HerMap: Transforming Artist Residencies into Digital Platforms

How to transform an artist residency into a digital experience and platform, facilitating the exchange between artists and helping them to translate their concepts into digital artworks.
The challenge:

In the face of the pandemic, the HerMaP Iran - Cultural Heritage Management Project underwent a significant transformation. Originally designed as a 5-year initiative to promote cultural heritage in Iran, particularly focusing on its value and potential for social development, the project included an artistic research residency program connecting Iran and Europe, managed by Bozar and the Goethe-Institut.

However, the pandemic forced a complete shift to a digital format. The artists' visits to sites of interest in Iran were suspended, and in-person exhibitions canceled, necessitating the migration of artists' works to digital platforms. Additionally, coordination between participating institutions had to be conducted remotely. The question arose: could the residency paradigm be entirely reimagined?

Our approach:

To tackle this challenge, we developed a methodology to support artists in digitally developing their works. Establishing stable communication channels between diverse locations and stakeholders was crucial. We closely collaborated with resident artists, documentation teams, the German embassy in Iran, and local supporters to guide artists in reconceptualizing their work for digital mediums. Our focus was on assisting artists in presenting their works digitally and creating unique digital pieces within time constraints.

The key insight:

Clear communication is paramount when working across diverse cultural contexts, especially in remote exchanges during artistic production. We prioritized creating safe spaces for information exchange, facilitated by user-friendly technologies, to empower existing communities.

The outcome:
  1. Our efforts included the creation of 30 online digital experiences and archives spanning both phases of HerMaP. These phases covered industrial sites, living archives, creative music heritage, and classic Iranian poetry, showcasing digital-first works specifically tailored for the new digital residency format.
  1. Moreover, despite the challenges, physical exhibitions were successfully organized. The first phase was exhibited at Bozar headquarters in Brussels, designed remotely. The conclusion of the second phase was marked by an in-person gathering in Brussels, where we facilitated workshops, conducted social listening sessions, and analyzed social data to inform future project directions.
  1. Additionally, we partnered with Akord to archive the entire HerMaP project on the Arweave blockchain. This initiative transformed the residency's outcomes into digital heritage artifacts, ensuring their longevity and integrity. Leveraging blockchain technology, we have pioneered new methods of digital heritage preservation, safeguarding the artistic contributions for future generations.
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