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Facilitator's Journal - CHONG Gua Khee


Over the past few years, it seems to me that there are more and more organisations and platforms that run residencies. I have also been lucky enough to have been involved in a number of them - as an artist on some occasions, and as a facilitator/resource person to artists on other occasions. More recently, I was even a co-curator for Arts-Business x Business-Arts (ABxBA) Residencies, a new platform in Singapore that seeks to bring together artists and businesses, so as to support the development of longer-term partnerships between the arts and local businesses.


Across these various experiences, I’ve found that people approach expectations of the artists and the "outcome" of the residency very differently. And increasingly, what has been interesting to me is observing how residency platforms try to align expectations across artists, facilitators/resource persons (if any) and external stakeholders such as audiences and publics that are invited to residency presentations, or funders for reporting purposes.


In this respect, I was deeply struck by the comprehensive check-in schedule that the Thinkers’ Studio team planned, where participants could speak to the team more quickly and directly (as opposed to emailing perhaps), as well as hear from each other. I also appreciated that over the course of the residency, these check-ins took place in various configurations - as a big group, just the facilitators, just the Artist Administration Assistants (AAAs) and so on. As a facilitator, I especially enjoyed the opportunity to hear from other facilitators about their process, as my experiences as a facilitator in other residency contexts to date have been limited to purely interacting with the artist and/or the organiser, or as one very big group during open studios/in-progress sharings where the focus is also typically on the artists’ experience.


At the same time, it felt like Yi Kai was very mindful of people’s time and energy. While a fair amount of time was booked for these multiple check-ins over the course of the residency, in practice he would often end meetings earlier if updates took less time, noting that Zoom meetings are quite tiring for people. This thoughtfulness was especially helpful for me, as loosening restrictions in Singapore have meant that many other practitioners and I have returned to mostly working in-person i.e. I’ve lost a lot of the "Zoom stamina" that I (reluctantly) developed during the pandemic 🤪!


As for aligning expectations with audiences for the Cloud Residency sharings, I thought the way the team approached social media and the online journals were really lovely, particularly the detail of using screen recordings to weave the artists’ journal entries into the audience’s experience of the presentations. It’s not unusual for residencies to emphasise processual documentation, but such documentations often feel quite separate or like an afterthought in relation to residency presentations. As such, when I saw that the team had taken the thought and effort to screen record a "scroll through" of the artists’ journal entries and introduce the journals quite easily and immediately to the audience during the presentation, I was really excited. (:


And on this note, I also want to say HUGE KUDOS to the incredible production value of Cloud Residency! The website is such a pleasure to explore by itself, and I also really enjoyed seeing the aesthetics of the Instagram posts as well as the slides that the team used for the presentation. While this might seem like a trivial detail to some, I think strong production value can really help elevate people’s experience with the project and support engagement with processual documentation, and so I really appreciated the level of detail with which the Thinkers’ Studio team approached this aspect!


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Specific to being a facilitator in Cloud Residency and working with the artists Wen Hao and Yi-Ching, I deeply enjoyed Yi Kai and the team’s emphasis on relationship–building and exchange alongside supporting the artists’ process and thinking. This is again quite unlike my other experiences as a facilitator in residency contexts, where the focus is often solely on supporting the development of the work, and there’s little consideration for how to support the relationship between artists and facilitators. There was even an experience I had where the organiser had perhaps not properly contextualised the role of facilitators within the residency process, so when I first met the artist group, there was actually some antagonism that I had to quickly figure out how to address and resolve.


Within this residency though, it felt like there was a very gentle introduction of artists to facilitators, and also a lot of explicit reminders during the check-ins that the residency is both to support the artists as well as to encourage international exchange. As a result, I did feel like there was a certain expansiveness to the conversations with Wen Hao and Yi-Ching, where we were able to speak at length and at depth about not just the project itself, but also societal issues in our respective countries as well as similarities and differences across the arts scene in Taiwan and Singapore.


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All in all, I’m very excited that Cloud Residency exists as a model, and that the team has been active in ensuring that there is a range of documentation about it from different perspectives. In the months and years to come, I hope that more people or platforms might draw on or borrow from this residency model, or be inspired to come up with equally thoughtful and meaningful ways of supporting artists and the artmaking process - in the wake of the pandemic and the stark inequalities and disconnections that were brought to light in countries all around the world, it feels necessary and urgent to rethink how and why we make art, and by extension, to reimagine the kinds of infrastructures that support artmaking, including residency structures.


It’s been such a pleasure to have been part of Cloud Residency this year, and to have become acquainted with the various artists, facilitators, AAAs, observers and the Cloud Residency team. Sending everyone (including anyone reading this!) my best, and I look forward to seeing how Cloud Residency grows over time!


Lots of love,

Gua Khee


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