The role of the artist in residence within a community or place-based project is an interesting one. As an outsider, a visitor, I am playing the role of tourist, researcher I am trying to settle beyond the voyeur and into a dialogue of sorts, with the local.
Because of the length of most residencies, the idea of getting to know a place in any real depth within the time available is not a possibility. The artist in residence needs to factor this introductory, surface level understanding into the initial stages. It is not possible to know a place in four months. But it should be possible to delve deeper into some of the curiosities of a place. To instigate investigations into some of the details, and to begin the process of conversation.
Surrounded by years of experience, expertise and knowledge, the artist in residence needs to be prepared to accept a certain amount of foolishness, to notice the immediate things, and to acknowledge their obviousness, the everyday familiarity that everyone else has long come to terms with being.
As I begin to find my footing, and grasp something of the familiar, I begin to contemplate the role of the artist as a visitor and to imagine the role of the visitor as one that could play an interesting or useful or experimental role within the permanent community. The artist in residence is part of a transient community of outsiders, journeymen travelling from place to place. As someone very used to a settled role, I work to embrace a different identity as an artist here. Searching through this notion of transient communities, I fix on the idea of the artist as fortune teller. A playful, somewhat rogue element offering potential, or possible, alternative visions of a future town.
With each visit my understanding of the place alters, the sat nav is no longer required to make basic journeys, the internal compass locates me within the growing physical map of my surroundings, but my map of the communities here is still a little sparse.
Getting to know people always takes a little longer.