Livestreamed on this page on Tuesday 9 June 2020 at 10 a.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4) / 14:00 UTC +0 / 15:00 BST (London, UTC +1) / 16:00 CEST (Brussels, UTC +2).
A conversation hosted by On the Move, a cultural mobility information network
On the Move — a cultural mobility information network — presented a conversation about (En)forced Mobility livestreamed on the global, commons-based peer produced HowlRound TV network on Tuesday 9 June 2020 at 10 a.m. EDT (New York, UTC -4) / 14:00 UTC +0 / 15:00 BST (London, UTC +1) / 16:00 CEST (Brussels, UTC +2).
“We are all going through an experience which is humbling to all of us (or should be), whether it is about international mobility, hospitality in a time of lock-down, or limited future access to different territories and shrinking resources…” — Bénédicte Alliot, Director, Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris.
Artists are mobile for many professional reasons, but what if an artist is constrained to leave their home due to conflict or persecution and is invited to an artists’ residency abroad to do so? What happens when such an artist gets locked down in that country due to COVID-19? What happens when temporary support for them mutates into longer-term need? Though some countries are responding to the needs of independent artists’ loss of earnings caused by the virus, what about artists without legal status who, nevertheless, have to survive, not to mention keep making art, for an audience… where?
A one-hour informal discussion of key players including artists, artist residencies, legal and political advocates and national resources that welcome foreign artists, aims to probe our current struggles with these and related questions.
Written materials relevant to the discussion will be available pre- and post-discussion on this web-page. The cultural mobility information network—On the Move—will aim to collect participants’ questions to be addressed in the following days, and depending on interest, it is possible that further online discussions may be scheduled.
About On the Move
On the Move is dedicated to supporting the mobility of artists and cultural professionals, in Europe and worldwide.
Through its free to access website, On the Move regularly highlights the latest funding opportunities supporting the international mobility of artists and cultural professionals – of every discipline. Thanks to the expertise of its members and partners, On the Move also shares information on key challenges related to cultural mobility (eg. visas, social protection, taxation, environmental issues).
Beyond this work as an information point, On the Move facilitates mentoring sessions and workshops, and gives public presentations on cultural mobility issues and the internationalization of practices for the arts and cultural sector.
Born as a website in 2002, originally a project of IETM - International Network for Contemporary Performing Arts, On the Move has evolved into a dynamic network that now counts more than 50 organizations (including HowlRound) and individual members. Every year, On the Move takes part in and/or co-organizes 40+ events, workshops, training sessions and projects, in Europe and internationally, attracting more than 1,200 people.
On the Move is funded by the Ministry of Culture-France, as well as through projects’ partnerships with European networks and/or local, national, international agencies and organizations.
Mary Ann DeVlieg: So, first of all, thanks to everybody who's joining us, who's listening and watching in our discussion about enforced artists mobility, and I'll discuss that concept in a minute. But first, thanks to On The Move. This an event of onthemove.org, a cultural mobility network, which comprises about 50 members, mostly organizations that give support, advice and information to artists and cultural workers who wish to cross borders for professional, artistic reasons, and they're located in about 20 countries. This issues has been discussed normally at the general assembly annually, at the On The Move meetings, but for obvious reasons we're doing it online now. I also want to thank our host HowlRound, which is a free and open commons. It's a platform for theatremakers worldwide. And it has hosts articles and discussions and live streaming. This is the 181st live stream that they've hosted since the COVID began this year. Very, very warmly thanked and very warmly recommended to anyone who is interested in cross-border collaboration. My name is Mary Ann DeVlieg, otherwise known as MA, and I will be the moderator. I'll introduce our guest speakers in a moment. But first, just to say that this session is shared live on the Facebook pages of, of course, HowlRound, On The Move, Tamizdat and TransArtists. And any listeners can pose questions or write comments. We will get them in pretty much real time. And although this is a short session of only one hour, we might not be able to answer them or address them today, but we will do so by the 17th of June. We'll also upload any interesting documentation that you might find useful on HowlRound's Facebook page and web pages before the 17th of June. So, our topic today is enforced mobility. What the heck does that mean? We all know that over the last few decades there've been many more opportunities for artists and cultural workers to move from one country to another to exchange, take up an artists residency, co-create, go to an exhibition or a film festival, learn or just present their work or meet other people in a network meeting. But what about artists whose mobility is not quite as voluntary? That is to say it's due to certain constraints. Could be persecution due to their artwork or armed conflict, censorship, something that actually makes it difficult for them to stay in their country and to make their work and sometimes even to survive. We call them artist at risk, they are at risk due to their work. All of the organizations here provide support to these artists as well as to other artists in terms of giving them advice, giving them legal advice, supporting their work in many different ways. And we've chosen four organizations, because they are complimentary in the way that they work. Now our context is COVID-19, the virus that struck us all, and that's curtailed us all and locked us all down. All the health issues, economic issues, bureaucratic issues around it, not to mention the increased potential for artists who may be seriously in danger if they dare to criticize their government's reaction to the virus. And we also have to acknowledge the amazing political movements which have been springing up globally and making a call against systemic racism, that also could bring an artist expression into some kind of danger. So, we envisaged this discussion a long time ago at an OTM general assembly that would have taken place in Finland under the auspices of the Nordic Culture Point. When COVID arrived, we said to ourselves, we have to go back to basics. Nothing of what we were thinking makes sense at the moment. Everything that's been happening, people who are working with artists who are amongst the most vulnerable have found themselves humbled, have found new questions that they have to ask themselves, new ways that they have to work. So we said, okay, let's just have a very intimate public discussion. What keeps you awake at night? What are you concerned about? What are you learning? How are you reacting on your feet? What about the people or the artists that you're working with? So we will go around for one or two rounds and just ask people to explain how this is affecting our life. First, I'd like to invite Elisabeth Dyvik, who's the Program Director of ICORN, International Cities of Refuge Network, about 70 cities, all in the world, mostly in the global north, but certainly expanding over the last few years to Africa and the Americas. These are cities, municipalities, who open their apartments to writers and artists who need the support temporarily, Elisabeth.
Elisabeth Dyvik: Thank you, Mary Ann. First, I'd like to say I'm very happy to be here. I'm very sorry we couldn't have met in Helsinki almost a month ago, as we should have, but I hope that this discussion will be just as interesting, and we can learn something from each other. I just want to say a few words about what ICORN does. You said a few, Mary Ann. Our vision is improved conditions for freedom of expression worldwide. And we do that through establishing safe residencies where the artists can live and work and express themselves freely for up to two years. So it's long-term, but temporary residences. They're mainly provided by the residencies by cities and municipalities, but there's also universities and organizations who work with literature and the arts who host our residents. And we invite artists, writers, journalists, bloggers, film-makers, cartoonists and so on, who are persecuted, and I mean, individually targeted because of their work, to apply for a residency in our network. So we're not in touch with so many who are fleeing country because of what's going on around them, it's always an individual choice for them. And they come from all over the world, where freedom of expression is under pressure. And more than 60% of those who apply for a residency with ICORN, have already left their country. I think that's quite important to know when I continue now. And when I talk about the people who have been, now that we see how the pandemic has the measures that we tried to, or has been in place in different countries to fight the pandemic, I can say that there is like three categories, I would say, that we work with. One are those, the artists who are already in our residency. And I won't speak so much for them, but they have, I mean, obviously, they can't leave the residency, they can't go back, they worry for their families, what are they gonna do, they can't find work where they are, but they are basically in the safer place than they were before. Then you have those who have been invited somewhere and who got stuck. They have not been able to travel, they might not have got their residency permit ready, but at least they have an invitation to go somewhere. And then you have all the others who have applied for residency with us, but where we have not yet found the safe space. And all those together are several hundred people that we keep in touch with on a regular basis. So the situation now is that the artists who we work with are totally stuck wherever they are. They have no work, they have no income. I would say that their options have been reduced to zero because of the pandemic. It's really difficult in the first place to get any remuneration for your artistic work when you're running from persecution and threats, so you often live on whatever income you can get from local jobs or not necessarily formal employment, of course, but mainly in the informal sector and with no security. And these jobs have disappeared, or you cannot leave your house to go and perform your job. Many people tell us that they are totally without any income. And there's also many who tell us that they have very poor access to health services, and if you have your family with you, that's, of course, an extra reason to worry. And being in lockdown, people tell us, is like a double-edged sword. On one hand there is the feeling of safety not having to go out of your house into something that can be a hostile environment, if you're not in your own community, but at the same time, being locked up at home makes you feel like a sitting duck. You're an easy target for those who want to harm you, to expel you from the country or in other ways get to you. So far it seems that the fear of such repercussions is much more a problem than people actually being targeted. But we have heard of attacks and unwanted incidents, and we should not underestimate the impact that living in this constant fear has on people either. So it's serious situation and for the artists that we're in touch with, the lack of money, the lack of access to services, the uncertainty and fear, it comes on top of many people's already long-term stress and anxiety from being under threat. If you don't really flee, unless you feel under a great deal of pressure, and we see that many struggle now with, increasingly, psycho-social issues and that their well-being is deteriorating, and some of these may, of course, be helped by improving their financial situation a little bit. And even sending some small amounts of money might help, but the longer it lasts, I feel, the longer it will take to mend the wounds.
Mary Ann: And of course even if an artist has been, or a writer has been granted permission to have a residency in your network, with the lockdown, they can't get to it.
Elisabeth: Yeah, and you ask what keeps me awake at night, concerning the situation. And luckily I haven't lost any sleep. Maybe I'm just, I'm too much of an optimist for that, because we work very systematically with migration authorities, and in the countries where we have residencies, we are already in touch with most of these, and they are quite helpful and keep working in many countries. We don't work with short-term visas. That service has totally shut down, but for the longer term residency permits, the migration boards are still working, and they have told us in many countries that they will process this. Now, of course, there's an added difficulty of getting to an embassy or getting to an office to hand in your application, so there's bureaucratic and practical issues like that. But we keep working and processing these invitations in the hope that this will open up soon. we have also small, sorry, yeah, I'll come back to whatever else with you.
Mary Ann: Thank you, I'd also like to use that to echo something that I know Bénédicte Alliot has been doing in terms of visas in France. Bénédicte Alliot, she's the director of La Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, very large group of studio apartments for artists to take up residencies, 320 places. 135 French and international organizations, institutions and foundations work with you in order to make these residencies available, and artists are coming from a range of different disciplines. Not all of them would be persecuted, but some apartments are. Bénédicte, what have you learned, what are you learning? And I know that you have some, especially diplomatic experience that echoes what Elisabeth has said.
Bénédicte Alliot: Well, thank you, hello, everyone. It's a pleasure to be with you all, even in video. But, yeah, it's in the tradition of welcoming and of hospitality, and of welcoming artists from all over the world goes back at Cite Internationale des Arts, goes back to its creation and the founders, who really thought that in a post World War II world one needed to have a place where everybody, every artist, from all practices, should be welcomed. And on that basis, before actually becoming partners with ICORN, in the early 2010s, the thing was that Cite provided space, provided accommodation informally for refugees and exiles, and it started with exiles from Chile, Argentina, South America in the '70s. So I think that sense of, and I think that's a shared thing, or shared feature that we have, all of us, is about hospitality and solidarity has now been quite exposed. Well, the recent years, but also with COVID-19, where the enforced mobility also touches, I mean different kinds of community of others. And to say the least, what was really striking for us, and what put us, actually, at the beginning of the lockdown in a state of stupor, it's like we really were stopped short, was the fact that even though some artists who actually had come to Paris to be able to develop their practice, but who were planning to go back home, haven't been able yet to go back home, and they've been, well, in enforced mobility and forced to stay in Paris at Cite for now three months, and we know that for some of these artists the time is going also to be quite long before they can go back home. They do two things about this. There's I think about the crisis, the huge crisis that has just begun, the one that we're talking about, and it's just a beginning. It's about also the fact that everybody, in different ways, but everybody in the artistic community has become extremely vulnerable. And it's been , it's been a race, it's been, that's a French translation, but it's been quite a, yeah, race to actually fundraise, so that the artists also could get some funding, so that they could, well, they could tend to themselves, to their lives, to their families, when they come with the family, and, still benefit from a safe place, a place where they could feel at least protection, or where they would find a little bit of stability. But so we had to fundraise that, and it's also, I think, we're pointing towards, with the fact that international mobility has come to a stop, at least for a while, is yes, an increasing worry about those who have stayed behind, and who are expected to come. I'm talking about then people who come from countries where they cannot necessarily practice their art for many reasons, where they cannot benefit from freedom of expression, etc, etc. And there were quite a number of them, that we were expecting. So there's a sense of, well, of utopia, or utopian narrative, of, you know, the world concentrated in Cite, or the world of artists that can interact or practice is included from all nationalities, that utopian narrative has, I won't say come to an end, but it has come to a stop. And we need to also think about how we can rethink international mobility, so that the people who need to move out and need to move in, can still do it. And otherwise, rethink maybe on a more local scale, how we can make still the art scene or the possibilities, the opportunities for artists coming from the outside, for them to benefit from that. And so that's also one of the things that I wanted to point out, was that I was quite struck at the beginning of the lockdown , and that beginning took quite a while, there was a blind spot in the public policy. And the blind spot was that residency centers were not really in the picture. And I had to repeatedly tell my outside partners that no, we had not shut down, and it was absolutely necessary and essential that Cite should remain open for the artists to at least have some accommodation, but at least could continue or transform their project. But what was interesting was that there was a blind spot, and that blind spot was confirmed also by the fact that when I asked and turned towards public authorities and said, "Listen, can I get some help, financial help, "because some of the artists are stuck here. "Can we get maybe some urgent funding for these guys?" The blind spot is such that in France there is no real space made for foreign artists who come on a temporary basis. Needless to say for those who come without papers, it's even a harder challenge. And so that was an interesting one, and we're still trying to set up groups, so that we can articulate that and at the same time, the private foundations, and the private sector, was far more reactive, I must say. But that blind spot, I think, tells also a lot about the different kinds of artistic communities and this juggle they go through, because they're simply, it tells a lot about the invisibility of creation or the invisibility of those working spaces in arts and culture.
Mary Ann: Thank you, Bénédicte. And it's interesting to hear you talk about La Cite as a blind spot or even a kind of a dead space according to some people. Maybe we'll have time later on to talk about the amazing solidarity, or activities and initiatives that have taken place just because there is this group, these gangs, these wonderful, energetic artists, who are living with you. So we had two places, or two initiatives who are really there to welcome and to host artists and to support them. We're gonna change now to two other kinds of organizations who give advice, information, who intersect with their own country's legal systems, to look at the other side, the more bureaucratic, but also essential sides of these questions. I'd like to pass first to Felix Sodemann, who is working for ITI Germany, the International Theatre Institute. And together with the IGBK, which is the German International Association of Visual Arts, they have something, which is an online portal, also very active with other services, called Touring Artists, which give information, all kinds of visa information, bureaucratic information, not only to artists who are coming to Germany, but also artists who are moving out and touring to other places. And also with an eye towards the issues that are faced by the organizations that may invite them or host them. And I have to say in Germany there's some very wonderful initiatives for what, I think, Germans call newcomer artists, and I suppose Touring Artists is also one of them, Felix.
Felix Sodemann: Yeah. Hello, everyone, thank you for the short introduction. I wanted to add a few words regarding Touring Artists. So Touring Artists was initially founded to support artists who travel or who are working abroad, regarding legal issues. And two or three years ago we launched a new program which was called International Artists Info Berlin, which was aimed especially at artists who came to Germany recently from countries where they're not able to work under given circumstances anymore. This can be due to censorship, this can be due to war, this can also be due to cuttings of fundings. So there's different situations which we're dealing with. And our program's basically consisting out of three different parts. We have this online portal where we try to give information about visa issues, about project funding, about where to find help, about contact points. We have a help desk service, which is pretty much the physical form of the online portal, where we try to go more into details with special problems and issues, and people can come every time and get a free of charge consultancy. And this year we also established a new networking format in order to create more intense or more vibrant networks between newcomer artists and artists who are already established in Berlin or in Germany. We're facing basically two problems right now during the COVID pandemic. The one is a bit related to that, so depending on where you came from, your legal status can be very different. So let's say you're a refugee from Syria, then you will have a refugee status, which guarantees you having access to social security, having access to the label market. But there's only just a few countries where people can get this status, which is Syria, Eritrea and some other countries depending on your situation, if you're politically active, those sorts of things. And then we have a lot of artists coming from countries with very tough situations, where it has been really tough to make art in the past years, like Turkey, Brasil, Russia. But they don't go into this status. They're applying for regular visa, like freelance visa, and so these visas are depending on your actual income. So you have to make a business plan, you have to show that you will be able to live in Germany as a freelance artist and make a living out of that. So, what happened during the pandemic was that a lot of artists were confronted with the situations of not being able to make money in the upcoming months, and then, let's say, you're here for your first year, you get a visa for one year, and you have your date for the extension. And so there was this fear about what's gonna happen, if I can't just show that I worked for five or six months. There was letter communication about that from the Interior Ministry and also from the local Migration Offices, but within the last couple of weeks there was signs that most likely, it's not gonna affect the visa extensions. But you cannot be 100% sure about the actual handling because it depends on the migration office in the different states, which leads to another problem, which is that Germany is a federal state, and Germany has a lot of topics which just the actual country, like the state of Germany deals with, and there's a lot of topics which the smaller states, the so-called Bundeslander, are dealing with. And those are also those topics as, for instance, culture and culture fundings. So, basically, in every country, in every state, there's a different way of dealing with the corona, there's different quarantine rules, there's different measures. We have liquidity aid for artists. This is also different in every state. The way of the migration offices handling those new situations is different in every state. So for us it's really tough to get an overview. It's more that we actually accepted we won't be able to get an overview about the whole of Germany. We can just have a look on how it's done in Berlin. And so, it's more important for us to find people in each state who can give good advice and who we can trust, and so we can actually bring those artists to those people. But there's also some positive effects of this federal system, which is that, for instance, migration offices are allowed to make decisions on their own in each state. And for instance, the Berlin Migration Office just said for the first time that people who are here with a freelance artists visa, if you would say so, they have the right to apply for social security and unemployment payment, which was not the case before. So this is the first time, and it was communicated a bit after the first lockdown. So this gave some security, but then again, still, people are not sure about what's gonna happen next. Is this gonna be a problem that I, at some point, were relying on social security? So there's, on the one hand, there's some good initiatives and good ways of dealing and helping those people who are affected by the crisis. And on the other hand, there is the problem about not having like the 100% sure information. And so this leads to a lot of insecurity, actually, in the community.
Mary Ann: Thank you, Felix. I see Elisabeth nodding, so I think she also has some things later to say about this proof of work system. But that leads us very easily onto Matthew Covey, who is the founder of Tamizdat, as well as a law firm, CoveyLaw. Tamizdat is your non-profit organization, which assists international performing arts people to address problems presented by international borders and specifically US visa policies and procedures. And I know that together with other law firms, as well as the people that you work with directly, you've taken quite a leading role in challenging some of the weaknesses in the US, and particular comes to mind the Trump Muslim travel ban. But not only challenging them, but also working productively and positively to suggest feasible solutions to them. And you've also, in collaboration with others in New York, you've opened up an artist residency for musicians. Matthew.
Matthew Covey: Yeah, thank you, Mary Ann, and thank you all of you. As I'm listening to everybody else talking through their experiences, I'm kind of like crossing things off my list of things to talk about, 'cause a lot of what you're all experiencing are the same kinds of things that we're experiencing. So I'm gonna be pretty brief, and just talk briefly about what we're doing in regards to all artists in this time of forced immobility. I think it's sort of part of the topic right now. And with a couple thoughts or reflections on our very small residency program that we run for displaced artists at risk. In regards to artists in general, in this current context, because, obviously, a lot of the artists that we deal with range from pop stars to refugees. And a along that continuum, of course the notion of displacement is a question of definition to a certain extant. There are people who are in the US, because, for example, as the Brazilian situation has deteriorated after the last few years, we've seen a a massive increase of Brazilian musicians move into New York. They're not refugees, they are coming because they want to be there, and they're seeing their career situation as being stronger there than it was in Brazil, but that's a definitional question. And so we've seen a big spike in immigration, working with Brazilian artists getting visas. So, when a crisis of immobility comes, as we're experiencing now, as a lawyer, a lot of the work that we found ourselves doing, the case work that we're doing, is trying to help people, rather than help people move around the planet, trying to help them not have to move around the planet. So a lot of the work that we've been doing is helping artists figure out how to remain, how to extend their status, how to explore other options, enroll in academic programs, move from employment visas to resident visas, and then move from residencies into employment and basically doing whatever is needed to try to figure out how to keep people from having to go where they can't go, or where it'd be really unwanted for them to go. Some of this work has been focused on advocating to the US government. We've been in conversations with State Department and Homeland Security. You never know whether those work or not, but they seem to be having some effect. The US government just before the COVID crisis created some new roles, which make it very difficult and in some ways dangerous for foreign nationals in the US to access public support mechanisms like healthcare, unemployment, which seemed nefarious at the time, and then when COVID came along, suddenly it seems potentially life-threatening for a lot of artists. So we've done a lot of work helping artists understand what the implications of those rule changes are and helping them strategize how to keep themselves out of trouble, how to not risk their visa status in order to keep themselves fed or keep getting healthcare. Another thing that we've ended up doing a lot at times as that, is we've conceptualized our work always as artist mobility, but now that artists aren't moving, we're increasingly working in the realm of cultural mobility, thinking in terms of well, if people can't move, can we still keep artistic expression moving? So, we've long run a pro bono legal assistance hotline for immigration issues, which we have expanded in the last two months to incorporate healthcare, law issues, but also live streaming, rights, legalities, so that all the artists that we work with who now are moving their performances online, and don't know what they need to be doing in terms of rights and royalties and clearances and all that, we're providing legal assistance with that. Just as a way of helping them keep connected with their communities internationally and locally, but also increasingly toward finding ways to monetize their work online as a way of trying to have some sort of income in this time when it's very hard for a performing artist to have income. Those are some of the main things that we focused on. In regards, specifically, so Mary Ann, as you mentioned, we started a residency program for musicians who are displaced because of the political content of their work. We started this last fall in collaboration with Artistic Freedom Initiative and the Westbeth Artist Residency in New York. And, we got through our first resident in the fall, which went really well, and then Mai Khoi, a Vietnamese composer and songwriter and activist, joined us in the winter. And it's been very interesting trying to figure out what to do with that residency, that specific resident, as the events have evolved. And as we've done that, the conversations amongst the different organizations, folks at Artistic Freedom Initiative and Westbeth and ourselves, they've really evolved around several different topics, and that really has to do with the different duties that we owe to different constituencies. The first obviously is our duty to Mai Khoi herself and the fact that she doesn't really have anywhere to go or moving would be difficult and dangerous. We also have a duty to the Westbeth Residency, which is a large building full of artists who are very connected with their community, but it's an insular group of people sharing elevator, sharing common spaces, and a lot of them are elderly. So that is a group of people that there's a risk, inherent risk to that. But then there's a duty to the mission to continue to work with artists and help them. And initially, our thought was that because of our duty to Mai Khoi, and our duty to the Westbeth, the last thing we needed to do was anybody anywhere. So we ended up extending her residency from three months to nine months, which has been good, because it's given her a lot more time to develop her work. But interestingly, Mary Ann, as you mentioned, in the wake of the political unrest that's roiling the world, and certainly roiling New York right now, that lined up very well, as we're thinking about what to do after September, where we're not really comfortable starting a visa process for getting artists into the US, when we don't know if embassies are even gonna be open. We don't know if we're comfortable bringing somebody from outside and putting them in the Westbeth. We've been having discussions about how to change the focus of the residency for the duration of the COVID crisis to working with artists who are already in New York and trying to figure out how we can address their needs professionally, in terms of mentorship, but use the same structure that we were using for international artists, but focus them on international artists who are already in residence, whether they have their own place to live or there's a way that we can transition them into Westbeth, but not try to bring anyone to the US now. That's kinda the thing we're doing.
Mary Ann: Yeah, thank you, Matthew. And it's really interesting how we've moved from the actual physical spaces where an artist can live and work, if they're coming over for temporary residency, through to what do they need to do bureaucratically and legally, through to actually how they're going to do their work. And I know that this idea of strategizing is very close to the work that all of you do, not only strategizing how you overcome the bureaucratic issues, but also how do you relate to an audience. We have one question so far from our listeners who asks, "How can these artists "rebuild the trust with your audience, "offline or online projects?" Now, that ties in, personally, I have to say, with some of the issues I've been exploring, which is if an artist doesn't have legal citizenship where they're living, do they express a different kind of citizenship, and some of you have been alluding to that through the work that they do, whether they're in a temporary residency, or whether they are indeed living in the city legally or illegally, but through their artwork that brings out certain issues. I think that Bénédicte, you have a project at La Cite, which is Work in Progress Every Day? You have to unmute.
Bénédicte: Sorry. Yeah, this is a project that we developed during COVID-19 and the lockdown. And it lacks total originality in the sense that it's digital. But what we wanted to make sure is that to provide even on a modest basis fees for artists who would be keen to work on a project that we could put online. So you just have to go to our website, and it's the chapter called Work in Progress Every Day. And it was also a way for us to interact, engage in a conversation, while we were going through, all of us, this very strange and canny transition, to also try to engage in a conversation wherein the artist would be also maybe able to transform his or her project, or transform also his experience or her experience of the lockdown. During the lockdown we still had 125 artists on our two sites in Montmartre and in the Marais. And so, these guys were very careful, but also became very, very lonely in a sense that they would be cut off from the networks and from outside, as we were all. So Work in Progress Every Day was a very modest, humble response with our humble means to make sure that there would be some fees granted and there would be some platform wherein one could interrogate, question one's way of dealing with his work or her work. The other thing is I think about, it also was a way during the lockdown, but it was a way also to refocus. Some of the artists that I saw last week were mentioning that to refocus on some stuff, but also to refocus on oneself. So that ended up sometimes to be quite difficult, but quite important. And some of the artists, and I'm thinking about musicians, but could be of other practices, actually pointed out that how difficult it was, when you came from, oh, well, from far away, but you came with your own practice, and so some of them who have decided or have had no choice, but to stay in France, to have to confront your practice with a professional community that does not necessarily indulge in what you're performing. And that is also something, that apart from the visas, the bureaucracy, which is just , is also something, is a very slow process. But it is also, I think, a process wherein one can feel very isolated or in an enforced kind of immobility, to quote Matthew. It's like I'm stuck here, and I don't know how to actually communicate my own creation process or my own practice, even though you've been very successful in your own country. And just to get back to the bureaucratic sides, I must point out that during the lockdown we were remarkably assisted by the public authorities in providing visa extensions automatically and papers even to people who had no papers. On a temporary basis, yes, but at least for an extension of three months or more. Whereas in usual times, it's impossible to get in touch with them. So I must say that COVID-19 has provided some kind of communication, which made it less stressful, for at least the residents at Cite, wherever they came from, whatever was the visa condition or the paper condition, that made them feel more, I guess, less stressed.
Mary Ann: Thank you. Let's get back to this idea of what the artist is. How is the artist relating to the people around them? And I know that in Germany there's some very interesting examples. Is it the Akademie der Kunste who, or I think, who runs a program, a preparation for like a first preparatory year for newcomer artists who may then, if they succeed in that year, go on to starting a normal arts foundation course? That's just one of them. Elisabeth, I think that in some of the ICORN cities the artists are encouraged to make projects with the local population, however they do that. You know, it might be, I don't know, workshops for children, or it might be teaching in the university, what have you. Would either one of you like to comment about that? Is it only for their diaspora audiences, or are they relating in a different way to general audiences?
Felix: I may just start. Yeah, there is this university programs which you mentioned. This is actually, there's a foundation class at the Weissensee University, which is for that cause. There's also a program from the Berlin Senate, and there's similar programs in another cities and in another states within Germany, which brings like refugee artists or artists who come from countries with difficult situations together with very well-established cultural institutions. So they have the chance to work together for between eight and 12 months, and, yeah, to create an outcome, to create an output during that time. And this program's running for three years and until now it has been pretty successful, and there's huge interest, and they actually get the chance to work with the community of the cultural institution or with the audience of the cultural institution. And yeah, I think this is a good program, yeah.
Elisabeth: Yeah. Since you're still muted, Mary Ann, I'll just take the word and say that of course we have in ICORN over 70 cities that host artists, so each city will have their own program to make the interaction between the artists in residency and the local community. But since we have a lot of people who are very heavily targeted, not all can do that and can be public, so that's a tricky part of it. We have to always think of the security of the artist before first. I mean, we have all kinds of artists. There's musicians, who then play with all the, of course locally and nationally and internationally, all kinds of genres. But we also, I can mention two projects that we have been part of. One together with Reporters Without Borders in Sweden, and it's not for artists, it's for journalists, because journalists have a very hard time connecting in their new communities, and we have a lot of journalists on our program. And it's called Colleague to Colleague, so it involves local journalists who then have a program together with the resident journalists to see how they can interact and how they can work better in the new place. And the other one is a small or a growing project, that we call Ratatosk. Now it's a Nordic project, and Ratatosk is a little squirrel that runs up and down in the Norse mythology with messages. So this is a translation project where we hook the writers up with translators, and they work together in a special program that goes through, and this is connected to festivals, literature festivals around Scandinavian countries, and it's been really successful, and it's been wonderful performances and readings and events through that, and, of course, texts that then get translated into the local languages.
Mary Ann: Thank you. It's often the artist-led initiatives that are the most helpful, or amongst the most helpful. And I noticed that we have another question, I'm not sure if this answers it, but often artists who are in these kind of residencies find themselves in a position of feeling that they have to be just grateful, feeling that people think that they're victims, feeling that people think that that's all they are. In fact, they're very deep and diverse people in their artistic work and in their personal life, what they have to offer. So, often, the artist-led organizations will approach the artists who are newcomers on an artist to artist basis, not necessarily in a matter of charity, or "we will help you, poor things", but really respecting them. And I think in that sense this question of Bénédicte. Many artists who have come over to another country are trained in a different aesthetic. And that aesthetic is not trendy in the country where they land, and we're not necessarily even talking about the language that's spoken, we're talking about the jargon in the arts community. We're talking about which curators want to prove their superiority by doing which kind of artistic presentations, and we're also talking about filling in funding applications which, let's face it, is a different language altogether. Matthew, I think you wanted to say something.
Matthew: Yeah, yes, I did. I'm trying to remember what it was. In terms of, going back to the question about building communities, building local communities, I think that that's something that became really clear to us very early on was that the residency without a mentorship program wasn't gonna go anywhere. And that they key to this was finding a way to work with the artists before they start a residency to outline what kind of project they wanted to do, so that we could line up specific individuals who could stay with them throughout the project and mentor them and help them develop their, I'm dating myself here, but develop their Rolodex. Who's gonna be there, their team of people to work with on the ground and who would continue to work with them even after the residency was over. I wanted to say one thing about reaching out to community. A feel-good moment that we had with Mai Khoi was right in the thick of the lockdown in Manhattan. She did a project with other musicians in the Westbeth, where they open their windows along one wall, one side of the building that they're all residents, and all in their windows perform together just to the street below. They were all separated from one another, but it was really a gorgeous trio that they had going across the face of the building, and got a lot of coverage from that, 'cause it was kind of a lovely moment of overcoming the limitations of the lockdown. I'll send a link if you wanna see it.
Mary Ann: Thank you. We have another message, particularly to Bénédicte. But I think it's opening up a different question which we could talk about for a very long time, which is the writer, and so, there's a difference between digital viability and financial viability. And I know that a lot of other artists who are just in their own countries are having to deal with that. Elisabeth, would you like to comment on Matthew?
Elisabeth: Yeah, not just on Matthew, but we're talking now, I mean the discussion is going a lot onto artists who are already in Europe or in safe countries, and how they integrate with communities there. But I mean, what we see is that people who haven't reached that far yet, who are still trying to find the safe place to keep working, when they are under these harsh conditions, and especially what's happening now, they cannot do any or very little artistic work, so their portfolios are diminishing and then, when they are looking into getting a residency, and they haven't produced anything in maybe two, maybe three years, that becomes increasingly difficult, of course, to find a residency that looks at what project are you going to do, what have you been doing and so on. So I think that's something that the communities that host artists, especially residencies that look at artistic merit, keep in mind, because it can dwindle, your artistic expression can dwindle while you are in a difficult situation.
Mary Ann: Felix, would you like to say something?
Felix: Yeah. I have the slight impression within the past weeks that usually established cultural institutions, when they work with newcomer artists, they are, let's say, they're curious in a way that, as Bénédicte already said, there's a different aesthetic coming in. They don't know how to put that into the institutions, so sometimes working with the newcomers means that those projects are kind of side projects within the whole repertoire. And I kinda had a feeling in the past few weeks that due to COVID-19, speaking for the theatres, that the programs for the next season are gonna be really packed, because there's a lot of stuff which should have been done in the end of this season, which now jumps to the next season, so there might be even less space for those artists than there was before. The challenge would be to get them out of this niche position and bring them in a position where they could, yeah, where you give space to like a potential different aesthetic, yeah.
Mary Ann: Thank you, and thank you to everybody. This was a teaser, I want to say to our listeners. We wanted to know how much interest there is on this. I can see many different issues, that we've been discussing here, could be debated for even a much longer time. And I want to say that one of the reasons, one of the several reasons that we don't have the artists' own voices here is because this is so short, and we all felt that it was too short to give them the respect that they would need and deserve to be able to speak about these issues for themselves. So if there's enough interest, On The Move and HowlRound might be willing to host more series of discussions on this topic. And I just wanna stress one thing right before we finish, which is that I don't think any of us are asking for special treatment for artists who found themselves in the situation and are experiencing a residency abroad, a temporary residency abroad. I think all of what we're arguing for is that there's an equal playing field, that they have, within reason, the same kind of opportunities that artists would have who live and work in the same country for all their lives. So we've only got like one minute left. I want to thank everybody again for your time. I would love to carry on and speak about this more. Let's see what the listeners say, and thank you to everybody.
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