Celebrating Becoming An Artist In Residence

Jul 6, 2017 | Inspiration, Travel, Writing

I’m not entirely certain becoming is the right word.

In the case of the artist part, I am already one.

I reside in a world of creativity.

There you go. A statement I never thought I’d proclaim.

I reside in artistry.

A World on its End

I have had a tumultuous time over the past weeks. My world has been upended.

I don’t want to go into details, but my personal situation has changed radically. For the first time in years I am alone.

The opportunity to take up an artist’s residence kind of fell in my lap. I have a rich and varied network of acquaintances. For this, I am eternally grateful. It has saved my skin on more than one occasion.

Through this network I was offered the opportunity to spend a couple of months living as an artist in a small village on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

Prison

Bajesdorp, which I guess can be best translated as prison village, is situated next to what was once a high security prison. It is known as the Bijlmerbajes.

Originally the village housed guards from the neighbouring penitentiary.

The prison itself is quite a work of engineering. There are six high towers enclosed by a fortified concrete wall which, in turn, is surrounded by a moat. It is effectively a modern castle.

Only, it was built to keep people in and not keep people out.

Artist out of Prison

Recently, the prison acquired a new function.

It now houses refugees from the war in Syria. The bars are still on the windows but one of the four walls has been torn down.

I think it very symbolic.

Not only have certain conventions been torn asunder and re-envisaged, but on a personal level the same process is going on.

I am joining in by reprogramming myself as an artist in residence.

The Village

Long before the prison transformed, the village went through its own radical change.

Gradually, over a period of years, houses in the village were vacated. I am assuming, if you were a prison guard, you wouldn’t want to be constantly reminded of your work. You would rather live somewhere you don’t have to look at it every day. I’m sure that goes for any form of employment.

As the houses emptied, members of Amsterdam’s squat movement moved in. Squatting is an integral part of the city. Although, developers and a real estate boon are putting a stop to this.

Most squatters are not radicals. Some hold down nine-to-five jobs. Many of them do volunteer work or support the community at large. They are an inspiring and well organised group of people.

They work within the law but create new ones as well. By putting pressure on the city council they help to ensure that there is a fairer system for all.

Housing

There has always been a housing problem in the city. Every inch of Amsterdam is occupied in some form or other. The squatting movement contributes by making sure that deserted building are repurposed. Everybody should have a place to live.

For the present time I too have found a new home. Beforehand, I did not know what to expect, and I had some reservations, but I should not have had doubts. I have found a true sense of community.

I have found a place to share my creativity. It’s fantastic. For first time in my journey as a writer, I feel confident to say I am truly an artist.

I knew this before. Now it has been reinforced. I am now practising my art in public.

In the short week I have been in Bajesdorp I have found a freedom of expression I did not have before. I have also found that by expressing it openly, others have been inspired.

I realise now what the function of an artist in residence is.

To lead by example.

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Have you found a new way to express your creativity?

Leave a comment below or join the mailing list and let me know.

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