by Kate Hill and Marnie Badham

Rethinking the ‘social turn’ in artist residencies

What is the effect on artists’ working methodologies when time is limited? How does a short-term residency affect artists’ relationships with people and place? Providing time and space away from everyday life, traditional residency models offer structure for individual creative production. Some traditional residencies have come under recent criticism for their lack of flexibility (Zeplin, 2009), the circulation of elitism (Bialski, 2010), and lack of engagement with local communities. This lack of engagement can be attributed to the limited time that an artist has in residency but also sheds light on a new category of the itinerant artist. Kenins argues that “sometimes, in far-flung areas, there is an awkwardly colonial relationship by which residencies court foreign artists under the guise of enlightening the locals” (2013), while Pryor compares the short term approach of resident artists to “fly-in-fly-out-workers” in the Australian mining industry who often reciprocate very little relevance or value (2012).

Taking time as its starting point of critique, NEW TIME examines artistic and institutional motivations for the ‘social turn’ in artist residencies.First exploring the historical roots of residencies through retreats and colonies, we consider aspirational economies of isolation or collaboration in creative practice. Next, a broad typology of institutional programmes examines policy aims located as artist in community projects and cultural diplomacy programmes focused on intercultural exchange or market development. These motivations also interface with cultural heritage and educational programmes. This critique makes way for the consideration for alternative artist-run initiatives. The temporal concerns of series of socially-engaged residency-as-artist-projects are examined including thematic and travelling residencies. The paper concludes by offering a new time-space relationship – a new category of ‘life as practice,’ which demands lifestyle transformation towards the transnational itinerant artist or a practice with local focus on work-life balance. 


Dr Marnie Badham convenes the Master of Arts and Community Practice program at the Centre for Cultural Partnerships at the University of Melbourne. As an artist-researcher using practice-led and participatory methodologies, her expertise includes socially-engaged arts and politics of cultural measurement. She holds a Melbourne Social Equity Institute Post Doctoral Award to examine ‘the social turn’ in artist residencies. Her current research includes collaborations with scholars and cultural workers in Australia’s Northern Territory, South East Asia, the UK, and North America. Marnie presents and publishes her work internationally and maintains her arts practice through residencies and curatorial projects.

Kate Hill is an artist and researcher based in Melbourne, Australia. As a practicing artist she has had solo and group exhibitions in Melbourne and taken part in artist residency programs in Japan and Australia. Her work is concerned with temporal engagements with place, and she utilises site-specific materials such as earth, clay and water to express local contexts through ceramic processes. On a theoretical level, her Masters thesis: Artist in Residence Programs: The Temporal, the Spatial and the Social, allowed her to investigate the philosophical underpinnings of an artists experience of place through a particular program. She is continuing her research in this field with the Centre for Cultural Partnerships at the University of Melbourne.