Mapping Mobility in Melbourne

Melbourne became a veritable whirlwind of arts events for a week in May, hosting city-wide happenings like Next Wave, IETM, the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the inaugural Asia-Australia-Europe Creative Residency Network meeting, all at the same time. City-wide art projects, like scent-based installations in public bathrooms all over town, surprised us all through our stay as we stumbled upon multisensory performances almost by happenstance.

In the shadow of Australia’s most recent dire budget news, where we learned that more than 100 million dollars will be cut from the arts over the next few years, there was no better time to convene arts professionals to discuss cooperation, resilience, reciprocity and new models of funding for creative exchange.

 Panelists presenting at Asialink for the inaugural Asia-Australia-Europe Creative Residency Network

The meetings, organised by Res Artis (beautifully hosted by Asialink and generously supported by the Asia-Europe Foundation), brought together organisations from all three continents to work through issues and brainstorm solutions. First up was the need for assessment and increased data collection from, and about, the residency field. Funding bodies often demand hard numbers to justify an artistic program’s validity, but this same data can be put to good use by arts organisations for their own advocacy. ACME Studios in London is leading the way in region surveys, and nationwide organisations in Taiwan and Japan already collect high quality information they need to report back to their government funding bodies. We can all strive to diligently collect our own numbers and to share them with the wider community through accessible open-source data whenever possible.

At the centre of all this information is the mapping project. Regional networks are already creating detailed maps of residency programs - residencias_en_red in South America, Fresh Milk in the Caribbean, the above mentioned Taiwanese & Japanese endeavours, and China Residencies in China. We are all collecting the most relevant data for our organisations, and Res Artis is now ambitiously combining these many resources. Such a big project faces the usual hurdles of finding time, money, and people to complete and maintain, but this new network draws strength in numbers and in our shared ambition to complete this public good.

Our breakout session notes on reciprocity and the resources residencies rely on to successfully host international artists.

In all, it was a wonderful experience in coming together to encourage and support mobility across continents. On the Move led Monday’s discussions on solving issues of access and reciprocity for artists and arts professionals who constantly cross physical and cultural borders, and the evening culminated in celebration with with IETM’s opening reception where Chinese-Australian artist William Yang performed a deeply personal narrative piece about his culturally fluid career to a rapt audience of performance arts practitioners. This same of audience of performance arts practitioners also engaged in lively Q&A sessions on the topic of residencies with many of the meetings’ participants, in a very disco room.

We all returned with a greater sense of community between residencies, international arts professionals, and global artists. Numbers and maps are just two forms of valuable information we seek to collect, and we’re thrilled to include the many forms of equally valuable qualitative data we heard and generated over the course of the meetings. We look forward to many more collaborations, discussions, and valuable exchanges of information for many years to come!

About the author

Kira Simon-Kennedy is the Program Manager of China Residencies, a not for profit dedicated to creating a comprehensive directory of artist residencies across mainland China; researching organisational best practices; and fostering successful creative exchange for visiting artists.