culturia makers, Andrzej Raszyk & Nuno Vicente talk to Katrina Neumann about culturia’s program, what they are looking for in artists’ portfolio submissions, their own projects – mondaynews, berlinerpool, João Cocteau, and resources of the Berlin art scene.

(Reprint of an original article from RATE MY ARTIST RESIDENCY)

Katrina Neumann (KN): Why did you decide to start culturia in Berlin and how have you seen the program transform?

Andrzej Raszyk & Nuno Vicente (A & N): culturia began in 2005 as a residency hosted in temporary spaces in Berlin, developing into a program with a permanent address and a focus on exploring artistic processes and theory.

Since we have worked for 8 years in the structure of a residency program we have under gone many phases and changes. That includes hosting more than 150 artists and starting up co-operations with main events in Berlin such as the Transmediale – Australian-German collaboration project Transit Lounge by architects, travellers, musicians and designers, or supporting preparations for exhibitions e.g. Citambulos at Deutsches Architektur Zentrum (DAZ), organising concerts and festivals in our former exhibition space at Josetti Höfe(with 400 people counted at 6 in the morning), happenings in public spaces, exhibitions in independent Berlin project spaces, project exchange dinners, networking meetings between the artists and curators and space owners… Thanks to two key partners – developing companies HOWOGE – flats – and Beletage Immobilienkultur – studios and presentation space – it is possible to invite artists paying very reduced rent. Within this setup we have been working under the motto, “Space to realize your ideas,” until 2010.

But that was not enough! There was something missing. We learned by having developed a broad network of local and international contacts and visiting the key conferences Art Swap Europe, Re-tooling residencies, ASoul for Europe, speaking on Transartists meeting. While observing the changes that the city rapidly followed, with Berlin’s higher interest of the international art scene and growing rents, we decided to take a different approach. Here we directed a question to our former residents and asked them – “what kind of residency you would like to attend?” That is how the cooperation with artist Nuno Vicente and culturia started.

Through the past 3 years of conversations and creative discussions with Nuno we have developed a concept of a goal-oriented artist-in-residence program set as a long-term research project on artistic process. The concept consists of non-material collection archiving texts written by artists and one-on-one curator guided video sessions of filmed interviews with visiting artists.

We wanted to create a model, which can exist and function anywhere. Not necessarily in Berlin.

At culturia, we work with mid-career and established international artists. During the residency period we would like to offer an artist a break in the production phase and give the opportunity to commit herself/himself to writing. Reflect upon the way of creating, their ideal approach to and definition of art, to go back to particular art works and thoughts. Program challenges the artists and supports them giving tools that entice the process and disturb habits. Artists are offered with a possibility to stop for a moment, mirror themselves in the conversations, take time and sit down to re-read the diary entries, notes on not realized or realized ideas.

Important for us is capturing of the “non-material”.  We see it as something that exists during the pursuit of the artists to the final outcome – material artwork.  Accomplishing this the content ceases to exist. culturia definition of non-materiality can be understood only in this opposition.

The program stimulates the writing practice through workshops, seminars, presentations and filmed interviews with invited artists, curators and other arts professionals. All the materials are saved and create a knowledge base for researchers and can be a starting point for development of future projects like exhibitions, publications and presentations.

That describes our model today. But each residency round gives us new input and opens up new subject fields, possibilities that we didn’t think of. Having a set structure we are still open for testing new ideas and eager to evaluate the outcomes.

The long-term goals of our final structure is to establish strong partnerships with institutions and organisations regarding financial support for the artists and their writing, plus publication, dissemination and promotion of the gathered material.

Today, culturia is run by a core duo: Nuno Vicente – as an artistic director and Andrzej Raszyk – project manager. Two assistants support the residency, a network of international and local curators, and art professionals and former residents (for what we would like to thank them).

KN: When you are looking through the many portfolio submissions, what are you searching for in potential candidates to participate in your program? What suggestions do you have for someone applying to culturia?

A & N: First of all in the assessment sessions we are checking the quality of artistic work. In our submission process we ask artists to send us a PDF with photo documentation of 5-10 latest works. Having done the first selection we move onto the second step, which is an understanding of the culturia concept by the applicant. The online submission form is constructed this way that the applicant reading it for the first time has to get to know more about the aim of the residency. Two first very long questions are answered by simple yes/no. The one that follows is the most important for us.  It gives us information about what the motivations of the artists are to take part in culturia program.

We simply ask what the artists would like to write about during the residency period. We stress that not the literary quality of the text is important for us but the content. We know that not all of the artists are amazing writers. Also we are aware that the main point being an artist is not to write. We enjoy reading the raw text. CV is the least important in our selection process.

We would like to advise artists who are planning to apply to read carefully the concept pages first and think about a short outline of the ideas they would like to put into the text during the residency. As we know the writing process cannot be planed from A to Z. That is why we do not expect to read a table of content for an essay or a book. But rather enforce developing a system of continuous writing practice while in the residency. The text written by artists can take on the form of ephemeral notes, diary entries, or lose reflection chapters, etc. The outcome has to be editable and carrying the potential for publication.

The jury consist of the artistic director, project manager and an invited curator.

KN: What are the benefits for artists in your program when they participate at culturia? What should artists expect when they come to visit culturia? Is the program self-motivated or do you provide resources for your artists?

A & N: Culturia program offers a space for reflection, writing and conversation. A moment when the artist can shut down the production drive in all material means and open themselves to look backwards and forwards. Find a mirror during the filmed interviews – external action and during writing process – internal action.

In the program we include conversations, presentations and workshops on the text written by artists. During weekly meetings we discuss the problems, definitions, influences, give feedback on the text in progress. As a supplementary project to stimulate the reflection and overview on the artistic practice by the artist a year ago we started to record filmed interviews. Each artist has the chance to take part three times in the interview, each time meeting new curator, artist or author. The interviews have two steps. First, a meeting with the selected conversation partner where questions about the artist’s work and projects are asked. Second, a recording session takes place where we invite the artists and the interviewer to have an around 15min conversation. The content of the videos is not cut nor edited. What is said during the 15 min stays on the tape and can be viewed on request – for now.

culturia does not aim to offer an exhibition or a final presentation of the art works but gives a possibility to work on the writing and be part of future publications. Taking part in the documented interviews and while doing so meeting interesting curators and artists, and introduce them to the work can bring fruits in the invitations for shows and exhibitions in the future outside of culturia.

The text written by artists wouldn’t come as easy without spending time in culturia’s program. It has a potential to be re-published afterwards in parts or as a whole, seen as a supporting material for exhibitions or presentation.

In culturia we do think that the artists committed to the program has to have a strong self-motivation to finish the writing process. As a culturia team we can provide content input, conversation, introduce texts that can be found in “non material collection”, and watch filmed interviews with former artists.

The residency is set up in a 160sqm (1722 sq ft) apartment with 4 bedrooms, a co-working space, a living room and two balconies. The apartment is located in Anton Saefkow Platz, in the borough of Friedrichshain in Berlin. The space and program is inspiring while meeting like-minded people committed to reflection and writing. It provides time without disruption and pressure of production of an object/art work.

In culturia, we also created an alumni program. Because it is all about being connected, learning from each other’s experiences and exchanging and forming further possibilities among trusted peers. We believe that people who share the experience of culturia and Berlin have interest in staying in touch. Today, we have around 100 alumni members and counting.

Fifty percent of culturia residents stay in Berlin for at least a period of 2 following years. The second half is spread around the world and connected with various art institutions and research programs. The exchange of information and building cross-continental ties makes the art community stronger.

In each of culturia newsletters we provide a space for announcement of current activities/ exhibitions of our former residents.

KN: How would you describe what the Berlin art scene is like today? And, what recommendations do you have for international artists living in Berlin (for a residency or longer)?

A & N: To ease the step into the diverse and ever-changing Berlin art scene we have prepared a link list that is updated every three months with our highlights and proposals: http://culturia.de/berlin-art-resources-list/

On the culturia resource page visitor can find such links as Touring Artists – The Information Portal for Internationally Touring Artists, collection of Berlin art events calendars, video and text based art blogs, choice of independent art spaces, state galleries, museums, art associations and universities, art student networks, free schools/self organized education, other residencies, performance spaces, studios/workshops, cultural institutes, creative networks, festivals, actions in public space. And it is just a small amount of the info base that culturia has to offer.

But we think that culturia could take place in any part of the world. Never the less, we do enjoy being part of Berlin art scene and observing it from our critical position.

KN: You also run the berlinerpool artists physical archive, mondaynews website, and the project space João Cocteau, can you tell me a little bit about these projects?

A & N: Nuno and I have our own professional careers, which somehow interject with the residency concept. I am a project manager of berlinerpool – mobile artists archive. It is an artist initiative that structures a cooperative network of artists, curators and art spaces. berlinerpool offers consulting and research services for curators, develops its own projects and participates in exhibitions and events. Also in between I am an editor-in-chief of mondaynews – an info base for artists, curators and cultural operators which provides a list of international open calls and art events via a weekly newsletter service based on a daily updated website.

Nuno develops his own career as an independent artist, http://nuno-vicente.com, and runs a studio space/project space with his friends in Berlin called João Cocteau, http://joaococteau.com, a multidisciplinary space where people meet through their work, ideas and beliefs, giving rise to a new universe of thinking and perception.