We spoke with artists Wright & Vandame about their practice and the Project Space exhibition, Pavilion of Change, which opens on Friday 30 November.
Hi Josh and Guillaume! Can you introduce yourselves and tell us a bit more about your practice?
JW: We’ve been friends for over five years now, after meeting at an art opening in South London. One day we decided on an idea for an exhibition and were fortunate enough to have met the independent curator Fatoş Ustek who saw our vision and really pushed us to interrogate our practice. Fatoş programmed our exhibition as part of fig-2 in September 2015 at the ICA and we’ve been working together ever since.
GV: On one hand our art is rootless and can happen anywhere and on the other hand our art is site-specific and directly related to the needs of the community, environment, or space we work in. Some of our more recent projects have included hosting a participatory Thanksgiving Dinner in Wimbledon and our residency at Photofusion in Brixton where we worked intensively with local residents on Railton Road to explore the street's history and changes through archival photography and new photographs made by the participants.
How did you first get involved with MK Gallery?
GV: We wanted to be part of wider community of socially engaged artists and collectives. I was familiar with the exhibition How to Construct a Time Machine at MK Gallery, but hadn't been before. We had initially applied to be part of a project with another collective at MK Gallery, something we had always dreamed about doing, and we were recommended to be part of the Associate Artists scheme in the autumn 2016.
JW: Through becoming Associate Artists we’ve had such a greater appreciation for the work MK Gallery does within the local community. We’ve been involved with various projects with the Learning team, most recently a series of workshops with the young people of The Warren Estate in Bletchley. I like to think that these experiences have shaped the direction with the Pavilion of Change and we hope to welcome them all to see what we’ve been up to.
Your December Project Space exhibition is based on a found archival image of Milton Keynes. Can you tell us a little bit more about the image and how this inspired the exhibition?
JW: It’s over two years ago now since I stumbled across the image in the British Library. We had just been invited to become Associate Artists with the gallery and there was such a buzz around the 50th anniversary of Milton Keynes and I was curious to uncover more. I wasn’t really looking for anything and I was just struck by this beautiful image with this sign ‘Changed Priorities Ahead’. It really resonated with the history of Milton Keynes but also the future of MK Gallery and this new step in the gallery’s history. I shared it with Guillaume and that was it, we just got so excited by the power and potential of remaking the sign.
GV: Artists work in different ways and, in this case, we worked backwards. We had this image, which inspired this public sculpture, and when we were offered to take over the Project Space, we began to deconstruct the sign and its message in a way that could be experiential. That is how we came up with the Pavilion of Change.
What can we expect from the exhibition?
GV: We hope that the Pavilion of Change can explore ideas of change in complex and challenging ways. There are three key elements to the exhibition. The first is a rotating hang of new work by ourselves. These works of art will change throughout the show but we won’t disclose when. In some ways, the works of art will become active participants in the show and have a life of their own entering and leaving the exhibition.
The second element is a series of seven new artist commissions. By creating this series of commissions, exclusively for the Associate Artists at MK Gallery, we hope to give something back to the artists we have come to know as friends in the past two years through the opportunity to make new work.
Thirdly, we will have a lively public programme with talks, screenings and workshops. We are hosting a couple of Saturday Studio sessions, which will create artworks for the exhibition and new conversations prompting questions about change, arts education, and MK Gallery's future. Ultimately, we want the exhibition to be about change and embody change in ways that are personal, political, spiritual, and even universal. After all, the only constant is change.
Are there any events planned?
JW: Absolutely! One element we’re really excited by is the weekly Saturday Studios. It’s a format that’s very familiar to people, a weekend family drop-in session but we wanted to twist it in someway. In questioning what does learning programme look like? We started to think about how instead of the learning sessions responding to an exhibition what if they could shape and inform them?
We are pitching this as the most active exhibition the Project Space has seen! Every day the Pavilion of Change is open there’ll be something new happening.