We spoke to our Open House Artists in Residence 2019, collective Wright & Vandame. Here’s what Josh Wright (JW) and Guillaume Vandame (GV) had to say about their upcoming work with Kettle’s Yard and North Cambridge.
Introduce yourselves – who are you, how did you meet, why did you want to work together?
GV: We have been working together for about five years and we’ve been best friends for much longer! We had always talked about doing projects together, my background was with art history and writing at SOAS and Josh was studying sculpture at Camberwell. I remember sitting in Berkeley Square once and we talked about the different kinds of art you could make from something political to something abstract like Albert Irvin and the role of the artist. How could you contribute meaningfully to that conversation as an artist working today?
JW: Our work together really began with an interest in the possibilities of collaboration and participation with both individuals and communities. On the one hand we try to address universal themes such as well-being and identity, but on the other hand our art is site-specific and directly related to the needs of the community, environment, or space we work in.
Tell us a little about your work and practice.
GV: Space is a big theme in our art, whether that’s about lost, abandoned, or hidden public or private spaces and transforming what is around us. And then another key part of our practice is about pop culture and art history. I think this comes from our shared love of the world around us.
What was it that attracted you to the Open House programme?
GV: I think what excited us the most about the Open House residency was the chance to work with new audiences. There are few opportunities for artists who work in a socially engaged or collaborative practice and there was something really wonderful and elevated about Kettle’s Yard and North Cambridge. The House is beloved by so many people, it has a place for everyone. Perhaps, it could be a home for us, too.
JW: Kettle’s Yard is one of a kind, Jim Ede’s collection has such a character and there’s such a life and energy to the House. It’s really a dream project to work here.
What have you been up to so far with Open House? Has it been what you expected?
JW: On our first visit to Kettle’s Yard as Artists-in-Residence we spent a great afternoon in the Research Space with the archivist Frieda Midgley. It was such a treat to see some of Jim’s writings and his meticulous cataloguing of his possessions here at Kettle’s Yard. One thing that struck me was that Jim Ede suffered from PTSD from his time in the war and you can certainly see how such a disorder may have contributed to creating such a calming and tranquil setting where every detail is carefully considered.
GV: Whilst working at the Arbury Carnival, we transformed the tent into a hot pink and blue cloud, repurposed with spray paint from the el Seed mural. We invited Jen to lead a Jazzercise class, which was less novelty and more fresh, like a dance class with pop music. We had everyone from children to grandparents taking part — it was packed!
How does working with other people and communities affect your work and processes?
GV: It has always come naturally to work with other people. One of the things we’ve learned is how to work with different timeframes and situations to enable ideas to come through and let participants have their voice heard. We’ve worked hard to elevate this kind of art, which would otherwise be seen as less than in an art historical context. It’s not about something high or low, good or bad. It’s about embracing something organic about the creative process, just to be able to say, it is what it is.
JW: Working with other people makes our projects all the richer and multi-faceted. As artists working within a particular place such as North Cambridge, you become hyper aware that you’re very much an outsider. Only through meaningful conversations and authentic collaboration with the local community can you really get to the heart of what the people want and need.
Is there any new information you can share about your final Open House project? What can we look forward to?
JW: At this stage we’re really looking to immerse ourselves in the many communities of North Cambridge. Without them their wouldn’t be a project at all!
GV: I think one of the things I’ve loved so much is how responsive the team at Kettle’s Yard have been to us and responding to our ideas, while encouraging us to think what works and how to get to know the community better. We want to look at mindfulness and well-being and tap into the ‘living’ nature of the House to create some kind of space where visitors can be hands-on and have total ownership to de-stress, relax, and release. In the spirit of Open House, we hope that whatever we do can be both playful and participatory and inclusive of the different needs of the residents in North Cambridge.