The Residency

As I told you before, this is my first residency. I've visited a Finnish residency Mustarinda a few times, just as a, well, visitor and I absolutely loved it. Mustarinda is only 20 minutes away from my aunt's house, though, so there's really no particular sense in applying for a residency in a place where I could practically stay for free anyway (plus my aunt is supercool and lives in a small, peaceful town with a lot of nature and everything pretty, so visiting her is already a sort of a residency). I've always wanted to go to Japan, so I decided to look for a Japanese residency. That's pretty much the long and short of it, of how I ended up here. 

I've now been here for a week. I had some expectations before I came, though I tried to keep them in a minimum because I've lived long enough to know that you can rarely, if ever, imagine what's up ahead and having too many expectations will just make things more difficult. But in a way this has been pretty much what I thought it would be. Artists living and working together. Experiencing new stuff. Seeing new places. Feeling weird about being away from home. 

My feelings about being here, almost halfway across the world from everything I know seem to fluctuate quite a lot. At times, I'm really happy about everything new and cool, other times I'm pretty anxious and just waiting for the mother of all panic attacks. In the evening it seems to be the worst, for some reason. I usually love sleeping, but I'm having difficulties sleeping now. I wake up super early, often already at two AM, then again at 4 AM and then around six, when I usually will just get up, after a moment of rolling around the bed. I guess it could be jet lag, or it could be that strange, vaguely Disney-ish song that they play here at 6 AM, 12 AM and 6 PM that haunts me and won't let me sleep. No wait, I lied, it's the creepy Disney song in the morning and in the evening, at noon it's Edelweiss, I kid you not. I guess it's some kind of a sign for farmers but it's a bit rattling. 

I'm proud of myself that I got into working mode so easily. I guess I have learnt something about keeping my own hours during all these years. From the get-go I knew I'd have very little time to do this project, so I just drove in headfirst. I guess I didn't really have time to directly tie the project to Itoshima, other than the photos being taken here. I'm just sort of continuing my theme of women being haunted by all sorts of crap in empty spaces, to put it plainly. I kind of hoped I could have had more local models, or maybe time to look around for more empty houses, but my time is just so short. 

I feel a bit surprised to realize that my art is also very site-specific. My sister also loves to do site-specific things, but her medium is aerial acrobatics, so it's easier to understand. I never thought mine would be that until one of the other artists referred to it as such and I found myself thinking: hey, that's what it is! I'm often totally dependent on locations and models, which can be really frustrating. I'd much rather be a painter, who could paint anywhere. But I'm a photographer and can't paint worth shit.

My father always says: "it's art, said the painter when he crapped his pants." I kind of love that saying, it's been my mantra for a while now. I'm very into symbolism and storytelling, I often have a big backstory for pretty much anything. My photos usually have a lot of deep meanings, at least to me, and I always look for other layers of storytelling in everything else too. So I've become quite good at searching for hidden meanings in art. On the other hand, I do know how to take it with humor and I am acknowledging that sometimes symbolism is just a way to explain any sort of weird stuff into art. And I guess at that point, it can become art? At least performance art. Anything can be art, you just have to know how to frame it. Seriously, or less seriously. 

Sometimes I feel I don't understand art. Or that I'm not an artist. In part I came here to see if I could be a serious artist, or if I could pretend to be a serious artist for a month. In a way you could say, this is fantasy camp for me. If my exhibition here is bad or poorly received, it won't really matter to me. I won't stop taking photos, because I love making photos sometimes more than anything else. It makes me feel alive. But is it real art? I don't know. How do you define art? Don't know that either. Is being artist like one of those things that if you're not sure, it means you're not it? Like being cool. If you really are cool, you'll never have to ask anyone about it.


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