How artists’ mobility makes an impact

Not all those who wander are lost, and at a time when freedom of movement is being debated, we’ve collected stories from artists across Europe whose creative travels and mobility have forged bonds, encouraged risk-taking and helped shape their future practice.

Named in honour of the Roman god of gateways, the first ever EU-funded artist mobility scheme i-Portunus lived up to its name in 2019, opening the door for 343 artists to traverse 36 countries to partner with other creators across borders. Much more than simply travel funding, the overall aim was to boost innovation and competitiveness in Europe’s cultural sectors, and all eyes will be on the 343 to see how this develops. The call to action certainly resonated with young and emerging artists seeking a career springboard, with 40% of applicants below the age of 34.

Hear from the creators who took part in i-Portunus’ pilot year…

Sarah Boulter | Based in the UK, travelled to Germany

Tell us about your experience.
I-Portunus mobility funding allowed me to travel by train and back from Manchester in the UK to Chemnitz in Germany where I was invited by Galerie Hinten and the Head of Cultural Affairs for Chemnitz for a residency and solo exhibition. Cultural exchange and collaboration is central to my practice and travelling to Chemnitz allowed me to work closely with local people from my twin city to create a video installation and ceremony intended to draw the European/UK family closer together.

After your mobility, do you feel closer to the ‘European family’ of artists?
This is true but rather than just the family of artists, the family I am referring to is of UK and Europe, not specifically the art bubble. I worked with people from Chemnitz who had a variety of professions: office worker, carpenter, social worker and business woman. These connections did make me feel that the UK/European family was genuinely close, with shared worries, joys, laughs etc. and the experience combated that isolationist point of view that we often encounter in UK. It was therefore a very fruitful, fulfilling project.

Did travelling all the way by train change your approach to sustainability for projects?
I would say yes, the idea of travelling slowly and deliberately is much more appealing. Feeling a tangible distance in moving across a continent is really special and perhaps feels more purposeful and significant than the quick three hour plane journey, not really comprehending the space you are crossing and the separation from your starting point.

I consider this mobility scheme to be one of the most influential steps in my career.

Alica Minarova | Based in Slovakia, travelled to Greece

David Freeman | Based in Belgium, travelled to Portugal

Travelling for five weeks with my collaborator involved an intense period of research and thinking in a different cultural context, brought up new considerations and insights for me surrounding my western-centric cultural references and encouraged me to keep an open mind and think critically about my usual way of working with other people.

Susannah Stark | Based in the UK, travelled to Ukraine

Martina Stella | Based in France, travelled to Tunisia

The goal I set for myself was to take the project to as many places as possible, sell work in progress, find new contacts and new co-productions. All of this has happened.

Fabrizio Solinas | Based in Italy, travelled to France and Belgium

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