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Contemporary Art. Communication and good practices

How to communicate locally through residencies of research

Murielle Edet

This text is based on practical cases, those of artist residencies held in the Centre d’art Le LAIT.

Research residencies have specific features (short-term, no requested production, zero or low visibility for the general public) and therefore, they need an appropriate communication plan.

Apart from the different usual channels and the possibilities offered by each, communication must be made while considering the different stages of the residency: before, during and after.

The plan must respond to several requirements: how to be of use to the artist and his/her project, specific to the residency? How to convey the artist’s research subject to audiences? How to value the structure through artist research residencies?

Another concern that motivates the communication task is the research of methods that simplify meeting opportunities and interactions between the artists and the audiences. In Centre d’art Le LAIT, mediation (education) and communication are intimately linked: communication is to convey to the audiences the content of the artist’s work, to ensure that the communication is effective, by providing all the resultant ways of interaction.

Before the arrival of the artist

During the three terms of residency, some practices have been systematised: drafting of a communiqué presenting the artist and his/her project in a few lines; diffusion of this communiqué within two months before the beginning of the residency; placing of a presentation article on-line on the Internet website, Facebook presentation posts, etc.

These different tools allow to advertise the residency to partners and audiences and to provide the artist’s orientations and research fields.

At the same time, a research of contacts is conducted with the media, institutions or individuals whose activity or area of research appear as being linked to the artist’s project. A first contact is engaged with the contact persons in order to inform about the arrival of the artist and the length of his/her residency.

From the arrival of the artist

From the first initial contacts, a public meeting date at the end of the residency term is set in agreement with the artist. This appointment can take place at the Centre d’art or at the Media library for example in Albi, which allows for example to reach less aware audiences.

This one-hour long presentation includes a fifteen minute brief on the general practice of the artist, around twenty minutes on the research carried out during the residency term, and a time for exchanging views with the public.

This public presentation appears as a meeting to be offered to all the contact persons that the artist dealt with during his/her residency. It is also a pretext to edit a flyer to hand out around the city.

It also allows to convey to the press that has followed the residency project at that time of restitution, which exposes the artist to the public.

During the residency

The daily aspect of social networks and their immediacy are particularly suitable to the execution of a story, tracing the artist’s breakthroughs and meetings.

The communication work must be adapted to the different abilities of the artist to be communicated. In case of already published posts (Deana Kolencikova, for example, has conducted several actions, all documented in the same way: concision, simple language, chosen vocabulary…) the task consists of simply spreading and valuing these posts, without distorting the artist’s words. For others that don’t convey that much material, it is recommended to create content, document the meetings, and draft reports that will provide visibility to the actions carried out.

The search for contact persons and contacts linked to the artist’s project is continued throughout the entire residency; necessary exchange times with the team allow to maintain a permanent relationship with audiences and media, to remain responsive and to propose initiatives.

The mentor, specific figure of The Spur project, engages in this network dynamic. His/her involvement, the importance of his/her connections, are always different, but equally depending on the complicity between him/her and the artist.

After the residency

The communication task continues after the residency, with information relays concerning the artist’s current events, the follow up of his/her projects, and also the diffusion of the interview video, finished as soon as possible after the artist’s departure.

The video, subtitled in French in the case of Centre d’art, allows an educational exploitation including school audiences, and allows to exemplify the artist’s approach, the work carried out during the residency, the concept of in situ, etc.

Good practices

The communication manager must find time to search for and request contacts, particularly in the press, in areas other than arts (biology, sciences in the case of Cristina Ferrandez Box, for example).

Within the framework for residency programs lasting for more than one year, it seems suitable, for the artist and also for the structure, to initiate partnerships with universities, and particularly researchers in plastic arts, for the purpose of organising meetings, workshops, drafting of critical texts, and preferably publications.

The endowment of a budget allocated to media tools (€300 for a video in the case of The Spur project) seems more or less relevant depending on the artists, some being more comfortable in this exercise than others.

This “media” budget could be devoted to the creation of a media corresponding to the needs of the artist and his/her ability to represent himself/herself: audio recordings, application, site, CD, etc.

The outcome of several terms of residency is that it seems that the common communication strategy, in particular the one used for exhibitions, is not as efficient for residencies. This strategy must be specific to each artist hosted, and adapted depending on his/her artistic practice and research fields. It seems that a flexible protocol can be offered to artists: this protocol states the set meetings and the needs in terms of communication (visual, text material necessary for the creation of the storytelling). This prior exchange allows to adjust the practice of the individual in charge of communication, depending on the features of each artist, of his/her current events, singularity, whilst taking into account his/her requirements.

Murielle Edet

Communication manager at the Art centre le LAIT since 2010.