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Seven ways to get the most out of an artist residency

Brooke Boland

To find out how to make the most of an artist residency, we asked Wesley Enoch about his time at Bundanon Trust.
Seven ways to get the most out of an artist residency

Resident Alumni Dance Integrated Australia, Philip Channells, Beyond Technique; Photo: Chris Jallard.

We all know the value of an artist residency. They provide essential time to work on your practice, connect with other artists, and give you the space to develop a body of work.

But is there an art to getting the most out of a residency?

To help find out more about what can make a residency more successful, we spoke with Wesley Enoch, Director of Sydney Festival, about his time as an Artist-in-Residence at Bundanon Trust.

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‘I’ve been to Bundanon three times, and each time I’ve taken a major step in my work,’ said Enoch.

It turns out there is much more involved than simply turning up with an idea.

1. Unplug

The first thing a resident should do is disconnect from digital distractions. ‘Unplug your computer and turn off your phone,’ said Enoch.

‘For an artistic person, unplugging can actually mean plugging in your own creative imagination by giving it space and it not being shouted at all the time by your computer, or your TV set or your phone. It just puts everything back into perspective.’

2. Slow down and take your time

After you unplug, you will find yourself with more time to really think about the work you want to do. Slowing down, taking your time, and thinking carefully about your art practice will start to unlock ideas and assist you to re-engage with your own interests. ‘It’s like an accelerator - just slowing down in fact accelerates something,’ said Enoch.

‘Artists are constantly thinking that they are missing out so they just devour everything. A residency like this creates a better balance for an artist to be truly original. Not just go wherever the influence is taking you, you can synthesize those and make them better for yourself.’

Eileen Kramer dancing at Bundanon in the Dorothy Porter Studio; Photo: Simon Cunich.

3. Get to know the place

Much like Bundanon Trust, many residences are steeped in history and surrounded by a stunning natural environment.

Located on the South Coast of NSW, Bundanon was gifted by Arthur Boyd and his wife Yvonne in 1993 to create an artist haven. Participating artists are surrounded by 1,100 hectares of Australian bushland during their residency, and often draw inspiration from the landscape.

For Enoch learning about the history of Bundanon was beneficial to his artist practice. ‘Getting in touch with the landscape and the history of the gift of that place, I think that is always a good place to start, for anyone’s art practice.

‘I’m always inspired by place. Telling Aboriginal stories, making sure an Aboriginal cultural perspective is out there. I always want to know about place and its history and its story.’

Charlotte Wood was previously a resident at Bundanon in 2013 and has returned as a resident this year; Image: supplied by artist.

4. Read

Enoch also recommends setting up reading habits during a residency.

While Enoch admits he isn’t a big reader of books – though he often reads articles and play scripts – the extensive library at Bundanon Trust brought the reader out in him.

‘Just go to the library and pick out a book. It doesn’t have to be fiction, it can be non-fiction, it can be the history of the area or things and you just start feeling connected to the place in a very different way. And I did sleep so much better!’

5. Surround yourself with likeminded people

Artist residencies provide the opportunity to meet likeminded people, stretch your comfort zone and find your own voice.

‘An artist always benefits from talking to other artists. Even if it is just to reinforce what they are doing but also sometimes just to hear what another artist is doing helps you articulate why you do what you do,’ said Enoch.

‘When you surround yourself, or find yourself surrounded by likeminded people, there are two effects one is you feel assured, and two you feel brave to do things.’

Sculptor and installation artist Sharnie Shield was a resident at Bundanon in 2015; Image of Social Engineering by Shield, supplied by artist.

6. Make friends

You are going to meet a lot of new people during a residency so be friendly and open to making friends. ‘I’ve built strong friendships with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, who I met over the number of times I’ve been there,’ said Enoch.

After all, new friendships may even lead to future collaborations. ‘It may not be that the collaboration happens a year or two years later, it might happen fifteen years later.’

7. Find inspiration

As Bundanon Trust is also the custodian of the Boyd family art collection, the Trust’s collection of ephemera and art is inspiring in itself.

‘You can look at the paintings or prints that are everywhere and then look out each window and see where the inspiration came from. You realise that surround yourself with beautiful things and you will make beautiful things,’ said Enoch.

Vilma Bader was also a resident at Bundanon Trust in 2015; Image: Culturally Bound Syndromes. Instructions by Aleksander Bohnak. Image: video still, supplied by artist

Applications for the 2017 Artist in Residence program at Bundanon Trust are now open and will close on the 21 June 2016.

To apply visit https://bundanon.com.au/residencies/2017-air-apply/

For more information about the Bundanon Trust Artist in Residence program, contact Bundanon on 02 4422 2108 or at programs@bundanon.com.au

About the author

Brooke Boland is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.

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