A Covid perspective from FABRIKKEN’s (former) residents

2. april 2020

Interview – Article in English

“Right now, we’re all the cat in Schrödinger’s box – alive and dead at the same time.”

Due to the Covid-19 situation, FABRIKKEN’s residents Alexandra Hunts and Meta Drcar had to leave Copenhagen earlier than planned. Their residencies were supposed to conclude by the end of March, and the last weeks were packed with events in collaboration with the program partners, meetings, and production – all of which was cancelled. 

The artists were residents in FABRIKKEN’s FAIR and World Wide Air research residency programs that welcome international artists and curators to Denmark, with the purpose of furthering practices and connecting art scenes.   

We’ve asked the residents to describe the situation from their viewpoints; not only because it affects them directly and immediately, but also because they’re both connected with several European countries that are all affected by Covid-19. Meta, who is Slovenian but lives in Paris, and Alexandra who was born in Ukraine but lives and works between the Netherlands and Sweden. 

Your residency was supposed to conclude by the end of March. But due to the Covid-19 crisis, all events were cancelled, and the borders closed, which meant that you had to leave. How does it feel to leave under such circumstances?

Alexandra Hunts: “It is of course super painful to leave at this point, when all that I’d worked on was about to be finalized. My underlying feeling is one of confusion. As an artist, you really prepare for the opportunity of a residency like this; you know how the system works, and you know the rules: As an artist, you follow the steps, and you didn’t do anything wrong. And then something outside of this well-working system changes, and suddenly the rules no longer apply. It feels like there was an old system, and now it’s gone. A meeting with a museum curator used to be very important. But now, the museums are closed, and some of the steps lose their meaning or gain new ones that we don’t yet know.”

Meta Drcar: “Because I’m connected to several of the affected countries, I of course followed the news intently but from a distance. It was devastating when we started hearing about Italy and Slovenia, but it was hard to comprehend how the situation would unfold. And when it came to Denmark, it became even more stressful and difficult to continue the residency due to many cancellations and restrictions. I didn’t want to risk getting stuck, and at the same time, this highly sensitive situation called for responsible acts, and I was very aware of complying with the rules and not putting anyone at risk.” 

Which parts of the program’s events etc. were you particularly looking forward to and why?

Meta Drcar: “I was really looking forward to my talk at SixtyEight Art Institute, to meetings with curators, going to Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, creating an exhibition together with my fellow resident and lots of other things. The last weeks of the residency were absolutely crucial to me, and I didn’t want to give up. Everything I’d worked for would come together at that point, and I was so excited about working with new materials and the wonderful space at FABRIKKEN. 

For me, the greatest disappointment was not being able to execute the site-specific work at FABRIKKEN. I knew that the new process would be a challenging experiment and then also an important opportunity for personal growth and learning, which I was really looking forward to. Things always take different turns when you’re dealing with new materials, and you have to rethink your approach and finds new solutions. It was such a large build up, and it was so unfortunate to miss the opportunity of realizing the work in such a unique space.”

Alexandra Hunts: “That Meta and I left the residency earlier than planned is of course sad, and there were a lot of missed opportunities and meetings I was looking forward to. It was sad that the lecture performance at Kunsten Museum of Modern Art Aalborg was cancelled [with Alexandra Hunts, Professor Charles M. Marcus from the Niels Bohr Institute and artist Ryan Gander], but of course it was the only thing that could be done under the circumstances.”

Alexandra Hunts: Can You Hear the Shape of the Drum, 2019. Steel, photographic print on mesh PVC, concrete.

Of course, we don’t know how long this current situation will last, but it’s safe to say that it poses a challenge for many fields, including the field of artistic residencies. What is your perspective of the future of artistic mobility, long as well as short term? And what would we miss if the format changes completely?

Alexandra Hunts: “I’m myself a product of globalization, I’ve lived in many countries and I travel a lot. Because of this, I have friends and colleagues in many places and communicate with them as we do now [on Skype], so this isn’t new to me. And maybe we shouldn’t long for things to go back to normal, maybe we should change our views and habits instead. It’s said that the best conditions for change is when you don’t have a choice. Perhaps this is now.”

Meta Drcar: “The whole point of applying to a residency is that it’s an amazing opportunity to work in certain cities like Copenhagen, to get to know the art scene and the people there. Personal and professional growth only feels possible when an artist is immersed in a new environment, where a certain time and space affects creative thinking and the process. I’d like to believe that this kind of artistic mobility will be possible again in the very near future, but I’m sure that residencies will also develop new formats in response to the situation. As unfortunate as this was for me, it was also a ‘one-off’ experience to participate in a residency under these circumstances. It would be exciting to execute the work at FABRIKKEN at a later stage, as this timeframe would give the project a unique outcome.”

What are your thoughts on the current situation, and how does it affect you and your process?

Meta Drcar: “Right now, the situation is devastating, but it also gives us time to reflect on how we live and to prepare for a new kind of normality. When it comes to our professions, many of us need to adjust and find new ways of communicating and bringing about our craft. Working mainly site-specifically, being bound to my home is a particularly limiting experience. In my practice, the concept of space is as critical as the sensation of it. This is, of course, achieved through the audience experiencing the artwork and being present in the given architectural space. Now, with all of us being stuck at home, I feel this type of art experience is more powerful than ever.

I personally believe that art should be experienced in person rather than online, but maybe it’s because of its current form. Can we find a new form of art? Can art give us a kind of freedom to replace what has currently been taken away from us? These are some of the questions I’m exploring right now, and I’m curious to see where my creative process will lead me, as well as other artistic responses to this situation.”

Alexandra Hunts: “I don’t think it’s possible to reflect on the situation now, when we’re right in the middle of it. With the revolution and war in Ukraine six years ago, my friends and parents were of course living there, but I was not and could only observe it from the outside. It was horrible and I couldn’t sleep at night. But when I spoke to them, they were going about their usual business, living their lives and some even losing theirs, but when you’re in the middle of it, it feels different than to the observer. 

Right now, it’s like we’re all the cat in Schrödinger’s box – both alive and dead at the same time. The thing is, that we don’t know which it is, because it’s only the observer who determines if the cat is dead or alive. And at this point, we’re all inside of this situation, and so there is no one left to determine the outcome.”

OPEN CALL for the FIDA and FAIR residency programme.
Deadline: 10 April 2020

FIDA is the Finnish Cultural Institute in Denmark’s residency program for visual artists. It is operated in collaboration with Fonden FABRIKKEN for Kunst og Design in Copenhagen. The purpose of the program is to build networks between professional artists on the contemporary Finnish and Danish art scenes, and to introduce Finnish or Finland-based artists to a Danish art market. 

Apply and read more about FIDA here.

FAIR is a residency program at Fonden FABRIKKEN for Kunst & Design (FABRIKKEN) for professional visual artists residing in the Nordic and Baltic countries. FAIR welcomes early career artists, who wish to further and challenge their practice in a generous environment of early to mid-career artists.

Apply and read more about FAIR here.