Is There A Home Away From Home?
An Outcome That Can Be Postponed
Visualization of the residential block of the art residence in Golubitskoe art foundation. Architectural bureau «Novoe»
On 23 July 2021, the UNESCO committee declared the site of the former Mathildenhöhe artists' colony in Darmstadt, Germany a World Heritage Site. As a matter of fact, it is the complex of entities located on the hill that was declared heritage, and it includes buildings, gardens and sculptures, their creation history and provenance, alongside a permanent exhibition of works by 23 artists that resided in the colony from 1899 to 1914. In the course of its existence under the auspices of the Grand Duke of Hesse Ernst Ludwig, the artists' colony transformed once a merely picturesque hill into a hub of Art Nouveau architecture, design and art and a platform for bold artistic experimentation as well as the search for the aesthetic ideal of everyday life of the time.

One of the first buildings of the colony was the Ernst Ludwig House (est. 1901), also known as the Studio Building, designed by the resident architect Josef Maria Olbrich. It housed the designated workspaces of painters, sculptors and designers that were summoned to the colony to build an artist utopia of the Belle Epoque. The inscription on the lavishly decorated facade of the building reads: 'Let the artist show his world, the beauty that was born with him, that never was before and never will be again'[1]. The former Studio Building is now used as the Artists' Colony Museum where visitors can familiarise themselves with the legacy of the 'colonists', the life of the colony, the history of the building complexes and parks, and discover what role the colony played in the life of the city.

Even though the Grand Duke, who founded the artists' colony, not only loved art but also saw a strategic potential for the wealthy and developing city of Darmstadt in it, he could hardly imagine that his investments in the artistic processes of the early 20th century would put the city on the map as an object of global significance in the 21st century. A hundred years after its inception, this art nouveau fantasy has been recognised as an 'outstanding example of visionary design'[2]. The integrity of the ensemble received widespread acclaim from experts and it was even called a true Gesamtkunstwerk, an artwork with its elements so organically integrated that it creates the sense of complete immersion in the viewer.

[1] "Seine Welt zeige der Künstler, die niemals war noch jemals sein wird",
[2] According to Maria Böhmer, President of the German Commission for UNESCO:,mathildenhoehe-welterbe-102.html
Colonies, or the House in the Image and Likeness of
Several factors govern the interior and aesthetic unity of the artists' colony in Mathildenhöhe. It was practically built all at once, within the timeline of 15 years. Those who worked on it were kindred spirits, adherents of pure forms and floral motifs, decor enthusiasts and connoisseurs of well-defined structures, experts in classical materials. Resident artists were not many: the original group numbered seven participants, and over the span of the colony's life, 23 artists lived and exhibited their work on its premises. The residents lived and worked side by side, bouncing ideas off each other and discussing the values behind them, sharing the secrets of craftsmanship and working on practical and aesthetic solutions.

A strictly outlined setting, limited time, a group of artists with similar values, a striking result that is programmed from the start by setting a high standard and a large-scale task, which becomes visible in the long term – these are all signs of a well-organised and well-oiled artist residency.

Today's artist residencies directly stem from the practice of artists' colonies that gained popularity in the last third of the 19th century. The word colony itself (Lat. colonia) means 'settlement', although historically this concept expanded to denote a 'settlement with no political independence'. Artists' colonies, however, were characterised by a fair amount of operational autonomy, so perhaps the word 'colony' in the protoresidential format appears for the sake of association with other key features of political colonies: remoteness; a necessity to build up the community from scratch, based on the logic and values of the ruling centre; location choice, determined by the standards imposed by the ruling centre as opposed to the demands of the local way of life.

One of the stages in the development of the Taman Peninsula is associated with the period of the so-called Great Greek colonisation. The Ancient Heritage of Kuban, the seminal work published by the Phanagoria Centre for Science and Research, says, 'It should be noted that the terms colonisation and colony bear the mark of modernisation. To refer to what we now call colonies, the Ancient Greeks themselves used the term apoikia meaning a "home away from home". Consequently, the colonists-settlers were called apoikoi. Apoikiai retained some ties with the metropolis while enjoying full sovereignty.'[3]

In the eternal battle of Latin and Greek terms, the Greek one seems more convincing in this case, as the word itself clearly outlines the intentions of the settlers: to create a home the way they love and value it, the way they were used to in their motherland. As we can afford to not be very precise with historical concepts, we can say that apoikia is a very beautiful word that aptly expresses the intention to do as the Greeks do, when in Rome. This is the conclusion we arrive at when looking in from the outside, being able to discern both the features of 'doing as the Greeks do' and the presence of 'Rome'.

[3] The Ancient Heritage of Kuban. Volume 1.
(The Idyllic) Over the Hills and Far Away
For a long time, it was thought that artists' colonies gave rise to a trend for artists to work together in a remote location, away from the hubbub of sprawling cities.

'In her book Rural Artists' Colonies in Europe 1870–1910 Nina Lübbren writes about the scene of artists moving from cities to rural colonies in Central Europe from 1830–1914. A total of about 3,000 artists retired as a mass movement for different periods of time to establish artist communities in rural areas mainly in France, Central Germany, and the Netherlands but also in Hungary and the Baltic Sea region. Rural nostalgia as a counter reaction to urbanization and industrialization constituted the ideological framework for artist villages in the countryside.

The idea of creating new sensual experiences of nature was a central artistic agenda in the colony projects. The experience of giving oneself up to the countryside and being immersed in the sights, colours, sounds, smells, and details of nature led artists to develop their own brand of plein-air practice. New innovations, such as a studio moving on wheels and landscape painting methods, which preceded impressionism, were developed in the colonies. [...]

The size of the colonies ranged from a few dozen to over five hundred artists. There were both international and national art villages. Artist mobility from colony to colony varied: there were artists who resided permanently in a colony, those who lived and worked in a colony for a specific period, and those who moved like nomads from one colony to another.'[4]

However, later such artist settlements were largely criticised for exaggerating the role of spontaneity in their day-to-day running. For example, there were widely publicised cases when paintings that had been presented as direct and unconstrained documentation of peasant life, were discovered to be the result of meticulous staging over many days. Even a quick leafing through some artists' memoirs would make one realise that an ideal setting is not the place that the artist would want to reproduce endlessly.

The search for the ideal natural backdrop is the lot of romantics and lyrical realists. It was for a reason that Caspar David Friedrich engaged in frequent pilgrimages to the island of Rügen, where he created endless images of chalk cliffs cutting into the Baltic Sea, and Isaac Levitan spent ages 'swiping' through the banks of Russian rivers and lakes in search of a perfectly poignant landscape. The images seen by these masters have been imprinted on the retinas of numerous tourists who flood the locations selected by the artists in order to bring the aesthetic grandeur of the famed canvases into real life.

Naturally, artists picked the most picture-perfect places for their colonies, but one can hardly claim that they were drawn there by their awe of majestic nature. In the days of the colonies, the figure of a lonely artist whose genius could notice the sublime and tragic in natural phenomena, took a back seat. Aesthetic aspirations seem to have been replaced by hedonistic ones, with social factors such as escapism and shared experience growing more important. Henry Miller gives a very vivid and convincing account of an artists' colony in his memoir Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch:

'Speaking of artists, the curious thing is that few of this stripe ever last it out here. Is something lacking? Or is there too much… too much sunshine, too much fog, too much peace and contentment?

Almost every art colony owes its inception to the longing of a mature artist who felt the need to break with the clique surrounding him. The location chosen was usually an ideal one, particularly to the discoverer who had spent the better years of his life in dingy holes and garrets. The would-be artists, for whom place and atmosphere are all important, always contrive to convert these havens of retreat into boisterous, merry-making colonies.'[5]

Nevertheless, for Miller the watercolour artist, the description of noise and merry-making blends into the background, and the mountains of Big Sur on the California coast get an indolent and poetic description that has never been awarded to the 13th arrondissement of Miller's beloved Paris:

'There are two magic hours of the day which I have only really come to know and wait for, bathe in, I might say, since living here. One is dawn, the other sunset. In both we have what I like to think of as "the true light": the one cold, the other warm, but both creating an ambiance of super-reality, or the reality behind reality. At dawn I look out to sea, where the far horizon is painted with bands of rainbow tints, and then at the hills that range the coast, ever entranced by the way the reflected light of dawn licks and warms the "backs of the drugged rhinoceroses." If there is a ship in sight the sun's bent rays give it a gleam and sparkle which is utterly dazzling. One can't tell immediately that it is a ship: it seems more like the play of northern lights.'[6]
[4] Contemporary Artist Residencies: Reclaiming Time and Space, edited by Taru Elfving, Irmeli Kokko, Pascal Gielen, p. 16
[5] Henry Miller. Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.
[6] Henry Miller. Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.
The (In)Hospitable Sea
Perfect light floods the residency's rooms at the Golubitskoe estate at sunset. In the summertime, at about half-past seven, the air starts to fill with the warmth of the brightest sun slowly ending its daytime journey in the waters of the Kerch Strait. At this hour, the water that sparkles all around the residency finally gains the upper hand: sunrays sifted through discreet clouds catch their reflection in the sweet and salty waters that seem to be splashing as far as the eye could see: the estuary glitters from south to north, the artificial infinity pond flaunts its perfection, and the sea drives its waves towards tomorrow. The vineyard rows drowning in the light seem no more real than pink flamingos stirring salt with their long beaks in South American seaside creeks.

This light can envelop objects in such a way that, captured in the frame, they immediately gain the magical power of fairy-tale characters. This light capriciously repaints red roses sitting on dense bushes white and white roses red, while the warm but cunning wind makes you close your eyes. When squinting, you already believe that the white rabbit's waistcoat has just flashed somewhere amongst the flowers, but once you open them you cannot point your finger on where exactly you've spotted it. The magnetic quality of this light gives it the power to shut out the rest of the world: regardless of the people around you, it forces you to be alone with it. It cuts out every little detail that fails to keep up with it from the landscape, muffling traffic noises and making it unthinkable to imagine a ship on the horizon. In the world of this perfect light, there exists only the light itself and the one person that witnesses it. This light is not for those who build marinas or wait for the return of travellers or yearn for good news by reading the colour of the sails.

Taman's lands have been welcoming settlers for a long time and have never resisted guests. Of these, the most talkative and inclined to document their tracks have been the ancient Greeks. To reach Taman, they had to cross the Black Sea, which in their language underwent a transformation from Axenos Pontos to Euxinos Pontos[7]. The sea turned from 'inhospitable' to 'hospitable' gradually, in the course of being conquered. As soon as the welcoming lights of the Hellenic apoikiai lit up on the other side of the dark waters, the sea turned from dangerous and frightening into familiar, almost home-like.

This is a familiar rollercoaster, with fear at the bottom of the plunge and knowledge on top. However, this knowledge was not as much about what was hidden in the dark waters[8] as it was about the fact that this sea could be crossed, that it had a different side that could be reached, and it was inhabited by people just 'like us': not only do they not walk on their heads but they also share the same principles, the same beliefs, the same faith.

One of the principles that the Hellenes carried on their ships was that of hospitality. It is not surprising that researchers consider The Odyssey by Homer – a poem about seafarers' adventures, brimming with encounters with 'strangers' and 'friends' – the most important source on this principle. For instance, here is the reasoning of King Alcinous (Poseidon's grandson), who received a dispossessed (but no less cunning) protagonist at his palace:

'Hearken to me, leaders and counsellors of the Phaeacians, that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me. […] But in the morning we will call more of the elders together, and will entertain the stranger in our halls and offer goodly victims to the gods. […] But if he is one of the immortals come down from heaven, then is this some new thing which the gods are planning; for ever heretofore have they been wont to appear to us in manifest form, when we sacrifice to them glorious hecatombs, and they feast among us, sitting even where we sit. Aye, and if one of us as a lone wayfarer meets them, they use no concealment, for we are of near kin to them, as are the Cyclopes and the wild tribes of the Giants.'[9]

Alcinous connects the arrival of the wanderer with the manifestation of the will of the gods and, if you follow the text of the poem, turns out to be absolutely right, as the reader knows that Athena not only tipped Odysseus off to ask the Phaeacians for shelter but also took time to escort him to the royal palace. Here is how the French researcher Daniel Payot interprets this fragment, analysing hospitality in ancient culture:

'This statement is interesting, as it associates the arrival of the stranger with the arrival of the gods. This does not at all mean that the stranger is himself deified or mistaken for a god; and in his response, Odysseus takes care to very explicitly dissociate his own arrival from that of the gods, his own person from that of a god. But it [the arrival] reinforces a dimension that is omnipresent in the Homeric problematic of hospitality: the stranger is welcomed insofar as his arrival is a decision of the gods, taking place under their aegis, the aegis attested by a ritual, feast and word that replaces a pact. The relationship, if you will, is contractual without ever being dual: hospitality is a matter for three parties: the welcoming, the welcomed and the god who sends the latter, vouches for them, and sometimes also appears themselves. The feast, the rite set up this xenía[10], this contract, this institutionalisation of hospitality in which we therefore recognise the two elements that Benveniste distinguished: the gift and the pact.'[11]

It is interesting that both the gift and the pact in this logic turn out to be conditioned by some common natural and, at the same time, legitimate field that is outlined by the divine will expressed explicitly (by poets? by philosophers?) or latently implied (in shadowplay?). Generally speaking, the Hellenes believed that their global desire to host guests where they themselves did not yet reside, which led to the large-scale conquering of foreign lands, was facilitated by Phoebus Apollo, the companion of the muses. One of them, by the way, was Clio, a master storyteller who could spin a yarn at the merest hint.

[7] Axenos Pontos (Ἄξενος Πόντος) – 'Inhospitable Sea'; Axenos Pontos ( Εὔξενος Πόντος) – 'Hospitable Sea'.
[8] Scientists still research the depths of the Black Sea, gradually, layer by layer, declaring them living waters, despite the fact that, as recently as the end of the 20th century, science believed that a dead zone saturated with hydrogen sulfide started at a depth of 200 metres in this sea. For all we know, the Greeks may have, in their awe, believed it to house the entrance to Hades.
[9] Homer. The Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D. in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.
[10] ξενία (xenía) – 'hospitality'.
[11] Daniel Payot. À propos de l'hospitalité : institution et inconditionnalité. Appareil, 20 | 2018.
Daniel Payot. À propos de l'hospitalité : institution et inconditionnalité. – Appareil, 20 | 2018.
Hard to Be a God
Can the trinity of Ancient Greek hospitality apply to today's practices? Who in the context of a modern art residency is the welcomed, who is the welcoming, and who or what possesses the constitutive ability that makes both the gift and the pact possible?

Let us recall another Greek king – Amphitryon – who reigned over Mycenae and was fond of receiving guests. Thanks to the popularity of this character in literature, his name has made linguistic history, with amphitryon becoming a term for a congenial host. To let go of the loaded concept of 'hosting' in terms of hospitality, at least when discussing art residencies, we will offer each guest to pair up with an amphitryon.

Simplifying it a bit, let's introduce all actors of the pseudo-antique triad of art residencies.

Firstly, the guest. In the case of an interdisciplinary residency, the guest is an artist, a curator, a choreographer, a composer, a writer, a scientist – any representative of contemporary pop culture. As a guest, they are distinguished by a multilayered physical presence: they arrive in a residency bringing along their (professional, artistic) process, their communication requirements, their vernacular. On top of that, they bring an intention to fulfil the pact as well as a certain understanding of being ready for a gift.

Secondly, the amphitryon. Let's infuse this function with all things visible and tangible in an art residency: infrastructure, working hours, people who work at the residency, people whom the guest cannot help but meet once at the residency, the resources that the amphitryon spends on the guest with no detriment to itself. By demonstrating its readiness to receive a guest, the amphitryon places its hearth in an existing space. Starting from the hearth, the amphitryon demarcates zones of actual accessibility and creates a warmth gradient. The amphitryon always knows for certain what it has and doesn't have, and it is on this knowledge that its readiness for a pact is based on. The gift, conversely, cannot be based on clear knowledge, it knows no boundaries and denies all conditions. Or more specifically, the conditions that work for the amphitryon are not of the kind that they can discuss or alter alongside the guests. These conditions are predetermined by a third party.

Let's say that in the context of the Golubitskoe Art Foundation, the third party that possesses a constitutive and compelling force, is its location. Perhaps, following the Olympic tradition, it strives for a multifaceted omnipresence and could be distinguished by its emotional involvement as well as an inclination to give in to impulses and whims; it accepts its purpose and is in no hurry to submit to any pressure from outside.

Giving What You Don't Have
The ultimate condition for a resident at Golubitskoe is to work with the local context. Project by project, the Foundation seems to be putting together its own database of the place. However, the location is not just a subject for exploration and statements but, more broadly, it provides the framework for the entire process. Consequently, one of the amphitryon's functions is to facilitate an introduction to the place.

More often than not, an organised introduction to the place is mediated by existing sources, i.e. it occurs through descriptions, which are hardly more than a series of texts created in a certain tradition, limited by the language. So far, the archaeological approach has been dominant (but by no means exclusive!), and antiquity has been the most popular of the available time layers.

It is futile to claim that we could outline the significance of the concept of antiquity within one page, but let's list several risky, or limiting, points that are concealed within it:

  • An uncritical allusion to antiquity raises the degree of Eurocentricity[12], which can hardly be justified, given the ethnic diversity of the territory both historically and today.

  • Antiquity was brought to this land in a manner of a ready-made dress or cut flowers that were destined to last in a vase for a while but not grow and multiply. Researchers of this period usually come from large scientific hubs but do not reside here, and their scientific mission is, essentially, to piece together a broad historical canvas, in which data from Taman will be mixed with other information from the area. It should be mentioned, even though this may be a significant generalisation, that this is how non-locals tell other people's stories. Would it be possible to balance out 'being a part of a bigger culture' and 'this has nothing to do with us'?

  • The intention of the Russian authorities in the 18th century to discover antiquity of their own still affects the way it exists: its 'buyer' came from the capital and itself it resides in the capital too, the site of the archaeological find becomes a mere transit zone and artefacts are 'redistributed in the roadstead.'

  • The fact that the most significant finds are still permanently housed by the capital's museums demonstrates the imperial rationality behind large museums' operations in Russia today: they do not turn down the tribute from the regions in the form of artefacts but go back to the regions carrying no other knowledge besides the 'knowledge' of their own cultural superiority.

The above raises the issue of how appropriate a distanced external gaze is when used as a basis for artistic expression. It would be stimulating to look for ways of more direct interaction with the place, perhaps through the use of anthropological, phenomenological, or even journalistic (as a means of establishing direct communication) approaches. Besides, it is important to outline what the contemporary locals are like, whether they have expert knowledge of the location, and if they do, what they can share. Many of today's Taman residents have moved here fairly recently – what drove their relocation? Do they build homes away from home, or accept the rules of the game as determined by the place? What mobility paradigm do regular guests of local seaside resorts fit in? And what about random tourists?

Many of those who move to Taman are attracted by the climate and scenery. The extraordinarily picturesque location of the Golubitskoe Art Foundation is an attraction in itself. However, in a one-person residency, scenic beauty is fused rather perilously with isolation. A combination of periods of concentrated work away from everyone, even from colleagues, with times of active social involvement provided by other activities at the Foundation (e.g. field tours, day trips, project-related things) seems to work best for a resident.

The art foundation itself and the residency as its unit are an internationally transparent and undoubtedly efficient work model. At the same time, being brought in from an external – and emotionally distant – world, it risks turning into a utopia failing to establish an economic anchor so necessary for an apoikia to flourish. In these circumstances, the cultural initiative does not take place in an open field but is directly linked to the processes that are inherent to the location: viticulture and winemaking.

However, in today's economic reality, winemaking is not a heritage of ancient cultures but a business. Commodity production and cultural production exist in different efficiency paradigms, and the preservation and development of a basic, economically viable business will always be a priority. The long-term experience of cooperation with factories as part of the residency programme at the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art allows us to conclude that the main difficulty in establishing productive relationships is a fundamentally different attitude to time. A production business is built around regularity, a clearly measured duration of each process, stages, cyclicality and, ultimately, predictability.

We can only very approximately outline the time scale for every stage of artistic production, as the artistic process is characterised by temporal elasticity that can seem a serious nuisance from the outside. A production business (leaving out some of the historically notable exceptions) is incapable of acceleration. By observing the established rhythm, it reduces errors. The artistic process demonstrates an extremely high tolerance for risk, defects, and even failure: they are expected but not predicted and rarely planned. After all, not a single person in their right mind will be able to say that some concept got cork taint, whereas, some experts claim, every tenth bottle of wine with a traditional cork has it. Of course, no one knows in advance which bottle is affected.

A possible recipe for synchronising both processes would be to adopt an imported model or to build multiple bridges between the two processes and the two industries using interim environments, i.e. marketing or tourism. The simplest mechanisms here can be, for instance: putting together a concept for a merchandise line for the winery shop using a designer's/art-director's processing of the 'database' assembled by the residents; the restaurant menu integration, at least at the level of a 'recommended by an artist' tag. On another note, we can discuss designing narrative tours of the vineyards that would not be associated with physical installations but would be based on 'myths and legends' collected/invented by the artists. The alternative is to create conditions for short-term stays for guests through producing art objects that are equipped with a living infrastructure.

At the same time, it is crucial to separate the projects of the 'buffer zone' from the actual artistic process or the process taking place in the residency since these projects should be a kind of mixed bag: a combo of new and predictable results. The central convertible result of the 'buffer zone' is to increase the complexity of and expand the viewer's experience, which fits perfectly with the established conventions, even if it exceeds the expectations.

If we circle back to both the artistic process and the essential component of the hospitality experience, the gift, then it must be said that the result of the artistic process lies in the field of the gift. That is why it is unpredictable, unimaginable, perhaps even non-existent. The gift that emerges between the guest and the amphitryon, is nurtured by the will of the third party – the place. This gift is the reciprocity of the guest and the amphitryon, authorised by the place. Perhaps this gift is nothing more than love. If only because, as the saying goes,

'Love is giving what you don't have.'[13]
[12] The saying that antiquity is the cradle of European culture/civilisation has long become a cliché.
[13] This is how Jacques Lacan quotes the line from Plato's Symposium in his The Directions of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power.
Photo by Ivan Erofeev