Cross Border Residency: Montreal

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UK Young Artists worked with Studio XX in Montreal and the artist Natacha Clitandre for over a year to ignite and deliver a project which would see how Natacha and UKYA alumni Louise Orwin might engage in a cross border residency. Michelle Bowen, Director of UKYA joined Louise in Montreal and shares her experience…

Day One

Leaving behind the much needed sunshine in the UK was hard as I packed my thermals ready for -1 temperatures.

Louise has been out in Montreal for over a week and has been using this time to absorb the city, its culture and undertake some valuable research, reading and take that all important thinking time. Louise held her Cry Cry Kill Kill workshop at Studio XX; she was one of the first international artists to be hosted by them. The workshop was attended by a diverse group of women, from teachers, ceramicists, PHD students all of whom fed back how amazing the experience was.

Before meeting with Natacha and Louise later that day I took some time to get to know the city. A walk along the Viex Porte or Old Port an amazing mile long stretch of water front some of which has been developed for leisure use but still some remnants of the industry on the landscape huge imposing structures which are decaying make for striking images. There up to the “old town’ past the galleries and souvenir shops was a marked contrast and as the only French speaking province of Canada the influences are heavy in the architecture and city landscape.

Heading out to Mont Royal, a trendy and up and coming district, with its own distinct and colourful architecture. It was lovely to finally meet Louise and Natacha again in the flesh after having so many conversations on Skype. Over drinks we reflected on the journey of the project and how much it has grown and changed and of course where it is would these two very different artists take this work forward...what would this collaboration be?

UKYA is interested in the part of the discussion in which the notion of collaboration is not about a joint “piece of work” but something leaning towards a process. I took away two key sentences…’making space in each others cities for our work ‘ and ‘what of the artist is left in the city….’

Both Natacha and Louise explored how this might it can both be a supportive and disruptive process, creating different contexts for each others work ..some exciting ways of working were discussed and I am really looking forward to seeing who these two artists will take this forward over the next 6 months when they are apart and of course sharing and learning from this process with all the other amazing young artists in our family.

'Creative agitators for interesting minds'….our new strapline was a golden thread with this project and we are excited to learn through this new venture."

Day Two

Today Michelle met with Adrien Landry and Suzanne Chabot from the Centre des textiles Contemporains. Adrien spent time sharing his knowledge of the centre and his work with the Linen Biennale which takes place just outside of Quebec. It was amazing to see the facilitates which support textile dyeing and weaving and how it supports this craft skill in Canada, and we will stay in touch with the centre to see how UKYA might support a cross disciplinary residency with them in 2020 onwards.

Michelle then headed to Studio XX to attend an artist talk. Nicole Burisch, Curator of the National Gallery of Canada hosted the evening and the two artists; UKYA’s very own Louise Orwin and Canadian artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong. Each artist spoke about their performance work and shared with the audience key work and learning points in their careers. This was followed by a Q&A session led by Nicole where she explored with Louise and Catherine commonalities in their work and how being a woman as impacted or informed their work.

It was great to be part of such an open and informative evening and learn more about these two women artists work.

Day Three

Friday in Montreal. One forgets that Montreal is an island it's only after a few days do you see in idiosyncrasies which exist here. Small things like the cars to not have number plates on the bumper and of course that  fact that this is the only area of Canada which has French as its first language and the old divide in the city of Rue Saint Laurent on which the english were one side and the french the other marks this unique city. I have never been to a city which is under so much redevelopment, one feels you cannot turn a corner without encountering some building work, a city under constant reinvention.

Michelle and Louise Orwin had the pleasure of meeting with Vincent de Repentigny, Co-Director of La Serre- Arts Vivant. They are temporarily based at Montreal National theatre where we met Vincent and the team. La Serre -Arts Vivant are best known for being behind the OFFTA Festival, an annual Live Art event which takes place each Summer. The synergies between UK Young Artists and La Serre-Arts Vivant was striking and we left the meeting feeling hopeful about a new partnership for UK Young Artists and presentation of residency opportunities for Louise. Our first good weather day encouraged us to walk up the famous Rue Saint Laurent to our next meeting with Jamie Ross at the leading artist led space OBORO.

OBORO was started in the 70’s by artists with the mantra of “tea and world peace’...Jamie talked about OBORO history and how it it still reflected in the centres workings but also about how the centre operates and how the system works for artists in Canada. This is much more layered than it is in the UK with many more committees and members involved in decision making than most artist led spaces back home. Whilst visiting the space we were able to see the newly opened installation by Rita Mckeough “Veins”, an extraordinary piece about the oil industry in Canada.  Over dinner with Natacha we were able to chat more about what we learned about the system there.

Day Four & Five

Michelle was invited to attend a Portfolio Review for Studio XX members. Artists are invited to submit a letter of intent which outlines what the “challenge” they face is or what they are seeking help or support with. Each artist is given 7 minutes to present and 20 minutes feedback from the other artists and the panel which was made up of Michelle Bowen, Dominique Fontaine, a leading new media curator and writer and Julie Alvary Lavallee from Studio XX. The panel has already been given CV’s and links and background so has some understanding of the artist and their work.

Five artists presented with a range of differing needs…’How to take the step to work internationally?...Why is my work on show at Film Festivals and not at Galleries?'

Michelle found the afternoon very positive and engaging and UKYA intends to try out this model over the coming months, see how it translates to the UK and across other disciplines.

A final lunch with the artists before Louise flies home and we can make make plans for the “collaboration”......