In Shanghai, we visited the Swatch Peace Art Hotel residency program, hosted on two full floors of a luxury hotel on the Bund. We spoke with artist Trésor Malaya:
CR: How did you hear about the Swatch Peace Art Hotel residency?
TM: A friend send me the link and told me I could apply. So I started filling out the application but stopped when they asked for an application fee. I didn't want to pay, but I guess the application had already gone through. One month later, I got a phone call saying I was accepted, even if I couldn't pay the application fee. That's how I got here.
[ed. note - the application fee is a donation to Doctors Without Borders]
CR: Did Swatch arrange for and cover your travel and visa?
TM: For me, they arranged everything, bought the plane tickets, helped with the visa and the tickets to and from Congo - they took care of everything.
CR: How has your residency gone so far?
TM: I'm really comfortable here, the working conditions are good, we have this studio, a nice place to work. It's important for an artists to have a good workspace.
CR: What have you been working on here?
TM: I'm working on a body of work about the being and the image. When I look at Swatch, and the city, I find that it's very fitting. There are people everywhere, as soon as I step out the door. I'm in the middle of a very touristic area, but since I'm looking for human interaction and images, it's great. I'm interested in people.
I use images I find and take here, as well as others that I've brought from Africa. I want to try to link both places, Congo and China. I want people to read into my painting like a form of writing. When I make a person with several heads and many eyes, it's to say that I don't see just what's here, I think far.
CR: Did you come with this project in mind, or did you come up with it here?
TM: I wrote up the project before coming, I read about this city online and researched as much as I could. In the end, the proposal I wrote didn't really correspond to a concrete idea but when I got here, I spent a week speaking with people, just talking to people.
CR: Can you tell us more about your process?
TM: If I went right in front of the building, everyone wanted to take a picture with me. So here's what I did: I told them that after they took a picture with me, they should also send it to me. I gave them my email, so this way I received the photo and we shared the experience. That's how I got these portraits I work with.
It's a project that I like because it works so well -- but not at all in the way that I had expected. I thought I was going to go out wandering on huge expeditions to find information, but it was all right here. It's been a good project.
CR: Is six months a good amount of time for this residency?
TM: Six months is a good length for me. I couldn't commit to one or two years because I have other projects to do. I have other residencies lined up and exhibitions in the works. It would be complicated for me to stay longer.
I just had a show in Brussels on march 24th right before I came to Shanghai. After this residency, I'm headed to Argentina then back to France. Afterwards, in 2014, I'm taking part in a festival in Cameroon.
CR: How is China different from other places you've been to and worked in?
TM: Art never had boundaries for me. What you do here isn't for China. China, Asia, Europe, Africa, America, for me it's all the same, there are no boundaries. I can't switch modes. My audience finds itself in all my pieces - I don't want to think that these are 'too China' and these others are 'too Africa' - no matter where they're from. If the work intrigues at least 5 people, then it's a success. But if no one relates to it, then it's a failure.
CR: Has communication been an issue, and has it been easy to meet people?
TM: It's been easy, there are people who speak French, and they translated my texts into English and Chinese. Anything you need, the staff here will do for you.
I've met lots of people and gallery owners. People are nice. It's a little hard since I don't speak English, but we work through email and Google Translate. Even if the translations aren't great, this method works well enough so we can communicate.
CR: How does Swatch compare to other residencies?
TM: This is my third residency, but I can't really compare. Each place has it ways.
This interview was translated and conducted in French by Kira Simon-Kennedy for China Residencies in Shanghai.