“For artists, it’s crucial to be able to compare their vision of the world with that of others,” the writer Mathias Göritz said in 2016 at an event in Berlin, about the Goethe-Institut’s residency programs. He pointed out that residencies are “a process with bi-directional effects.”
In recent decades, the importance of residency programs has increased in the work of the Goethe-Institut. Every year, with our cultural partners worldwide, we organize around 200 residencies in over 50 countries. Their formats, content, actors, goals, and target groups vary from place to place. We run fully equipped facilities in three cities—in Kyoto, the Villa Kamogawa; in Istanbul, in collaboration with the German Foreign Ministry, the Kulturakademie Tarabya; and in Salvador da Bahia, the Vila Sul. The latter, as an example, invites international artists, scholars, and journalists from different countries to discuss issues relating to the South-South dialogue. In Lagos and Kinshasa, we established two residency programs with partner institutions as a means to rethink urbanity in these major African cities. The residency programs in San Pedro de la Paz and Punta Arenas in Chile operate at the interface between science and art by focusing on the consequences of the climate crisis. As part of the bangaloREsidency program, the Goethe-Institut partners with organizations throughout the city of Bangalore to provide work and living spaces for residents from Germany, which allows for a particularly deep immersion in the local culture.
The Goethe-Institut’s residency programs offer artists with different cultural backgrounds spaces in which they can gather and create together. Such free and vibrant places for debate and discourse are all the more important in a time in which ideologies of isolationism are once again surfacing. Issues such as ecological sustainability, equity, and social and cultural inclusion must remain at the top of our priorities today and in the future. Residency programs have a special potential and responsibility to facilitate, promote, and make these ideals tangible. By establishing connections between local and international partners, they enable sustainable and long-term cultural exchange and international cooperation.
In many ways, the Ludlow 38 Curatorial Residencies program pioneered this development. With the support of MINI, we created an experimental lab for new exhibition formats and for curators to immerse themselves in the local art scene and try out different modes of collaboration free of economic constraints. At Ludlow 38, exhibitions were anchored in local discourse and highlighted current issues with timely aesthetic formats: Katrin Mayer connected the gallery space with the Lower East Side, a center of immigrant life and class struggle in the beginning of the 20th century that is now gentrified. Candice Lin reflected on fictions of authenticity in the racial representation of the gallery’s own Chinatown neighborhood. Devin Kenny explored the oppressive use of law and legal apparatuses as well as the cultural artifacts and practices that emerge from it. Kay Rosen’s yearlong installation on the gallery’s facade reminded passersby of their responsibility for climate change with an extra stroke changing the word “warning” into “warming.” By connecting and reacting to the local environment, these artists raised global issues which are central to the Goethe-Institut’s work worldwide: climate change, immigration, diversity, the future of work. And the list goes on.
As the Goethe-Institut, it is our responsibility to constantly rethink our residency programs. We aim to expand bilateral dialogue to include multinational perspectives and to strengthen the participation and involvement of local communities in the residency programs. Over the years, Ludlow 38 stood out as it raised our awareness for the importance of diversity and equity among residents and artists.
I would like to thank our curators-in-residence and the participating artists for their commitment to new aesthetic forms and socio-political issues. Thanks also to the staff at the Goethe-Institut New York for accompanying and supporting the development of the residency program for more than a decade. Finally, I would like to thank the BMW Group for reliably and trustingly co-facilitating this residency program in an ideal and multi-year partnership.
Johannes Ebert, General Secretary of the Goethe-Institut