January Surprize #2 – making virtual real
Something also quite remarkable happened last weekend. We met our most enigmatic current resident Rob Santaguida at his screening in Montreal. Over the past three residency cycles, we have had many different cases and circumstances of artists being on hiatus and going off hiatus but this was yet another unique case that we did not know what to think of it until this happened.
When Rob submitted his proposal to us, he was already on a self directed hiatus and was traveling abroad. He decided to apply for RFAOH to make his hiatus “official”, even though he knew that this screening of his video that he had completed prior to his hiatus will take place seven months later, in January 2017. In our application guideline, we state that if the applicant has an appointed exhibition, presentation, artist residency, or a specific project to start in the future and is simply waiting for it, RFAOH does not consider this as a hiatus.
So we discussed — is this a conflict of interest? On the surface, his case is exactly what our criteria rules out, but Rob claimed to have finished his “last work” and gone actively on hiatus. He did not sound like he was “simply waiting for it (this art presentation),” having not much control over the timing of its premier decided by the venue. (Mind you we did not expect him to be coming back to Montreal for the screening, so it was bit of a surprize)
And we accepted him, because we ourselves were also curious about all these questions — the level or kind of activity or engagement that demarcates one’s status as “on hiatus” or “off hiatus”; what happens to one’s own self-identification as an “artist not making art” when you have to show your old work — do you become a “working artist” for that night and then when that’s over, go back to being a non-working artist?
When we met Rob, we asked him about his thoughts on these questions. (which we hope didn’t make him feel interrogated or something!) He said that this presentation could have taken place without him, (he admitted that he always disliked attending his screenings anyway) and it feels a little like his “final duty before his retirement”. He was in fact going back to Europe the very next day to continue on with his hiatus plan of traveling, with no return ticket. The analogy he gave was as poetic as his RFAOH reports that have become familiar to us : “It’s like having cleaned up the apartment when moving out — the place is now all empty but for a single trash bag that still needed to be taken to the curb.”
It was such a pleasure to meet him in person and hear him talk about his hiatus, his intense experiences in Istanbul (which was his original destination in his proposal) on top of attending his presentation that the organizer described as a “finissage with the artist in attendance”. The audience enthusiastically asked questions after the screening and he answered to them very genuinely and generously.
We wished him a bon voyage and look forward to more reports from the latter half of his hiatus. As we implied in our last post, this has added to our good feelings about how our new year is starting.