Geographic mobility has become a marker of success in the art world, but at what cost? The post-colonial implications of privileged western travel are far reaching and issues around climate change and sustainability call for a re-evaluation of the idea of the 'artist as traveller'. Those who are unable to travel due to (disability, parenthood or economic disenfranchisement) are excluded from this role of privileged nomad, while the ramifications of this exclusion go relatively un-critiqued.

aTE Virtual aims to address the inequities and barriers around conventional residencies by offering an alternative that does not involve physical travel.

We are interested in asking new questions of the artist residency model, namely: ‘Do you have to be physically present in a place in order to experience it and respond to it as an artist? And 'What kind of relationship with distant places can we develop through an experience mediated by others?'


aTE Virtual is a concept developed by Carly Butler and Gudrun Filipska, offering an alternative to the traditional artist residency model and opening up a space for artists unable or unwilling to travel, to have an immersive relationship with a distant location.

Selected artists will be 'resident' in a location and offered the opportunity to research the area and be introduced to local histories and habitats mirroring the experience they would have as an artist/tourist visiting in person. The artist will be privy to a series of live streamed videos of the location that they will view from their own homes. Through consultation with us they will develop their own explorative itinerary / research schedule which will be facilitated by a team of aTE facilitators and local residents who act as by proxy, eyes, ears on the ground. Artists will create work – which may be material or digital, ephemeral or permanent – in response to their immersive experience.

The concept is being developed as a trial in Ucluelet, Canada and we hope to have Virtual residency hubs around the World in the next few years. Gudrun and Carly have been working collaboratively over the past two years between the UK and Canada, developing a range of work around ideas of artist travel, navigation and technology as proxy. They have never met in person. See The S Project

View from Ucluelet Aquarium - Google Street View.

View from Ucluelet Aquarium - Google Street View.

Quotes and references///

While artists will often take up long term (or sometimes permanent) residence in the areas they wish to depict, they still, for the most part, meet the category of outsider, not simply as someone from elsewhere, but as an individual who has come to partake in the environment; hence, they have come to take something away. In this case, they take away an image entirely informed by their own romantic or septic idea of a place(...)the artist who produces an image of a rural community from outside that community is bringing in a multitude of possibilities of understanding and use for that place—which already has meaning ascribed to it by those who live there. Images become markers of power which delimit and define identities for the subjects they depict as well as those who view the images.
— Page 5 Shifting Rurality American Gothic, Iowa Nice,Biotech and Political Expectations in Rural America William D.Nichols from Landscapes: The Journal of the international Centre for Landscape and language. Vol 8, Issue 1.
For years we’ve been warning against artists ‘parachuting’ into unfamiliar territory.
— Lucy Lippard - Queens Museum / 12th May 2018 / New York / Open Engagement Conference 2018 as documented by Robyn Woolston for the a_n blog
Sustainability” is a fashionable word these days. Many residencies already speak of their interest in sustainability, which often translates to energy-efficient windows and low-flush toilets being installed in studios and artist accommodations. But what if we think of sustainability in a wider sense? Not just residencies but numerous aspects of the art world require travel for temporary events: festivals, installations, symposia and other projects often act as, or incorporate, short-term residencies, with artists setting up for a period of time in a place some distance from home, working on, presenting, or installing a project. Are these events sustainable for the planet, local ecosystems, the local or wider community, or artists’ own careers?
— Escapists and Jet-Setters: Residencies and Sustainability by Laura Kenins, C Magazine, Issue 119
Communications media were used to an advantage by sending telex and telecopier messages from geographic, political and economic peripheries, creating what Ingrid called an aesthetic of distance —a means through which the Company could traverse time and space, inserting its presence in territories that it would otherwise be excluded from.
— From an article by Nancy Shaw about Iain and Ingrid Baxter who throughout their collaboration (1966–1978), utilized the 'N.E. Thing Company'—their incorporated business and artistic project—as a vehicle as a way to investigate domestic artistic, and corporate systems in relation to their everyday life and location.
A stand-in or proxy is a very interesting device. It could be a body double or a stunt double. A scan or a scam. An intermediary in a network. A bot or a decoy. Inflatable tanks or text dummies. A militia deployed in proxy warfare. A template. A readymade. A vectorized bit of stock imagery. All these devices have just one thing in common: they help out with classic dilemmas arising from an economy of presence.
In late September, 1969, five Canadian and two American art workers travelled to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories as a kind of postscript to the exhibition “Place and Process” at the Edmonton Art Gallery(...) A number of conceptual artworks were executed, none of which addressed the political and environmental implications of our brief intrusion, or the plight of the Indigenous inhabitants (Inuit, Dene and Métis), many of whom had been involuntarily relocated from the nearby town of Aklavik...
— Lucy Lippard