Europe is expanding. Europe is becoming seclusive. Master-minded by the media
artists Monika Bohr, Claudia Brieske, Leslie
Huppert and Gertrud Riethmüller, the multimedia
and exhibition project Virtual Residency
is inspired by the overwhelming transformation and migration processes
that Europe has been experiencing for over fifteen years now. During a three-year
period the project group will conduct an experiment involving an appeal calling
on artists worldwide to embark upon a communal virtual migration. The resulting
ideas, concepts and pictures will then be provided with a provisional abode.
Residency, residence, resident – habitation, life, resident in, residence permit, apartment, domicile, to stay…
...clearly an extensive topic – what will happen before and after a stay or the issuing of a residence permit?
Who (or what) entitles a person to settle down somewhere else and what motivates people to do so?
Migration of individuals, or: "virtual mass migration"
The project group considers the individual to be the smallest particle in the collective migrational stream. It interprets the individual's pictures or motifs as the actual dynamic power behind communal relocation. Hopes, fears, dreams, coercion, poverty, the need for movement or change: migration is always characterised by emotions in a state of personal and general destabilisation; it can be regarded as creative transit moving towards a vanishing point of pictures and concepts flowing in the migrational current. The individual images exemplify migrational motifs; they are samples or models thereof.
Here virtual space is considered a "non-place", a utopia in the real sense of the word (a non-existent or unreal place), a window to the data stream. Intimate and bold pictures prevail in the minds of the "virtual migrants", although they may appear vague and unclear to others. Via the project's virtual projection site, the Internet platform, they acquire a direction and become visible. These patterns, which would otherwise remain obscure, are entered into the Internet platform and take shape there.
The creative coding of the migrants' ideas, pictures and concepts eclipses their personality, biography and physicality. Ergo the collective data stream will be able to glow in all its individual or trans-individual facets. Focusing on the migrants' own personal artistic picture language unties ethnocentric, national or cultural-historical bonds. The project group considers the parameters of these bonds, which are in a state of flux anyway, to be of secondary importance.
Rather, it is the destabilising momentum that is interpreted as the catalyst of a creative process, as the source of inspiration, as an opportunity. Phases of (alleged) stability are always followed by periods of change, of revolution, which in turn may be followed by new eras of balance, and so on. History, especially European history, reflects this process of ebb and flow. Therefore the group consciously concentrates on the concept of mass migration. It implies violence, power, energy, chaotic change, insecurity, but analogously also new structures, new political, social and creative processes. New aesthetic forms, discourses and content are generated.The Virtual Residency: Internet platform and model house
Within this context the Internet is considered an amorphous crossroads for constant artistic migrational flux. The Virtual Residency Internet platform forms the heart of the project as a whole. Functioning like a transmitter it will use the World Wide Web as a medium to challenge all artists on earth to take part in a creative journey, a virtual mass migration. New data streams will emerge, take shape and be attracted. The Internet platform will offer this migration a virtual "refuge". The ideas of the individual migrants will occupy the Virtual Residency ; their designs will become virtual residents. They are to reflect the desire for a place to stay and deal with themes such as homeland, foreign lands and the unknown, travel, roots, hope, departure, loss, emptiness, stimulus, etc.
In a second step, the project group will make it possible for some of the virtual residents' ideas and concepts to materialise in real space. Due to the "model character" of the concepts submitted to the Virtual Residency , the group has decided to transform some of the blueprints into real installations in so-called "model houses". Implicit in the idea of the model house is the collective vision of paradise. It is a pure place, a white place, a vessel and simultaneously a void, a blank space, i.e. a place without identity or personality. It is situated in a gap in the present, without any past, but in constant anticipation of a lively and individual future. Thus the model house is the ideal projection site for migrational motifs.
The model house represents a temporary and spatially-limited manifestation of virtual migrational streams in the material world. The model houses stemming from the Internet will be redigitalised and reconducted to their place of origin via webcams: pictures from the real place, i.e. the model house, will flow back to the Internet platform. Via this closed circuit, the Virtual Residency will become a laboratory in which virtual and realised migrational motifs will meet, overlap and generate new artistic impulses.
The model house is hence a concept or a metaphor on the one hand, and on the other a real place - real rooms, houses or even outdoor spaces will become model houses inhabited by select artistic concepts.
* During the realisation process the concepts of the multimedia installations by Fatima Lassay / Jorge Antonio, Puati Little Flower, Nanostate, James Clark Ross and Daniel Herskowitz were further developed in tight co-operation and creative dialogues with Bohr, Brieske, Huppert, Riethmüller and Konuk via video-conferencing, chats and emails (see www.the-virtual-mine.net and the catalogue "Gegenort - The Virtual Mine", 2001).The model house in the Saarland
A number of higher education institutions in Germany and France have expressed considerable interest in the Virtual Residency project. Our European partner institutions and numerous participants of the previous project Gegenort - The Virtual Mine are directly involved with universities and art schools.
Together with the project partners, the group thus plans to probe the possibility of an international co-operation amongst higher education institutions. This will ensure that the project attains long-term viability and will allow its planning and realisation processes, as well as its varied content and results, to be applied in a didactic context.
The complete Virtual Residency project, its complex Internet platform, and the ensuing exhibitions in model houses, will develop an "organism" or a "network" of temporary abodes for artistic migrations in various European regions.
Considerable interest has also been expressed in the possibility of broadening this network beyond 2007. For example, the project partner at the easternmost border of the European Union (the Galeria Biala , Centrum Kultury, in Lublin, Poland) has connections to Ukrainian cultural institutions which can also be included in the Virtual Residency discourse, so that further model houses can be realised from the growing database in that region too.
The Virtual Residency project is also an artistic statement on the current political situation. Globalisation processes will lead to an increase in migrational movements and the database will continue to serve as a constantly updated forum for artistic reactions to this theme.
The Virtual Residency project
is composed of an intricate, interconnected and multiple-layered structure,
the complexity of which can only be fathomed at second glance. It is a lively
media and communication artwork, becoming infinitely mutable, disseminated,
and transgressing time and space due to the influence of the partner institutions
and the participating artists.
The group and its foreign partners are confident that this project can channel a means for art to contribute dynamically and significantly to European and international co-operation.
(For now) the Virtual Residency project group is to work with the following 4 partners, who are all actively involved in the contemporary art scene:
With the support of the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany.The selected partner regions in the Saarland, Lorraine, Poland and Luxemburg are all border regions, or "threshold districts", rather than renowned centres of contemporary art. The project group and its partners intend to form a so-called "organism" or "network" of border regions that have been moulded by cultural history due to their peripheral position, thus lending them a remarkable character. All these European regions are concerned with the theme of migration in disparate aspects.
The content of the entire project is thus dependent upon a tight co-operation with the individual partners. Along with the virtual migrants' different approaches, each partner institutions' perspective of the subject plays a significant role.