simple devices – such as the Surrealist ‘exquisite corpse’ game – to collectively assemble words and images. This process was then used to produce a script, soundtrack and set for a performance held at the estate’s community centre at the end of the residency.

While in the UK, Arzt and Linares gained an insight into how inclusive and participatory practice is perceived, and promoted, within the both the spheres of institutional policy, and the field of artistic practice. They contributed to this debate within TrAIN research seminars and with Anna Vass were invited to speak and lead workshops at the 2007 engage international conference. Entitled When Art and Context leads to Meaning the conference was concerned with issues of locality, culture and the context in which art is found, addressing the notion of local and international, as well as asking a question pertinent to the artists’ research interests – what is a ‘meaningful encounter’?.

Read more about Erika Arzt & Juan Linares in the TrAIN Directory.

Wednesday 16 January, 2008