Organised by the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Malaysia and produced by INXO Arts & Culture (L) Foundation, Tea Philo is a series of sharing sessions revolving around the discussion of philosophies and humanities. Luminaries from Taiwan are invited to share their experiences and engage with the Malaysian audience to encourage exchanges of ideas and experience. The 56th edition of Tea Philo invites guest speaker Catherine LEE (李曉雯), Director of Taipei Artist Village (TAV) / Treasure Hill Artist Village (THAV) to speak on the challenges and new possibilities of running artist residency sites and programs in the midst of a global pandemic. The talk was held in Mandarin and was moderated by Wendy TEO, Malaysian architect, curator, researcher, multidisciplinary artist and founder of Borneo Art Collective and Think & Tink. The E-talk was broadcast via Zoom Meeting and Facebook Live on August 13th, 2022 and is available for rewatch on Tea Philo’s Facebook Page.
“An artist village is a space for artists to dream, experiment, work, and create. Artist residency projects can also breathe new life into previously abandoned or vacant spaces,” Lee explained that it is her job as a director of artist villages to think about the meaning of arts and purpose of artist residency, and to provide services and facilities that can help artists concentrate on their projects during their stay.
After graduating with a Master’s degree from Texas Tech University, Catherine Lee had experience working in museums as project manager, research assistant, docent, and executive secretary. From 2011-2017, Lee worked at the Bamboo Curtain Studio as research and development director. Since 2017, Catherine Lee has been working at the Taipei Artist Village (TAV) and Treasure Hill Artist Village (THAV) as the general director. She is also currently a board member of the Taiwan Art Space Alliance (TASA), a group of experienced artist-in-residence organisers and art space curators who joined efforts to facilitate, promote, and advocate artist-in-residence programs, talent cultivation, international arts affairs, and policies for art spaces. During the Tea Philo E-talk session, Lee shared her experience in operating artist villages, re-examined the nature of artist residencies, and proposed possible directions moving forward.
According to their mission statement, the Taipei Artist Village and Treasure Hill Artist Village wish to become a home for artistic nomads, a centre of cultural interchange, and laboratories of art, where each artist is encouraged and supported to fully express their creativity and imagination. “With studios and accommodation for Taiwanese and international artists, this is a place where cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary forces collide and meld, generating artistic energy. Here, different classes, age groups and peoples meet and communicate.”
The Artist-In-Residence (AIR) Taipei Program launches an open call each year, offering two artist villages—the TAV and THAV—for application, and accepting 10 international artists per site, and 6-8 local artists in total. The AIR Taipei is also involved in long-term partnership and collaborative projects with international residencies and institutions, such as Tokyo Arts and Space (Japan), Bank ART 1929 (Japan), MMCA Goyang (Korea), Openspace Bae (Korea), Grey Projects (Singapore), Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (UK), Silpakorn University (Thailand), Le Lieu unique (Nantes, France), Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and Ciné Tapis Rouge (Canada), Platform Asia X Arts Catalyst (UK), and Art Next (Hong Kong).
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many artist residency programs across the globe have been forced to be put on hold or undergo a change of plans under cross-border travel restrictions. Lee realised that artist residencies have to adapt and transform in light of these new challenges.
“Suddenly, space becomes a factor of least importance, now that the artists just physically can’t be here,” Lee said. “As we tried to find new ways to sustain our programs, we were reminded by the situation that apart from space, time, and resource, there is another factor that has always been essentially central to artist residency experiences that we can still provide: networking or connection.”
Although the AIR Taipei residency and artist exchange programs were paused due to the situation, a series of new projects have been born within the past three years, including the South Taipei Research Program, the Cultural Diversity and Inclusivity Program, the Latin America X Taiwan Street Art Exchange Program, virtual exhibitions, and a virtual artist residency program that explores possibilities of NFT and blockchain technology.
“Although in-person interaction is irreplaceable, by going online, we are able to transcend regional boundaries and welcome artists from all over the world to participate in our online workshops or events, whether or not they have been involved with TAV or THAV programs previously,” mentioned Lee.
“We will continue to explore the unknown and uncertainties in art and artist residency, and we are thankful for the opportunity, space, resources, and for all the people involved, to be able to keep experimenting and working on these amazing projects,” concluded Lee.