A Blurring Line Between Traveling and Exploiting
by Brittany Arrendondo
In recent years, the rise of Airbnb has provided travelers with a unique way to experience different cultures and communities. However, as we reflect on the intersection of Airbnb and artist residencies, the line between traveling and exploiting has blurred. We need to examine the underlying complexities and potential for colonial dynamics that this sharing economy model presents.
The Airbnb Effect
At first glance, it seems Airbnb offers a promising platform for artists seeking alternative and affordable accommodations for their residencies. It offers new environments for exploration, including immersing yourself in neighborhoods away from tourism. This accessibility can be valuable for artists seeking inspiration and new perspectives.
Identity, Gentrification, and Commodification
However, we must also acknowledge the layers of identity, gentrification, and commodification that arise from the expansion of Airbnb’s influence. The influx of tourists into local communities can disrupt the everyday life and cultural fabric of those neighborhoods. As artist residencies become intertwined with the short-term rental market, their mission is also at risk. The economic forces behind Airbnb can significantly contribute to misleading expectations of community engagement. All of this leads to gentrification, displacement and exacerbation of social inequalities.
Power Dynamics and Cultural Appropriation
Artists from more privileged backgrounds, have the means to travel, some times choosing the comfort of Airbnb over artist residencies. In other instances, a tourist expectation is transferred into artist residencies, disregarding and endangering communities. In that sense, power dynamics and issues of cultural appropriation arise when artists engage with Airbnb assumptions within the context of artist residencies. This kind of cultural tourism reinforces a colonial mentality, where artists from colonizing or privileged backgrounds exploit local culture for their own artistic endeavors without understanding or respecting the historical and cultural context.
Rethinking Artist Residencies in the Airbnb Era
In light of these concerns, it is crucial to rethink the nature and purpose of artist residencies in the age of Airbnb. Residency programs should actively engage with the communities they are located in, being able to create profound connections and beyond surface-level interactions. Collaboration with local artists, cultural institutions, and community organizations can help foster more inclusive and reciprocal relationships. Transparency and accountability also play a key role. Residencies should actively address the impact of their presence and work towards reducing any negative effects on local communities. This could involve creating projects that directly benefit the community, offering learning opportunities, or supporting local jobs in the arts.
Moving Towards Responsibility and Collaboration
While the Airbnb model is a challenge, it can also be an opportunity for artist residencies to engage in critical conversations on colonialism and power dynamics within the art world. Looking at tourism as a system that allows exploitation, we could challenge models like Airbnb, by supporting arts organizations. Airbnbs are not residencies, even if they allow artists to live in neighborhoods far away from tourism. We should strive towards more responsible and community-focused models that prioritize cultural collaboration, social accountability, and a genuine exchange of ideas and experiences.
Let us seize this opportunity to reimagine artist residencies in ways that respect and empower local communities, allowing for a more inclusive and equitable artistic future.