En Residencia

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En Residencia was a site responsive project, conceived and curated by Marc Rees and Benedict Anderson. It took place at Laboral, Ciudad de la Cultura, Gijon, Asturias, in Spain from 28 February to 8 March 2009. Laboral’s extensive architectural complex was initially opened in the 1940s as an orphanage, but reconverted, during its construction following a local mining disaster, into an educational institution — the Universidad Laboral de Gijon. In 2001, the Principado de Asturias assumed possession and it was further converted into a multifaceted cultural centre. En Residencia took the form of an on-site inter-disciplinary laboratory that involved twenty artists (twelve from Wales and eight from Asturias). Essentially, they occupied the abandoned south central wing of the Laboral complex. The wing was still un-renovated and many of the spaces (classrooms, stairwells, offices, antechambers and landings etc.) were strewn with discarded objects, hundreds of pieces of furniture all found in various configurations, ordered and random, placed and scattered. Following a process of selection, preparation, re-configuration and transformation, the spaces were allocated to the artists to re-imagine and re-animate. The main stimuli for the artistic interventions were the unique environments and their associated memorabilia, archive material, abandoned artifacts and the extraordinary history of the location. Performance and film – with a significant measure of interaction between the practitioners themselves, their collaborators and their audience – was the principal modality of communication. These interactions and dialogues gave an emotional resonance to the overall project and set a crucial register for the interface with the audience/viewer. As co-artistic director and dramaturg, the scale of the project demanded a new set of skills in pulling together site, place, history language and performance.
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