Anna Best is a Bridport based artist whose work covers a range of media including publishing books, broadsheets and websites, as well as film and video.
She has also worked internationally including USA, France, Poland and Holland. Last year Anna returned to work on a residential in Croatia, which was funded by the Arts Council England and British Council Artist International Development Fund.
Anna shares her experience and tips on how to work internationally as an artist.
How did the residential in Croatia come about?
I had been to Croatia previously on a residency which started my interest in film-making. I wanted to develop my ideas and connections in Split, do more filming and develop relationships towards future exhibitions in another country. Over the last 20 years, since I first went to Zagreb I have built on my contacts and connections with artists I knew there.
This time, I wanted to build on the relationships with Split University and the city gallery – Galerija Umjetnina. I was very fortunate to be given accommodation in the curator’s space in the city gallery in the heart of Split, so I was completely immersed in the place and the curators working there. This helped for meetings and and informal connections.
Why do you think it is important to work internationally?
I think it’s really important for an artist to be outside their own context and country, out in the world, even more in these difficult times of tight borders.
We all need to understand and learn about other places and people. On my second trip to Croatia, I learnt more about the place and understood its context and politics a lot more as I was focusing on meeting people rather than making new work. I went to everything that was on, including a two hour lecture without understanding a word! But a local artist found me there and this absurd situation of mine got us chatting and led to new connections.
Tell us a bit more about your current piece
The film I am working on is called PlasticWaterStone – exploring many things through the interaction of those elements. The project highlights the fact that Portland’s white limestone is much the same limestone now heavily quarried in Croatia. I refer to the use of the stone in buildings of power such as the White House and Bank of England and the geological time scale in the stone’s formation. Once it is finished, I am hopeful it will be screened in an art space in Split.
What were the challenges for you working internationally?
The challenge is always the same – how to be out in the world. It takes a lot of energy, confidence, funds, administration, and chutzpah (ed:Self Confidence)!
As an independent artist it is difficult to make connections with institutions abroad.
Funders and residential programmes will ask you –
who do you work with?
Not being connected with an institution or a gallery or even a known place (London for example) makes it harder for new people to place you or your practice.
I find it difficult to operate as an individual without either a geographical context, university connection or gallery representation. But I have used existing connections to make a link with Plymouth University for the planned residential project for example.
How has working on this residency helped your practice?
I can’t underestimate the importance of always building your network and connections outside of your own area, as well as following what interests you. This is one of the huge unsung parts of the work of being an artist.
When I wrote my application to the Arts Council and British Council Artist International Development Fund (AIDF), I included in the budget some mentoring and that has been enormously beneficial to my practice. Having someone who knows about artists’ moving image to give me critical feedback, asking challenging questions, pushing me, suggesting who to show my work to, is very helpful.
And of course having the AIDF grant helps me to ask them to visit me! I was able to able to pay for a day’s work with Moving Image curator Lucy Reynolds who has worked with LUX, an international charity based in London that supports artist moving image projects.
What is your advice to other artists wanting to work internationally?
- Think about where you want to go, who to work with and why. Find a way of placing yourself on a map or in a context for your audience.
- Use social media to develop connections and create meeting opportunities.
- Look for interesting places to study. For example, I went to Rijksakademie in Amsterdam many years ago, but there are opportunities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden where the English language is used and can be possible to travel to on a part-time course.
- Research residencies and symposia abroad so you can live and work somewhere else. I worked in the USA, France, Poland, and Holland on this basis. Apply to go then try to get the funds – use one opportunity to generate another. It is important to find funding that fits what you want to do, not the other way round.
- Take advantage of support too – The Arts Development Company’s advice with writing this funding bid was really helpful. I also asked Somerset Art Works, who I had recently worked for, to read through my funding application.
- Lastly, always reflect on your progress. It can feel like you haven’t achieved much but an introduction in a corridor can lead to great things…. one step leads to another!
To find out more about Anna Best and her work visit her website here
If you are interested in funded working internationally, the British Council regularly publicise opportunities for working internationally, sign up here for their arts newsletter.
For residencies opportunities, check out res artis.
If you have a particular country that you are interested in working in, check out their embassy’s website which might provide you with information on a cultural organisations that works on international relations.