with Wells Fray-Smith
‘The physical gatherings were important to this work to bring the building back to life by physically inhabiting it, being in the space, and reperforming images found in the building, and the social aspect of filmmaking. It was also important for me when editing and making the film itself.’
What are you showing inThe London Open 2022?
I am showing a video piece exploring my experiences at the An Viet Foundation in 2018. I interweaved found footage, documentary-like approaches and spoken text, working alongside a range of collaborators, objects, archival materials and music.
How did you come to learn about Vu Khanh Thanh and the An Viet Foundation?
I came to know about the An Viet Foundation through my friend Hau-Yu, who was studying at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) but also a community campaigner and activist. Hau-Yu introduced me to the Foundation around Christmas of 2017. She asked me if I wanted to volunteer to help clean and tidy the building as it was empty and she had access. Whilst in the building we were rummaging through the Southeast Asian library there and she told me about the founder, Vu Khanh Thanh’s autobiography. Reading his autobiography and walking through the building felt really powerful because it was written in the first person and his writing was very vivid. There is something quite powerful about reading in relation to the place it is written about, it felt like I was connected to an ongoing drama.
An Viet (Well Settled) (2018) uses archival footage from the BBC to discuss contemporary issues of migration, trauma and the politics related to immigration. We see, for example, overcrowded boats of migrants leaving Vietnam. Why was picturing dislocation important for you in this film?
It was important for me to revisit and keep unedited segments of the BBC report within my film to provide context and background story of what has changed since then.
Participation, social gathering and community is also a large part of your practice. Can you tell us more about how physical gatherings featured in the making of this work?
The physical gatherings were important to this work to bring the building back to life by physically inhabiting it, being in the space, and reperforming images found in the building, and the social aspect of filmmaking. It was also important for me when editing and making the film itself. I actually set up my mac computer in the Southeast Asian library at the An Viet Foundation and made my film there in situ. Making work in the context felt really powerful as I felt connected to its history. Often I would work late without realising and sleep over in the building. It felt like a home and a space to dream, to hang out and play music.
Work in the exhibition:
An Viet (Well Settled), 2018
HD video, stereo sound
Will Pham (1990, London, UK)
2018 Postgraduate Fine Art, Royal Academy Schools, London
2013 BA Fine Art, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London
2012 Exchange Programme, Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Vancouver
Selected exhibitions: Movement, Skelf (online) (2021); Nàng Tu Do – The Archive of Art in the Camps (Garden Streams) and the Traces of Vietnamese Boat People in Hong Kong, CUHK, Hong Kong (2020); Little Vietnam, Turf Projects, London (solo) (2019); Resettled Spaces,
An Viet Housing Association, London (2019); The Lands Of, The Reef, Los Angeles (2019); An Viet (Well Settled), Taipei Artist Village, Taiwan; Asia Art Activism, Raven Row, London (2019); Recreative, South London Gallery, London (2019)
What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?
This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.
Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.
The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.
The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.
The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.
Gallery 1, Downstairs
The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.
Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.
Gallery 9, Upstairs
This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free 2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.
Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.
Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?
Gallery 8, Upstairs
The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.
Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.
On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.
The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.
Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.
See the full list of works here.
An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.
Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.