The Arles Residency

Rue de la Calade, Arles, France

Last Thursday I returned from a month-long artist’s residency in Arles, France. Residencies vary quite widely in nature, from being simply a place of seclusion away from day-to-day distractions to allow the artist to focus on their work through to one that includes formal study with specific objectives and deliverables. This one tended towards the former, although I did enjoy several conversations with the curator of the gallery hosting the residency and other artists.

After spending several months researching, my purpose here was to further the practical component of my project work related to tourism. Arles, as a location hosting a World Heritage site (actually several), is a stop on many tourist’s agenda. However, it is less popular than many and thus it offered a chance to observe a place that has yet to be taken over by tourism and thus has been able to retain much of its local character.

In terms of outcomes, there were four:

  1. Visual Language:
    I spent time thinking about and testing different ideas around the “language” I would use to express my work’s narrative. It is insufficient to simply make “pretty pictures”. I found myself edging towards simple icons, such as images of walls, doors, windows, stairs and remnants. More on these later.
  2. Observations on local vs. global:
    I have begun to think more specifically about the tensions between localism and globalism and how that is manifested through tourism.
  3. Style:
    Although I tend towards a documentary style as a means of conveying [factual] information, I find it can be quite dry as a result of the tendency towards the production of plain images, as these are thought to convey a sense of truth. The artful image, on the other hand is seen to be contrived or manipulated and thus lacking in veracity. I want to push against that dictum and explore the intersection of these styles, in part because I want to convey an emotional dimension in addition to the factual one.
  4. Process testing:
    This was the first of 5 such excursions, so developing a process to extract as much as possible is essential.



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