Recent scientific studies have comprehensively assessed the world's biomass for the first time, determining the weight of every class of living creature on Earth: plants represent 82%, bacteria 13%, and all other beings, from insects to fungi, fish and animals - 5%, of which the human species only 0.01%. People seem insignificant compared to all other species... There are more plants on the terra firma than the neurons in the human brain or the stars in the Milky Way. However, since the dawn of civilization, mankind has caused the disappearance of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, increasingly affecting the biodiversity of the planet concurrently with the demographic explosion of the last centuries. It is estimated that the current consumption rate will require three planets by 2050 to secure the specie's life resources. The future of the Earth is more uncertain than ever for all living systems; a feeling of rot floats in the air.
There is, however, hope. The hope that we are just composting, fermenting waste to reach a new fertility, a new space for coexistence and growth. In order to activate the energy and nutrients from this compost we need to think and test. We need to start talking with other sentient entities in the world - plants, bees, termites, bacteria - to learn from the way biological systems work rather than forcing on them the ideas of nineteenth-century industrialization. To fertilize our knowledge with forms of architecture, art, and agriculture from their "civilizations", cross the sensibilities and abilities of the non-human universe with those in the microcosm of our body and the harmony of the spheres in a symphonic, trans-species dimension. Let us imagine new practices of metamorphosis and simbiogenesis, of resistance to Capitalocene's cynicism and the certainties of Progress, of nutritious alliance and interaction between different forms of life, art and knowledge.
Taking into account recent research and literature about the ecological deadlock, manifest also in the massive floods that impacted Slănic area this summer, In Context Residency proposes, through the regenerative metaphor of compost, an experiment meant to reconsider knowledge and creativity from a wider perspective than the human one and aiming to transform the mountain resort of Slănic into a fertile ground for investigating and testing what could mean to be with or think with, in a time when the idea of "simpoiesis" becomes essential for survival in non-colonizingarts, sciences, and politics. Compost acts here both as a commentary on the ecological crisis and as a metaphor for art's metabolism, artists cannibalizing their own experiences as well as others'. Through transdisciplinary approaches, dialogues and alliances between artists and specialists in various fields, the Compost edition of the residency ultimately seeks to embrace the condition of the possible in the process of redefining and expanding the idea of "us" for a living earth.
Works produced during the program
Ana Maria Micu"
I am a visual artist with a practice of over 20 years, during which I have focused especially on painting and drawing. It is difficult for me to travel with all the materials thay I use in my studio to participate in a residency, but I know it is a rewarding effort as I have benefited of such programmes several times. I was twice invited to myart residence in Vienna, once to a residency organised by the CIAC Bucharest, and the fourth was the Can Serrat art residence in Spain, which I won following an open-call.
I decided to accept the invitation to In Context/Slanic Moldova for the personal interest I have in this year's theme - Compost. This inspired me to develop an interesting proposal, materialized in the form of a documentary drawing and photographic material. The idea that I had, of illustrating a minimal model of a functional mobile household, has become, through work, organically associated with my portfolio and I hope that I can elaborate it further in larger projects.
I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity to spend time with fellow artists that I didn't know before. In particular the fact that I was able to meet the two Icelandic artists, Agnes Ársælsdóttir and Anna Andrea Winther, who gave me an extremely valuable access to a culture and a way of thinking new to me. We all benefit today from the vast amount of information accesibile on the Internet, but from my experience, significant human relationships, such as those forged in such programmess, remain a solid and authentic method of generating artistic and humanistic progress, an effect that subsequently permeates wider social spheres."
When I received the invitation to InContext, I was immediately intrigued. The facilities and the location were very interesting for me especially because of the forest. I mainly work with trees in my art and the variety of plants and wildlife in Slanic Moldova was a perfect subject for me. But the thing I was most excited about was InContext’s focus on environmental issues. I think it’s an urgent topic to discuss, not only politically or intellectually but also artistically.
When I arrived in Slanic I was excited to be immersed in the forest and was going to make a piece about it. At first it looked as though the forest and the town were separate, but when I looked closer I saw little trees sprouting through concrete walls and streets, between bricks and up from the plumbing system. I made “The Urban Plant Agenda”, a 1.5m x 2m embroidered piece, based on those trees. I would describe it as in between an infograph and a family portrait of these resistant trees in Slanic that have a strong drive to live. The programme director Alina Teodorescu had the same drive as the trees. She was very helpful and motivating to all of us, her energy seemed endless. Her passion for the project, art and sustainability in Slanic is admirable, it was a pleasure working with her and I would do it again without hesitation.
I could say the same for everybody involved in the project. I especially want to mention Simona Nastac, our curator, for being professional, thorough and clever. She was also very helpful and her texts elevated the final exhibition to a higher level. I also want to thank Anastasia Roncea and Gabriel Leascu and Megan Dominescu who were always willing to run into town to get more threads and needles, telling me jokes and helping me with the last stitches - I couldn’t have finished the piece without them.
We went for some visits to institutions near Slanic, which were interesting for a foreigner but I didn’t think they were all relevant to the residency. Although I thought it was quite fascinating to get a sense of the political context in Romania when it comes to art and culture. The only thing I would have wanted to strengthen during this residency was the information flow. We were for example not told that we had a workshop in the program with the art pedagogue Irina Balan, one of us just stumbled upon it in the catalogue for the festival which was only in Romanian. That created a tension in the group that could have been easily avoided with better communication. When we later met Irina we became excited about it and the workshops became one of the best days of the residency in my opinion.
In Context was a great experience for me and did a lot for my practice. I have fond memories of morning trips to the springs, sunny days and good conversations while sowing. In the end I want to thank all the artists that I lived with during the month in Slanic. I learned so much from them and In Context made sure we had plenty of opportunities to exchange thoughts and ideas. I am very grateful for my time in Slanic, I wish In Context a long and happy life and look forward to visiting sometime in the near future."
The choice to participate in the artist residency In Context was decisively influenced by its theme, Compost, whose relevance should be permanent, for me personally being a principle that I apply in most of my artistic production and not only, especially in the sense of reusing and recirculating matter. The residency gave me, first and foremost, the much-needed time and space to reflect on what I should do as an artist in this time of climate crisis. I was also glad that I had the opportunity to be part of a community where I found lucidity and inspiring thinking.
The initiative to draw attention to the region of Moldova, in a place that does not benefit from the same economic and cultural investment as major cities in Romania do, is more than commendable, particularly through the direct involvement of the artists. Thus, the place chosen for the development of this residency is more than auspicious, as unfortunately we are far too accustomed to ignore the cultural life or the need for culture of small towns in Romania"
In Context was my first artistic residency and a memorable initiation in this kind of art programmes. For a month, I had the most beautiful view that a studio can offer, a cheerful atmosphere and a favourable environment for new projects and future collaborations. The time spent in Twin Peaks Moldova proved to be extremely prolific and inspiring, becoming even insufficient for the multitude of works I initially wanted to create in Slanic. The In Context team members were very communicative and responsive, providing me with all the necessary support and facilitating artistic production."
When I received the invitation to take part in the residency I had no idea what to expect. I just knew that the concept of ‘compost’ was exciting for my artistic practice, which consists of site-specific installations and performances regarding food production and eating habits. When I arrived in Slanic Moldova I realised I was in a very special place. For an Icelander such as myself, who hasn’t spent much time in a forest or anywhere where nature was so tangibly alive with both plants and animals, the place was a great source of inspiration.
My work, Apple After Apple After Apple, was a performance based on an apple tree that was shedding its fruits on the hill above the gallery. I performed it along with three volunteers during the exhibition opening. We collected apples that had fallen on the hill in bags, stood in a line down the hill and processed the apples (cleaned, waxed and labelled with a sticker which was a drawing of the tree) and rolled it back down the hill.
The residency stay itself was very comfortable and friendly. Alina Teodorescu, the director of the residency, was very professional and attentive towards all our needs. With her pure ambition and passion for the project, she was a true pleasure to work with and I am looking forward to seeing where this project will go. The curator, Simona Nastac, was also very professional and as a curator had a deep understanding of all of the artists’ works and practices. Truly one of the best curators I have had the pleasure to work with.
What really made this experience as good as it was, was the people surrounding the project. To spend time with the other artists was a very valuable experience, getting to know Romanian culture and other artists’ way of thinking. I also want to especially thank Anastasia Roncea for all her hard and good work, both as a performer in my performance and as my helping hand through the process.
The only thing that I want to critique is the way the photographer hired to document the opening interacted with me and my work. Even though he was very skilled and thorough, and I am pleased with the result of the documentation, he did not listen to my instructions. While my work was being performed, he interrupted the performers by telling them to pose a certain way for the camera which interrupted the flow of the performance. He also installed the cameras in such a way so the apples were hitting them, which was very disrupting. He was very ambitious about getting good angles, but I think his interruptions did affect the work quite a bit. I had given him instructions beforehand, but they were not listened to.
Even so, the experience as whole has been an adventure and true pleasure. I cherish this experience and the people I met during this time and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I am sure the project has a bright future ahead."