On Monday, I arrived to Moks residency in the small town of Mooste as part of my two-part, two-month stint in Estonia. The first month I spent in Tallinn, at Ptarmigan residency, where I wrote all the previous posts for this diary.
I write each post in an hour. I use an app titled Freedom to cut my internet connection while I'm writing. I try to publish something a few times a week.
First off, I'm gonna tell you how me feels about a residency.
The guilt, from all this excess, is getting the best of me, if there is anything good in me to begin with. I begin to doubt this as I look around and see all these treats I am being presented here: a spacious studio, a room, scenic place, money, travels, this and that. And you should see this place, really. I'm awestruck by all of it: the cows creating maximalist drone music during nights, cats frequent the front steps of the pale yellow residency building, kids going wild from the last sunny days of autumn, little girls sitting at the small half-broken dock on the beach, the rustic in absolutely everything from old fluffy cats to smashed cards sleeping on their side, and then some.
I'm sitting in a deck chair soaking in the sun, probably looking like I've passed out and in need of professional help. Someone walks close by. I correct my position, feeling ashamed of myself just lying here like a lama (jos puhut suomee niin joo viittaan nyt enempi ysärilamaan ku siihen elukkaan toim. huom.), Hip-Hop buzzing on my PC speakers, while I'm overdosing from candy and energy drink.
My month here might just pass without any interaction. Mostly because I'm so ashamed of myself. I mean, I have free hands to do as I please with my time here, although Moks is known for its relational aesthetics sort of projects, where artists invite locals to do stuff with them. I assume I should get my ass up from this deck chair. At first, I thought about doing some sort of a public project here. But I feel it should've been the only thing, or that I should've had some sort of platform for my work waiting for me here (like a series of happenings, a curated event, pre-planning, the like). See what a little prince I can be. But yeah, building an audience, figuring out a suitable context & space, and coming up with a concept from scratch is of course possible in a month, easily, but I knew I could have not given such things my full attention as I needed to prepare new work for Baltic Circle festival (due November).
A residency is not something one really curates, since you get into them almost always through open calls. The organisers tend not to, understandably, tell the artists what they should do, but instead have them figure it out on their own while helping them connect with people and resources, since the organisers of a residency are usually local to the place where their residency resides.
As a visiting artist, you're always on your own, but with this pressure to supposedly create something cool for/with inhabitants, or, you know, at least give an artist talk. Of course, this shouldn't be anything a sane person stresses over. It really is not too much to ask. I just wonder whether I have anything to offer to anyone. I was wrestling with this in Tallinn, too. I've organized quite a few events in my life, done workshops and other such activities, but I can honestly say I have no idea what people generally like or want. But I guess the problem lies in "people generally", as there is no such thing.
I really didn't propose anything to Moks and Ptarmigan (Tallinn) when I applied to their joint residency thing, which is called Axis of Praxis. They kind of knew me and I understood were happy with the fact that my application was so open-ended. That's another to way for saying I didn't have and continue not to have any idea what I'm doing.
I've been planning to contact some people here to do a theatre performance with, simply because I'd like to try and direct a play and I was thinking maybe some would like to act, too. Additionally, it might be a fun thing for people to witness. Furthermore, I'm fucked. By the same token, why do I set up these damn traps for myself. Moreover, I'm out of adverbs and ideas.
In terms of concentration, this place makes wonders to me. On both mornings I've woken up around 6am, gone for a 30 minute run, eaten a healthy breakfast, worked until 12, cooked up some nice lunch, spent time socialising online, gone for a bike ride or something, got a bit drunk with other residents, and then headed straight to bed. Today, I did a run through of my play. Feeling really good about that. Before that, I ticked away all the boxes in my to do list (mostly consisting of writing short e-mails).
In case you were wondering, this is what I do.
I mean I feel slightly alienated from everyday reality even in my home town, but when you're in a place where everything sort of reminds you of your temporal, shaky status, it's gets confusing fast. I don't know anything about migration, but if it's this complicated to travel to another place and type away on your PC sitting in a deck chair, I can only imagine what real change is like.
I also wonder what it does to your perception of art when you run a residency centre for 14 years in a small town, as Evelyn and John have done here at Moks. You see tens of artists every year, and I guess you can't help having a few deja vus: sound art droning on in an abandoned building, communally minded theatre-maker being awkwardly bossy around group of participants, people dropping out of a workshop bit by bit, artists attempting to grasp their residency surroundings by means of automatic drawings, esoteric performative gestures, diy silk prints, collective mindmaps, whatnot. The same conversations about your home city's art scene, art funding, art education, music scene, drug scene, whatever connects you two. But of course you can see it in a very different way, sans the pessimistic determinism.
The fundamental residency phenomenons: newfound passion, lofty commitment, intense fear, leaps in and out of faith, stock existential depression, audacious breakdowns, rehearsed debates, quirkiness clashing with love of routines, oddly nationalistic cooking, wild variance in art-ontological issues after a bottle of wine, sex both meaningful and empty, and whatever appears when artists, almost bi-polar by definition, are put into a house and a town to figure out their private and public selves.