MultiMadeira is an Artist in Residency program which is being carried out on the Portuguese island of Madeira and is specific in many ways. It is a self-sustainable residency program which managed to gather more than 70 artists of various expressions and practices this year. We spoke to the founders of the program, Luka Ivanović, Jelena Mijić and Luka Knežević-Strika, about this year’s “edition”, the novelties and the differences between this year and the years before. The MultiMadeira team invites you to participate in the Winter Auction event which takes place at 6PM on the 29th February, the last day of their stay on the island.
Tell us a few words about the origins of MultiMadeira; who came up with the idea to start an art residency program here, and why here?
Luka Ivanović: Before I came as an organizer, I’d been here maybe once or twice, once for sure as an Artist in Residence, and once when I toured parts of Europe including Portugal, which helped to come to back to Madeira to research and confirm renting Pedra Sina house for our housing needs in 2013. And, here, I felt a sense of great distance from the European reality, and yet I was in Europe, in the Eurozone, which was very important to me.
Distance – primarily because this is an island and, simply, because the residence had a view of the ocean. You could feel the darkness of the ocean’s nothingness, and I was looking at it every evening. I felt the same distance also caused by the ocean view, which I had every morning upon waking up.
This was all in 2012, and a few years before I’d been focused on tours, travels, major theatrical projects that included many people in closed systems of production. Having had some experience of being supported by some institutions and organizers at higher levels, I wanted to continue on my own. I felt that this was the place I wanted to come back to as soon as possible, with greater organizational capacity and responsibility. When I returned to Belgrade, on the 10th of December 2012, I immediately started searching for potential partners and associates with whom I would make it official and begin by the following year.
Some time passed from the idea to the realization; tell us how the team was growing on the way of putting your idea into practice.
Luka Ivanović: I don’t remember when Luka Strika agreed, whether it was when we were eating a beefsteak or chatting, or he sent me an email, I really don’t remember (laughter).
Strika: But it can be found (laughter).
Luka Ivanović: By March we had the name, so we concentrated on the house that had already hosted residency programmes.
How long did the first one last?
Jela: The first one lasted from the 31st of October to the 28th of December 2013; we returned to Belgrade just before the New Year’s Eve.
Luka Ivanović: The plan was to stay until January 2, but there was no enough interest, so we left by the 30th of December.
This year you were here for the New Year’s Eve?
Luka Ivanović: We were, because it all started a month later, on the 29th of November in order to be finished on the 29th of February; so this time the whole thing lasted a month longer.
Jela: One of the reasons why we wanted to be here during the Christmas and New Year holidays was that last time a large number of people with steady jobs or actively studying could not come during vacation time, in January.
Strika: Another reason is the fact that one of the biggest New Year’s fireworks is organized here.
Luka Ivanović: It was a Guinness record.
Strika: Fireworks around the entire island. From different points you can see fireworks along the edges of the island, and ten ships come, a concert is held: a symphony of trumpets. That sounds pretty funny!
Tell us something about the dynamics of the house; what is different in the daily dynamics compared with the previous MultiMadeira?
Jela: Moradia Pena – that’s the name of the house – is so huge that it affects the overall dynamics; the house itself is creating it. It is bigger and that means that the number of people has raised and the frequency increased.
The big difference is that at the previous MultiMadeira there were thirty-eight people, most of whom we knew, either personally or through someone. Now, there are seventy-four people, whom we do not know. This one is much more intense because we’ve met so many new people. It is an intense experience.
Luka Ivanović: We have, on average, much less free time – we as a team, and each of us gets more e-mails (laughter).
Tell us about the Artist Talks and presentations, events, the Daily Mail, which is a new activity.
Jela: We don’t have the pre-fixed periods when people come and go – anyone can come and go every day, and it may happen that someone comes and someone goes on the same day; Artist Talks and events have to do with that. Daily Mail was born because of all that.
Strika: The first Daily Mail was sent on the 17th of December last year. It arose from the need to talk more with the artists in the house. Daily Mail started as a collection of trivia, which it still is in a way. It was focused on words: we published a word every day (the word of the day) in the languages of all the current household members, and on certain service information related to MultiMadeira Residency.
What is the most interesting thing to me is that Daily Mail changes its form every morning, with the change of the editor; it looks like wall papers. I’m going to save all the mails (laughter).
Luka Ivanović: Would you like to subscribe to the Daily Mail?
No, I think it doesn’t make sense when you are not on the island.
Luka Ivanović: Ha ha, yeah.
Strika: Daily mail actually arose from the need to find the best way to announce to people that the refrigerator we had purchased would be a community fridge, and to share this and similar pieces of information with everyone in a cool way, and not to have to inform one by one, You know, the fridge…
To what extent does this residency resemble or does not resemble other artist residencies in Europe and the world? It appears to me as an opportunity that I would hardly afford, organize for myself.
Luka Ivanović: Actually, it is an investment, because people need to invest their time and money and to make certin life compromises to get here. Artists have to pay to be here, no matter how little it might be.
We do not deal with any funds, any kinds of applications – and that is why they have to pay. It’s not that we refuse donations or sponsorship which would come in a nice and decent way, but we invest the capital earned by our own art practice.
People who do not want to invest in their stay in this way just do not come and consider it a less cool or less cost-effective residency. There are many classic residencies all over Europe and the world that are paid.
How was the idea of the financial functioning of the project developing?
Strika: The mode of functioning was developing organically, in relation to our capacities. Well, in the beginning we put the money aside to pay for the house, and then took the money from others so as not to be in the red. As time passes, it’s more and more clear to me why this is good. Not only because we do not have to go through the hell of funding procedures because we come from a country where it is difficult to get access to European funds, and which does not have its own funds, but also because of something that is almost a research work: to find how it is possible to carry out a real and substantial cultural production. Every time we do this it seems to me that we prove that, with a certain investment grants – which in our case is time – a certain number of people can make a big thing, completely beyond the system, which allows a kind of very luxurious independence, which no one has except for the things financed directly and privately, with big time sponsors or people who are simply rich, like Soren, who did this residency first.
Why is MultiMadeira so special? What is specific here?
Luka Ivanović: Living together is specific here, and the environment, which is different from the urban, continental environment. It’s really not a coincidence that the title of our book first time was Nothing Else Really Exists. Nowhere was I able to cut the media, the reality in Serbia, the reality of the global world developments, partly because of our highly focused, active life here. As an artist, you can also get something like that if you go to a small town in Finland. This is an adventure, because you do not know what the house will be like, what kind of people will come, what conditions you will have, what working premises, what materials, galleries, audiences, curators… A lot of things are missing here, this is an island and things do not function normally, in the usual European way, mostly because the island is really isolated, and because there is no one particular target group, which, again, is conditioned by demographic factors.
Strika: There are almost no local people on the island of the age that would be the right audience for most of our productions and events. Such demographic picture is the result of the fact that it is easy enough to go and boring enough to stay. When people have a real opportunity to go away, either to study or to do something, the vast majority of them leave. The range of professions they can engage in is limited. It all comes down to tourism, which is a major economic activity, then agriculture, fishing, shipping industry. Although Funchal is a big city, apart from these occupations, there are not many real jobs for young people. As a result, a type of culture that would be aimed at young people, that would be more vibrant and focused on contemporary trends, hardly exists. Of course there is a large influx of tourists who bring some energy, but these are mostly cruiser tourists, middle-aged or elderly people, who stay for one night. What is produced for them is some chewed pseudo culture, similar to tourist must things everywhere.
What is your relationship with the local community?
Strika: The number of people who organize events – concerts or some other forms of mutual cooperation – is very small and they are very open. It was easy to find people to collaborate with. We inherited some from Soren, and we found some ourselves. We cooperate with Barreirinha Bar, which is open to all our music and visual contents. They’ve provided a room which is convenient for small art exhibitions. Andre Loja, with whom we cooperate, gives us their premises – usually deserted bars awaiting refurbishment – free of charge.
In short, the #ostrvo (i.e. island) blog – how does it work?
Strika: I was very happy when I realized that I can make a semiautomatic blog in which anyone using Instagram or Twitter or a platform using the hashtag can participate, thus generating a kind of a simple visual diary on the one hand, and on the other hand, creating a very interesting accidental photo edits. It is interesting that at the past MultiMadeira, since most of us were from Belgrade, there were attempts of intruding by people from Belgrade, so we had #ostrvo2 (laughter). Ostrvo rarely occurs as a used hashtag, and when a postcard from Thailand appears, it is interesting because it is rare enough.
Luka Ivanović: Internally, we used ostrvo, from the beginning of the project, because when you say Madeira to someone, they are not sure whether it has to do with the (famous Belgrade) Restaurant Madera; some people know that it might be somewhere in Spain or Portugal, and some people are not sure if that is an island… and so, it was our working title.
Strika: The name MultiMadeira arose from the desire to have a hashtag, the name was a hashtag first although it has never been used as a hashtag.
Random fun facts, trivia, music, slogan, link?
Luka Ivanović: The slogan is certainly: “We do not have we can” (laughter), I read this on the fridge.
Jela: “Would you rather be …”
*prevod Vesna Strika