November 9-12, 2006

“When its all over and everyone’s back home: the aftermath of cultural exchange”
Res Artis Presentation as a part of the IETM Meeting
Helsinki, Finland


The joint conference of IETM (International Network for the Performing Arts) and the Mobile.Home project was held in Helsinki, Finland on the 9-12 of November.

Celebrating the European Year of Workers’ Mobility the conference theme was “Mobility of Artists and Art Workers in the EU: an Inter-sectorial Conference. Partners of the conference included On-The-Move, Visiting Arts, Fondazione Fitzcarraldo, Goethe-Institut (Brussels) and Res Artis.

Res Artis representative, Julie Upmeyer, organised a working group titled “When its all over and everyone’s back home: the aftermath of cultural exchange”

Res Artis Session

There is little to argue about the benefits of cultural exchange for the individuals directly involved, of working in a new environment, of having discussions with creative people from different cultures. But what happens when its over? When the artist has returned home?

How do artists communicate their experience to their community upon their return? Do they have or make an opportunity to do so? To whom? Assuming the goal is to support artists in a given location, which is a more beneficial tool, inviting one artist from overseas or sending an artist or program to a local community?

In an interactive working group, opinions and examples of artist residencies and performing arts programs as a tool for cultural exchange will be presented and discussed.


Presentations and discussions focused on ‘the after”. The tools of mobility (internet, relative ease of transportation, other communication tools) have made it easier for people to find opportunities and travel to other places.

  • How do they incorporate their over-seas experience with their artistic practice?
  • Do they discuss their experiences with their peers or keep to themselves?
  • Should it be part of the residency to facilitate some sort of programming after the residency?
  • Are these experiences making a difference to other artists and organisers in the artists’ home countries?

Five organisers of international residency programs answered a series of questions based on their experiences working with international artists. Many of these individuals are artists themselves, who organize various types of programs in Brazil, New York, Vietnam and the UK, inviting artists from around the world. Their answers opened the session, providing the foundation for the following discussion.

One artist and organiser, Jay Koh, who was attending the session, runs an independent cultural and art space in Myanmar/Burma and is a core member of the Intra Asia Network. He had especially pertinent things to say, this being his topic for investigation for some time. He presented collected comments from his colleagues around the world and explained his own experiences of hosting and participating in residencies with various international projects and programmes.

In his words “These experience may provide a relearning framework for evaluating the intentions and effects, and understanding the performativity of a residency in relation to the hosting organistion within itself and with the dominant structure of the society.”

Discussion Points
  • Poor preparation of artist, not knowing what to expect or expecting different resources, leading to frustration and disappointment on both sides.
  • A gap between expectation and outcome, especially mentioned for artist residencies to or from Asian countries. The cultural differences can be quite extreme, special preparation is required on both sides.
  • There is no forum for discussing the aftermath and issues from resident artists, many artists seem to vanish after their residency, organisers are not consistent about keeping up contact with the artists.
  • Traveling in small groups (2-5 people), creates possibilities to exchange experiences immediately, being more prepared to share upon their return
Main Problems

Individuals from the audience were encouraged to contribute their comments and experiences. While discussing and sharing experiences, especially as they pertained to the performing arts and touring arts groups, it was possible to understand some of the main problems.

  • Poor communication channels between the artist and the residency, between the artist and the organization and between the artists themselves after returning home.
  • Lack of understanding, especially in exchanges with Asian countries
  • Lack of funding to properly facilitate the “before, during and after”
  • Artists being treated like ambassadors to a region, country or culture, not as an individual person with an artistic idea
Conclusions and Solutions

The session ended with a brainstorming session of sorts, developing new or newly applied ideas for creating lasting experiences, methods for dispersing information beyond the individuals directly involved in the programming.

Solutions included :

  • Clear communication between the artists and organisers of expectations – what each party expects to give and receive.
  • More specific selection of artists, focus on a good ‘pairing’ between artist and organisation, not just country of origin or previous artworks
  • Exchange focusing on person-to-person relationships, avoiding representation of an entire country or cultural group
  • Both artists and organisers obliged to report on their experience, adding in some way to a general knowledge bank of residency experiences
  • Accommodation not in hotels, but as guest with a hosting artist/family. This forms a stronger connection to the country and a better understanding of the culture.
  • Exhibitions or presentations in the artists’ home country, invitations to return for an exhibition or other opportunity
  • Establishment of alumni network as a platform to exchange experiences and advise current residencies
  • Better connections, cooperations and information exchange between existing networks and platforms