Anna Clawson and Nicole Ward, Bristol-based artists who work collaboratively, started talking about the idea back in 2012 as a response both to MFA programs general resistance to collaborative applications, and the addition of their fees. They could work together during the course, they were informed, but the recurrent curriculum of UK art schools required students to be assessed and enrolled individually, regardless of collaborative or collective practice. And so STUDIO36 was born, a residency project palimpsestically inhabiting their shared studio at Spike Island, in Bristol.
Clawson: We thought if we could create our own residency series then we could talk to people casually about work, have a chance to meet new people and learn from them and their working methods.
Ward: And at the same time help bring fresh faces to Bristol.
C: It was set-up so that residents would arrive, be given a set of keys, and sleep in our room, and we’d then take the living room. We also gave everyone we knew their telephone number and email, so that our friends knew who was coming. Because it was a week and they were living with us, this broke barriers down straight away. After a couple of days of living together and seeing them in their pyjamas, any initial uptightness would disappear.
This central desire for communication, centred on art practice and the dot-joining of both guest and host networks, although ostensibly a standard feature of most residencies, in fact feels relatively rare. Philip Owen (who, as well as working at the Arnolfini, runs Tertulia and is a collaborator within HO-ST - on whom more later) recently coined the term ‘radical generosity’, and it feels a highly suitable fit in this context. Offering their studio, their bed and home, and their social network out to visiting artists, in the cause of the vicarious injection of energy, has numerable ‘real’ benefits for both themselves and all involved, whilst always working within their means. It’s worth noting that if Clawson and Ward were not around, the resident artist would afford the opportunity for other artists and networks to also host and in doing so spend time together as well.
Undertaking six residencies, over seven months, gave Clawson and Ward time and space for themselves as well. Each resident artist paid their own travel (the furthest flying from Rome), so the only outlay for the pair was the general costs of hospitality, and dismantling their studio in preparation for each artist.
C: The first time we hosted an artist, we had to lug everything in the studio back to our flat using a trolley in order to clear it out. So now everything in there is on wheels, and mobile.