In 2014, whilst completing my BVA at Adelaide Central School of Art, I packed myself off to the Sydney Biennale - You Imagine What you Desire. This was the first time I had travelled solely with my art practice in mind and I returned from this trip with a new found clarity and ambition. This experience cemented the importance of travel in my mind as a pause for re-invigorating ideas and directions; as a reminder for what else is possible given scale and platforms.
In commencing my honours year, I took some well heeded advice about making plans for your first year out of art school in order to avoid the ‘post art school blues’. In doing my research, I came across a residency in Marseille (France) that caught my interest as a possible locational fit for my practice:
Marseille is a historic and industrial port town that has recently undergone significant gentrification, particularly in regards to accessing the port.
My practice sustains an interest in ways in which humans experience and interact with oceanic thresholds, such as the port.
I emailed the residency group, Dos Mares, pitching the idea of a three week research residency as the scale and kinetics of the works I produce are not conducive to working overseas. Instead, the result of the residency would be a series of pieces of writing as a way to record and build associations with the embodied research I would be undertaking. Writing plays an important part in tracing the process-based nature of my practice. This particular writing exercise would act as a platform for making on return to Australia for future exhibitions. With an encouraging response from Dos Mares, I applied for the Adelaide Festival of Arts’ Destination Art: Emirates Artist Development Opportunity in order to assist me in undertaking this professional development venture. I was astonished when this also came through. Suddenly my first year out of art school was gathering momentum.
Whilst in residence at Dos Mares in Marseille a year later, I quickly discovered that three weeks wasn't long enough to achieve what I had initially set out to do. It wasn’t just an overseas trip with the primary focus being art. There were the expectations of the residency group, meetings, networking and the looming deadline of having something to show in an open studio event on the final day of the residency. I spent the first week settling in, visiting galleries and and coming up with a plan to tackle the remaining two weeks. During the second week I began to panic about where I could actually find materials I needed to put something together for the open studio event. It wasn’t until the third week I actually ventured out and began doing the things I had initially planned on doing and experiencing as fodder for future work.
I questioned myself fairly early on in this process as to why I had centred this residency around the port, and apart from the obvious connections of a hub of marine industry or the port as a human construct/ controlled environment, as a threshold between land dwelling and seafaring, what I realised surprised me. In my notebook I wrote:
Is it because I don’t think I can go sailing so the port will be the closest I get to the culture and water?
At this point I realised I had trapped myself into being a spectator. ‘It is true that what the spectator sees is his past, insofar as he has been able to become a spectator at all, to learn to love the ‘wisdom’ of a standpoint withdrawn from life. But what he also sees lies before him in the future …’ 
From previous experience I knew that organising to keep a sailing practice in a foreign country would be a difficult or costly venture from which I wanted more than just a joy ride. I had taken comfort in the port as a gateway of sorts between the two spaces and allowed it to become my primary focus. The resulting works produced during this residency included two photographic ventures and one 3-dimensional drawing.
In a quick move to kick start my documentation of the port of Marseille, I took two photos of the port standing in the same spot each day on the Quai de Rive Neuve, one photo facing north-east and the other facing south-west (click through photos below for examples). I chose outlooks which initially surprised me; where boat building craft separated itself from the mainland masses and a polar view where the newly purposed Quai de la Fraternité continued to shift away from a multi lane traffic jam towards tourism hub. The purpose of this initial move was an attempt at place-making and documenting phenomenological and sociological shifts relevant to the duration of the residency.
The second photographic move I attempted had a more direct outcome, where I walked and photographed the perimeter of the port using disposable cameras. The disposable camera gave me the label of a tourist, however, also eliminated editing the photographic process on my part - I couldn't re-take a shot if joggers got in my way. I wanted this to be an honest panoramic documentation of a very specific time and day. Once the photos were developed I hung them in my studio (which conveniently already mirrored the port’s shape) in order to bring my reason for being in Marseille into the studio space. This hang also inverted the port space and aimed to question spectatorship and my standpoint anchored by the dock.
Comparatively the 3-dimensional process based drawing consolidated much of my research. During my stay in France I had been introduced to a number of rigging crafts, Phocean sewn boats (Gyptis) and numerous varieties of boats I had never seen before. For a period of my residency I worked towards a collaboration with Argentinian artist Pablo Mendez. We documented, through film, our interactions with people and their boats in port. However, the time available didn’t allow us to bring anything to a resolve. Instead, my 3-dimensional drawing took from the craft and rigging observed during these outings. This drawing made use of sailmaker’s thread as a tool for me to draw some of this rigging from memory and attempt to make sense of it from my own knowledge base. All three of my moves also sat within my thinking around a remark made by artist Roni Horn: ‘The floor is an interesting form because it’s a structural necessity but also an interface between personal, visceral, physical reality and geology, geography and what’s out there. It’s the place where you connect yourself to the globe.’  The floor of a boat or a pontoon, however, acts as a constructed floating piece of human space enabling seafaring.
As I reflect on the outcomes of one residency and am about to embark on another, I realise residencies are more than just a travel opportunity. They provide a space to re-connect with the deep seeded origins of your practice. On occasion, we get too caught up in our studios and forget why we are making in the first place - this is a reality as my work is borne of oceanic space and my embodied experience of it. There is no substitute for the learning that occurs when putting yourself out of your comfort zone in a way a residency necessitates. I believe residencies and travel will hold a place in my practice as a method for rejuvenating ideas, learning intricacies and motivating new work for as long as I am making.
‘… travelling itself is knowledge, it lays stress on her active engagement, recognising phenomena as the result of her intention to explore.’ 
 Hans Blumenberg, Shipwreck with Spectator: Paradigm of a Metaphor for Existence, The MIT Press, Massachusetts, 1997.p. 63
 Louise Neri. et al. Roni Horn, Phaidon Press Limited, London, 2000, p. 139
 Louise Neri. et al. Roni Horn, Phaidon Press Limited, London, 2000, p. 60
Edwina Cooper has undertaken the following residencies:
Dos Mares, Marseille, France (May/June 2016)
Supported by Adelaide Festival of Arts’ Destination Art: Emirates Artist Development Opportunity
Residency blog: http://2mares.tumblr.com/post/146258178224/edwina-cooper-australie-1-juin-22-juin-2016
Submerge Research Residency, Ayatana Artists' Research Program, Canada (July 2017)
This activity is proudly supported by the Adelaide Central School of Art Graduate Support Program
The outcomes and new work as a result of her residency with Dos Mares were exhibited at FELTspace, Adelaide in November 2016 (Port-all)
The outcomes and new work as a result of her result of both residencies (Dos Mares, Marseille and Submerge, Canada) will be exhibited at ACE Open, Adelaide 23 September - 14 October 2017 and Sawtooth ARI Launceston 1 December - 23rd December 2017.