Programme: Art - PhD/MPhil

Start date: January 2016

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: Rethinking Epistemologies: Mobility, Hospitality and Cultural Exchange in the Maghreb

Pau Cata has been working in the cultural field as facilitator and curator for more than 10 years. He completed his degree in Contemporary History at the University of Barcelona in 2004 with awarded Erasmus in Italy and Greece. In the same year, he moved to London where he worked at The British Museum and the White Cube Gallery while completing a Diploma in Arts Management at Birkbeck College, participated in different courses on curating at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design and created the curatorial partnership Nomadic Projects.

He has an MA in Critical Arts Management and Media Cultural Studies by LSBU for which he was awarded a Distinction and the Course Director Price for Outstanding Achievement. Since 2009 he is the founder director of CeRCCa, Center for Research and Creativity Casamarles, an AIR Program and research center outside of Barcelona.

As part of his job he has been involved in numerous research projects in the field of artists mobility and Artists in Residence Programs and has curated more than 12 exhibitions. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at University of Edinburgh and co-coordinator of ‘NACMM / North Africa Cultural Mobility Map, Platform HARAKAT and KIBRIT.

Since the 1990s, artist in residency programmes (AIRs) have expanded globally, becoming a key aspect of the contemporary artists’ curricula. This expansion is both encouraged and celebrated as the natural outcome of the success of artistic encounters commonly developing through mobility, hospitality and cultural exchange. Whilst acknowledging their enormous contributions, this research unfolds a critique of AIRs’ global expansion in order to give voice to alternative models that have been either ignored or placed at its periphery.

One possible avenue through which to start thinking about AIRs from an intercultural perspective is if we investigate the ways in which AIR development is explained. Looking at the contemporary historiography of the AIR phenomenon we see that the history of AIRs is narrated as a process which expanded ‘from the West to the rest’. What this research will argue is that this account simply neglects the traditions of mobility, hospitality and cultural exchange which are ingrained and alive in different geographies and cultures worldwide. My argument is that it is only through engagement in these other traditions that a more inclusive and context-responsive AIR model can flourish.

The potentialities of AIRs in fostering cultural diversity and intercultural understanding will be the key aspects of this research. Instead of looking at the European context, though, this investigation will focus on AIR development in the Arab world, and more particularly in the Maghreb region. The aim of this endeavour will be to think about AIRs both through historical and contemporary perspectives in relation to the social, political and cultural contexts of the region. What are the historical and epistemological foundations of AIRs? How are terms such as mobility, hospitality and cultural exchange defined and practiced? And what are the traditions that shape these practices in the Maghreb? Are AIRs a western import or can we imagine new historiographies of AIRs which expand the very definition of what art is? These are some of the questions that this research will attempt to respond to.

Pau Cata’s PhD research is granted by the OSIC, SGSAH and ECA. An important part of his research methodology is the development of The North Africa Cultural Mobility Map, a research and information platform developed in collaboration with several organisations in North Africa. The project has been presented at the Transcultural Exchange Conference in Boston and as part of Focus Maghreb at SWAB Barcelona International Art Fair, and is supported by the ALF Project grants (2016/2017).