THE ΤΕΛΟΣ SOCIETY speaks to Nikolas Ventourakis, Co-Founder | Artistic Director of the Lucy Art Residency
Maria Mitzali, Founder
Lucy Art Residency was founded in 2017 by Maria Mitzali and Nikolas Ventourakis.
The goal of this residency is to give the artist two weeks of free time.
The program offers the opportunity for an artist working in the expanded field of photography based in Europe and the Mediterranean to spend two weeks in Kavala, Greece. It is free to apply and the selected artist will have the opportunity to live and work in the coastal city in the north of Greece with transportation, accommodation and subsistence covered.
During the residency the artist can explore the city and its surroundings, meet with the local community and join for a weekend of public events the jurors and guests of each respective edition. The only planned event that the artists are asked to participate in during their residency is a public talk in a historical cultural building in the city. Furthermore, following the conclusion of the residency the artist will be commissioned to produce one new artwork within six months of their departure that will be part of the archive of the residency, accessible to all visitors as well as the future residents.
Georgia Kotretsos: First and foremost, kudos for founding a residency program that genuinely caters for the artists-in-residence need to contemplate by encouraging various forms of navel gazing (omphaloskepsis) - an indispensable component of the creative process. Why was it important to you to provide such conditions and to facilitate this inner dialogue?
Nikolas Ventourakis: It might sound like a non-answer, but it was important to me, precisely because it is important to me as an artist myself. I’m the artistic director of this residency, but my full-time occupation is as an artist. And I have had the chance to participate in a substantial number of residencies, and exchange programs myself. Too often I find myself in a state of constant production – I would even dare to say that this is my permanent state of being. But some of my most intriguing epiphanies have revealed themselves to me when I was not actively producing. Reading a book I had left next to my bed for too long, a film marathon, simply walking and camping. I mean it sounds weird to mention this things in 2020, when we were forced in a violent way to change our patterns. Nevertheless, in the previous status quo, time for contemplation and the release from an abstract, yet oppressive “result” should be part of the artistic process ethos in the creative industries.
GK: The stage of the Lucy Art Residency is the Lucy Hotel, a welcoming minimal environment, where the artists spend two weeks, meet with the jurors of the program and are called to manage time. May you please discuss how the artists have used their time while in residence? What has pleasantly surprised you over the years?
NV: I can truly say that every year the artists had different personal needs; therefore, they spent their time in different ways. So, one of them did casual research on their next project while enjoying personal excursions in the area, went fishing with local fishermen. Others, used the abundance of space and sun to produce as many new artworks as they could. And yet again, some others made friends in the local community, met with all kinds of people and took truly some time off, after working very hard for many years on their previous projects. What has surprised me, however, is not so much how they spend their time, but more so what happens after the leave. This free time and the catering of their daily needs in accommodation, and sustenance, has allowed them to have a small reboot and to gather the required energy to move forward with their new projects and ideas after they go back to their normal places of residency, their studios or their jobs. And the time the jurors and the artists spend together discussing work, life, art, politics and everything in between is truly amazing for me. It’s the most vibrant and meaningful part of the residency.
GK: What does it take to keep the program going? Lucy Art Residency is best understood as a closed and introvert exercise - having the best interest of the artists in mind. How can we collectively begin introducing new working habits by updating the language used to communicate such initiatives with public or/and private funding institutions which seem to revolve in outcome and outreach driven program goals?
NV: It’s hard to even convince many of the artists that apply, that it’s not a goal-driven program. Thankfully, we did not have to apply for grants until now, as it’s a self-funded program. Nevertheless, the concept of free time is sometimes perceived as some kind of unearned privilege or laziness. People that know me in person, would tell you that I work all the time. But I consider periods of laziness to be of paramount importance. Non-stop work can lead to a false sense of constant progress. One can be monomaniac in their pursuits, but they should also allow for other influences to enter the discussion and for a re-wiring of their daily patterns. Down-time is, therefore, very important for future production, and for things to emerge that can only happen in environments that allow happenstance and randomness. Artistic Residencies can be such spaces.