VRN 2022
Encounters with the urban night

3rd International Residency Conference, Estonia 2022

Janus am I; oldest of potentates! Forward I look and backward and below I count as god of avenues and gates The years that through my portals come and go.

The descent of darkness, the arrival of sleep, the suspension of work mark [nighttime] as a time of fear, of rest and of dreaming. Such a crucial ordering – night following day – makes it, as with all boundaries, a site of transgression. It is a space and time of the other; the other self, other people, and the other economy, but it is also a space of encounter with this other.

The Visual Research Network, in association with the Estonian National Museum, held the 3rd edition of the VRN residency and conference in Tartu, Estonia from June 12th to June 19th, 2022. With the theme of Urban Night, researchers and creative practitioners were invited to engage with the alternative dimensions of the urban, as encountered in their research, fieldwork or artistic productions and through an expansive framing of cultural, social, behavioural and sensorial phenomena.

The Estonian National Museum in Tartu hosted both the residency (June 12th–17th) and the conference (June 18th–19th), where we were joined by filmmaker and ethnographer Jeff Silva in the role of primary residency facilitator, and associate professor of anthropology at the University of Tallinn Carlo Cubero, as keynote speaker, respectively. The event anticipates a future exhibition in the museum on the diverse meanings of the Estonian urban night, currently being planned for 2024, with the work produced in the VRN residency or presented in the conference potentially being part of the exhibition. 


Evoking the form of the dual–faced Roman God Janus, we sought inspiration from a binary of night and day that speaks to divisions of diurnal and nocturnal identities, transitions in general, thresholds and tipping points, the human in relation to the astronomical, the passing of years and seasons, the continuous or discrete perception of existence, and the beginnings of or emergence from conflict, pleasure, silence etc. With pandemic–related restrictions being recently lifted around the world, the VRN invited researchers and practitioners to Tartu for the residency just before summer solstice and the shortest night of the year, to study and create sensory films of the urban night in a moment of resurgence and to have these films presented at the museum and during the conference. The conference that followed showcased further films and research presentations bringing together the themes of alterity, identity and sensoriality within a larger context of the nocturnal. Through our format of residency and conference side-by-side, we were able to explore various approaches to both theory and practice, with each shaping and influencing the other through a cycle of action and reflection.


Event Location

Estonian National Museum

he Estonian National Museum, which has produced anthropological documentary films and research footage since the 1960s, is a centre for essentially ethnological but increasingly multidisciplinary research, a mediator of diverse ideas and values that mixes traditional methods with innovative approaches in scientific research as well as exhibition-making. The residency and conference are planned in close connection with the ENM and they have kindly made a contribution of filming equipment, an editing suite, screening rooms and other facilities to be used throughout the event.

Find out more at: https://www.erm.ee/en

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