Organized 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 Malaysia’s local cultural communities promoting mutual learning.
The latest Tea Philo E-talk titled “Re-Mapping the Concept of Art-in-Residence Initiatives” features speaker Dr. Su Yaohua, a cultural administrator, social curator, educator, and intercultural communicator from Taiwan. The E-Talk was broadcast through Tea Philo’s Facebook page from 3pm-5pm on 26th June 2021 (Saturday) and was moderated by Tan E Jan, the Co-Founder of Toccata Studio.
Dr. Su Yaohua was once a senior officer in the Ministry of Culture and used to manage artists-in-residence programs for the Taipei City Government at the Taipei Artist Village, the Grass Mountain Artist Village and the Treasure Hill Artist Village. Su also had experience in directing corporate art foundations, and has established one of the pioneering arts in public space programs, the Very Fun Park, which was co-funded by corporate and community entrepreneurs. Su is currently the Assistant Professor of the Department of Arts at National Taiwan Normal University and the chief curator at the University’s Art Museum. Her important curatorial practices include the Public Art Festival of Keelung Harbor (2019) and the Retrospective Exhibition of JUT Foundation (2017).
Dr. Su pointed out that Art-in-Residence programs are incredibly valuable platforms for an art administrator to approach and engage with all sorts of creative communities, not only the creators, but also facilitators and participants with different identities and motives. Su explained that artists’ residencies were traditionally thought of as isolated retreats for solitary artists. This definition, however, is no longer suitable as Art-in-Residence (AIR) has transformed and developed into a much more open and fluid concept, and is still evolving organically. It has taken on diverse forms, uncovered new topics, and has redefined the relationships between creative workers, their works, and their communities.
Su mentioned the avantgarde movements of the 20th century, an important period in art history when artists began to actively challenge institutions, authorities, and traditional understandings of art. She pointed out that during this period, instead of trying to create artworks and viewing them as the final products of an artistic process, a lot of artists started to shift their focus to the process itself and the interactions that happen throughout all stages, from research, creation, installment, to public reception and participation. “This trend in art merged with the long history of collective organising in the social, political, and economic realms, and many artists nowadays choose to centre their artistic practices around relationship building and political organising, rather than solely object-making,” said Su. She emphasised that contemporary Art-in-Residence initiatives value collaborations and co-productions with other artists and even professionals from totally different fields.
Su further explained the spirits and possibilities of contemporary Art-in-Residence projects from three intersecting circles: people/community, space/city, and time. Su also showed clips of projects she had participated in, including the Treasure Hill Artist Village, Art-in-Residence Taipei, and the Tung Ho Steel Artist-in-Residence Programs, to illustrate the uniqueness of each project and their impact on their respective communities.
Su also acknowledged possible tensions between residents, facilitators, and artists in Art-in-Residence projects and showed how, sometimes, new relationships can be built in the most unexpected ways. Su ended the talk on an honest but hopeful note, addressing the challenges of working as an art administrator: “Sometimes it is just really difficult to find a balance between the artists’ visions and the limitations of resources and realities, but what I can do is always remind myself where and why I started, and to find my own communities for dialogues and support. If you love what you do, at the end of the day, the effort always counts.”