Temporary Locals: A Visit to Residency Unlimited

04/08/2015 10:28 AM |
Lene Baasdvig Ørmen


Rather hidden from plain view on a bustling stretch of Court Street—housed, that is, within the former South Congregational Church, a towering Romanesque Revival structure built in the 1850s, in what is now the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn—is the administrative hub of Residency Unlimited, a nonprofit organization offering an impressively multidisciplinary range of research, work and professional development opportunities to foreign artists and curators seeking temporary immersion in the New York art scene. Although it has only been operating for about five years, RU has already accomplished quite a lot—from securing endorsements from and partnerships with dozens of institutions in the US and abroad, to organizing scores of exhibitions and events all around the city, to hosting and furthering the ambitions of hundreds of arts practitioners hailing from essentially everywhere except the States. I recently had a chance to visit with some of RU’s most crucial beneficiaries and sources of creative fuel—i.e. several of its resident artists—and thought I’d share a few notes.

Ishu Han

Born in China but raised in Japan, Ishu Han uses photography and video to propose visual answers to arguably unanswerable questions pertaining to societal differences, international conflicts, and notions of home and personal identity. Symbolic landscapes and site-specifying objects—shorelines, snowscapes and islands; large stones and surreptitiously imported feathers—factor heavily in many of his pieces, especially those related to Asian politics and his own mixed feelings of belonging. In contrast, the dark humor of his video piece Neighbors is, for better or worse, universal: It features two toy tanks indivisibly bound to one another, gun-to-gun, budging back and forth and side to side, endlessly tugging each other here and there in a dancing duet of heavily militarized futility. Anders Bülow, whose home base is Copenhagen, goes to great procedural lengths to employ some of the most crucial signifiers and materials of painting—dimensions and compositions, layerings and palettes, pigments and mediums—to make pieces that one cannot readily call paintings at all, but rather minimalist objects that seem sometimes verged upon vanishing. Far from faint or bound to disappear, on the other hand, are the sculptures of Norwegian artist Lene Baadsvig Ørmen. Working in concrete, cement, bronze and, most recently, sand, Ørmen creates bodies of formally interrelated objects that are at once indirectly figurative and overtly abstract, individually rugged and collectively refined. In form and patina—and with relation to process as well, in certain ways—her pieces are like exhumed relics of spent civilizations whose histories might never be told. Forms of storytelling, meanwhile, and mores and modes of now direct, now skewed communication are the trappings of performance and video pieces by Madrid-based Ignacio Tejedor López. Social media platforms and various technological ‘facilitators’ are common in his work—at times performing their communicative functions, at times exposed as ill-suited for the same—as are occasions for viewing publics to act as participants and critical conduits. Forms of estrangement and culturally specific strangenesses are also key themes for him, so he’s found himself particularly inspired, and perhaps productively baffled, by New York City.

Anders Bülow

Of course, Residency Unlimited is not the only institution of its kind in New York, nor even in Brooklyn—nor even, actually, in its immediate environs. But it is a deeply resourceful, engaged and successful one, and one you might want to mention to your friends who aren’t US citizens. It’s also one whose forthcoming exhibitions and events you should check out. Some of them might feature the works of the artists mentioned above.

Ignacio Tejedor López
All images courtesy the artists.

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