In the lead up to our Open Studio Night on Tuesday 18th October our resident artists caught up to find out a little more about each other and talk artistic practice and influences.
MJT | How did The Welcome Collective come about?
WC | We met while studying fine art in Dijon, France and for a number of years our practices where individual but greatly supported by each other’s input. Over time, it became less and less clear where the line between one persons practice ended and the other began and our work became collaborative quite naturally. Eventually we officially formed the Welcome Collective which broadly speaking explores ‘welcoming’ whether that be an exploration of domestic architectural history, research into contemporary themes of war, displacement and immigration or a formal investigation of the materials of feminist art.
MJT | What has inspired your interest in architecture and industrial environments?
WC | Hannah’s practice has its roots in architectural history, she studied fine art and the history of art and architecture so the academic component stems from her. That has fed the formal interest of the collective, particularly in the form of domestic architecture, which is both visually familiar and steeped in problematic and interesting histories; feminist, socio-economic, political. When they met, Aaron was conducting a formal investigation into contemporary domestic environments, through print media he studied the materiality of the home with a focus on artificial replicas and simulacrum. The joint interests led to a broader consideration of the built environment and its power to hold cultural history, memory and simply, our daily lives.
MJT | I am curious about the use of concrete and clay as raw materials in your work. What makes concrete and clay significant materials for you?
WC | We are interested in the juxtaposition of the materials, which are both significant to the built and domestic environments. We are exploring the loaded meaning in the materials. Concrete epitomises 20th century modernist architecture, the white, male architect constructing monolithic housing developments for the masses, clay on the other hand, is synonymous with the female potter, the craftsperson, the hobbyist or the ‘exotic’ or naive cultural artefact. Side by side the materials alone have been imbued with the suggestions of interior and exterior, male and female, strength and fragility, structure and decoration. It is interesting to combine these materials, to turn them on their heads, to make teacups from concrete and shelters from clay. In the end from a formalist perspective, the pitted surface of concrete, the deep red of clay, the materials in their simplest form are beautiful. Art is at its most powerful when its materials are beautiful.
MJT | Can you tell us more about the project ‘Everybody Loves to Watch Buildings Fall’ that you are developing and is this an extension of the video work with the same title, that you recently showed at Seventh in Melbourne?
WC | In a sense this is a continuation of previous projects, sometimes it is interesting to stay with something for a long time, to constantly reconsider the same thing. To come to the beginning of a project which in some sense we have already completed forces us to relook. It can be quite a painful thing but it means that the outcome is stronger, that there is growth and that the subject is pushed beyond your original expectations. The work we are developing is in response to the meaning of collapse, there’s lots to explore when we look into crumbling buildings. Contemporary media representations of war often focus on architectural devastation, which comes to symbolise the devastation of cultures, communities and collective memory. There’s something compelling about watching falling buildings and there’s a certain beauty in the debris, which is troubling when we consider that the beauty is a result of terror, pain and loss and of inevitable displacement. We don’t have an intended outcome for the project, instead it is an incredible luxury to simply have the time and space to explore something and see where it leads.
MJT | Which artists have influenced your interests or practice?
WC | Because our practice is not medium specific, but instead seeks to utilise the right materials at the right time, our visual research spans a huge breadth. We consider seminal architects such as Le Corbusier, Mies Van De Rohe and Alison and Peter Smithson. Our ceramics take great inspiration from the short-lived Bauhaus potters of the Weimar period and many contemporary Japanese ceramicists. For installations we often look back at Liam Gillick and the 1980’s YBA’s and Rikrit Tiravanija who inspired our most recent installation Change of State where we served tea to visitors from handmade ceramics.
MJT | What are you reading now?
WC | Hannah is reading Architecture and Feminism, although it is a re-read from a few years ago when she was writing her Honours dissertation. There’s a couple of really interesting essays in there, one about Niki De Saint Phalle’s Hon Katedral, a massive walk-through space whose structure was the shape of a woman reclining but whom you entered through the vagina. Aaron has just finished Architecture and Armed Conflict, the Politics of Destruction. The crumbling of buildings through conflict is an element which is informing our residency here at PICA.
MJT | If you could take up an artistic residency anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
WC | We’d love to go to Detroit, it’s an incredibly troubled area with the greatest number of abandoned houses of any city in America and some incredible, monolithic abandoned factories and warehouses. Its industrial infrastructure is just desolate and hauntingly it’s happening to many towns across the States and it would be interesting to explore the abandoned domestic settings and what aura those buildings hold.
MJT | What are The Welcome Collective’s plans for the future?
WC | We would like to travel and explore some international residencies. We are also very humbly taking more lessons in ceramics and textiles from some fantastic teachers so that our future work becomes more refined in skill. One of the joys of practicing in the visual arts is the excuse to learn loads of new skills, to start from the beginning with something and watch as new learning shapes our practice.