Artist residencies are an integral part of the SPARCK program. These are not, however, residences in the typical sense of the word: an invitation to go to a place where the artist integrates a space designed for this purpose for a pre-established period of time. SPARCK residences are both smoother and less predictable than that.
The focus of the SPARCK residencies is on the key themes of the NET / WORKS three-year cycle (for a description of the cycle, see our About page). Across the African world, the SPARCK team develops projects and invites artists to make proposals around these themes. These proposals are followed by exploratory conversations, in person and via the Internet, with the SPARCK team, then, once it is established that collaboration is taking place, by in-depth discussions regarding the topic(s), the media, the approaches and goals of the residency, as well as its practical aspects (calendar, accommodation, in situ documentation). The thematic and logistical development, and ultimately the success, of the residency are a joint effort, nourished by the artist’s active engagement with the urban space in which he has chosen to lead the project. Conversations between artist and team continue during and, in most cases after, the residency.
It is not unusual to see a particularly successful residency extend into a second residency or give rise to an installation, a tour, a publication. Sometimes, this extension is done in conjunction with SPARCK, sometimes with another partner, met via the residence. SPARCK encourages and supports such links between its associates and related programs or organizations. Participating in the development of networks is, in fact, one of the primary goals of SPARCK. For us, it is not a question of initiating networks – taking a central place, positioning ourselves at the heart of a stage, is of little interest to us. Rather, we wish to bring our energy to already existing collaborative spaces – emerging, open, experimental networks – and, in this way, contribute to an abundance of conversations in the making across the continent and its diasporas.
Clichés and catastrophic visions reveal an Africa that is stagnant. This Africa is, for us, an invention, an easy fiction. The continent and its diasporas are crossed through and through by networks rich in creative energy, ideas and hopes. The purpose of SPARCK – its driving force – is to build partnerships with the most engaged of these networks and with the people they bring together.