changing time//do less precisely when asked to do more – by Alison O’Shea

Alison O’Shea (b.1996) is a visual artist and curator based in the Backwater Artist Studios, Cork , Ireland.  Her curatorial and artistic practices’ primary research concerns include alternative methodologies of productivity, and creating sustainable practice models through speculative fiction.

This piece is a section from my research paper A Passive House. A passive house is a house which is truly energy efficient, a sustainable and comfortable structure. The passive house here has acted as a methodology, a structure to learn from and engage with. The production of this research has simultaneously been a search for a sustainable practice but also an ever-present pressure to create an output to validate the pursuit of a practice. The current occupants of the passive house, Dori O’Connell, Fiona Kelly, Mary O’Leary and Lily O’Shea have generously responded to these thoughts, utilising materials such as time, dust and food.

This research has continued from prior speculation on artistic agency within institutions, specifically residency programmes. When the pandemic became prevalent in Ireland and the retreat indoors was necessary, we began to rediscover boredom and rest. To frame the research over the last months I have created a brief, a compilation of language used to advertise residency programmes over the last months via various job and opportunity websites. The limitations on progress and time when developing slow research such as this has required not “making more time” but instead changing it.[1] This brief has been reworked to frame our own residency programme.

“Open Call for the At Home Artist Residency Programme 2020

This is a four month long, full time artistic research and residency programme which offers time and space to work in the unique context of your own home.

During the four-month residential programme selected artists will be housed at their own house with access to whatever is in their house and a plethora of other potential workspaces and contexts (the plethora of other workspaces is dependent on the applicant’s own space).

Participating artists will live and work apart as peers but there will be no emphasis placed on collaboration or the production of a final artwork instead each artist will be asked to facilitate a meaningful engagement with their context in the context of the current context.

The programme will aim to support the artistic process of each participant, encouraging some engagement through practice with the current global climate.

During the residency the selected artist will have access to:

· Their own accommodation (dependent on applicant’s space)

· Private studio (dependent on applicant’s space)

· Access to all of their own facilities

Applicants across all disciplines, nationally and internationally are eligible to apply.

In your application please include:

· images (virtual or documentation of work made) /

· up to date artist CV/

· artist statement /

· short cover letter describing how you would benefit from this residency programme”

The passive house methodology wishes to highlight the invisible knowledge creation within the everyday, as under capitalism, domestic labour is isolated and invisible, similarly artistic processes are often an invisible and disposable means to elevated art objects. The passive house wishes to highlight and privilege the everyday means as an end in itself. This hopes to recentre the artist and not the art, the artist is a precariously and often exploited tool for producing content. The passive home might reveal the everyday as an overlooked treasure, the everyday the common cross-cultural routines and artefacts of humans: eating, dressing, grooming, cleaning, shelter, clothing, furniture, and gardening. The passive home has been a space of everyday attentiveness for us, not just as a means to an output, but as an enjoyably aimless goal under its own self-contained merit.[2] The cooperative appreciation of the everyday is an escape from the hyper-productive, hyper-scheduled, and hyper-competitive capitalist art world. Taking the closing line from Bojana Kunst’s book Artist at Work, Proximity of Art and Capitalism, “do less precisely when asked to do more.”[3]

The utilisation of fiction as a tool of resilience throughout this process has allowed a sense of agency in retelling time and experience. The creation of the artist residency programme has allowed the occupants to relax into our individual passive practices. By naming it such we have decided that no matter what we do whether it be take notes, drink coffee, discuss or bicker, watch TV, it is inherently creatively productive because of its proximity to an artist-in-residence programme.

The residency we are suggesting here seeks to reclaim traditional expectations of flexibility and apply the notion of “residency” to any or all aspects of one’s every-day. The fictional residency programme here is a strategy that could possibly present an opportunity to regain agency over one’s time. By naming time spent outside of traditional “creative” parameters residency,all actions and output within that time have the potential to be inherently creatively productive simply by designating the title of artist-in-residence. This agency over one’s time could further be taken to institutions who could offer practitioners simply a name to write beside a body of research they had completed and required this research to be acknowledged by an institution. This research may have been obtained through working in the service industry, caring for someone, resting, recuperating, anything. The need for the research to be acknowledged in such a way remains challenging, however, the recognition a large institution has when one is applying for arts council or academic funding remains invaluable. This type of “accredited” work could be a means in which to acknowledge the precarity within the sector whilst supporting other alternative forms of knowledge creation. This is not a solution, rather a strategy to support alternative knowledge creation, deeming something accredited is another way in which institutions wield authority over artistic agency in naming what research is valued.  The traditional residency which in its initial make-up bases itself on outcome driven goals is extractive, a residency which focuses on caring for artists and what they need, which may in fact just be rest is who should be focused on. A residency with flexible expectations not expectations of flexibility.

Fiona Kelly, Dust Collection for a passive house, 2020

[1]For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University, Forthcoming in ACME, International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 2015, P.11

[2] Saito, Yuriko, Everyday Aesthetics, OUP, Oxford, 2007

[3] Kunst, Bojana, Artist at Work, The Proximity of Art and Capitalism, Zer0 Books, 2016, P.193

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