Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Meet, Quynh Vantu

How would you describe your art practice?
My practice is at the intersection of art and architecture. I formally trained as an architect and worked a number of years in a more traditional architecture practice in the United States. I love architecture but I always asked myself if there was an alternative way of working in the profession of architecture. I also really missed getting my hands dirty and working with materials since most of the time spent in the architecture office was mainly on the computer. I was able to explore more of a studio arts practice when I went to graduate school at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Although I was within the architecture department, the school was an art academy and there was a lot of cross-pollination from the various departments. It was a consciously small school giving each student much more space to work and construct 1:1. I started using the form of the installation as a way for spatial experimentation, as a work of architecture takes a considerably longer timeframe to come to fruition. It really was a great time to ask questions through the work itself.

What is your usual working process?
Having the strong architecture foundation, I would say I do have a tendency to still work in a similar manner as I would with setting out a project program or brief. But with that said, I also have the liberty of creating that brief and making the problems I then try to solve. It is a back and forth process between problem making and problem solving and that is really what I enjoy about being in-between architecture and art. I like to work with a site or some sort of limits. I am interested in both the hand and digital processes and utilize both when working on a project, whether in construction methods, computer modeling or hand drafting. And I consider myself a planner and organizer, years of working in architecture and predicting and planning schedules really has assisted me in seeking out these larger projects that I do much of the physical and mental labor myself. I do also enjoy collaboration as well, since within architecture, it is also a very collaborative process. When it is necessary I do enjoy working with a team and have a deep respect for skilled craftsmen. I welcome learning new skills and try to let the work be free of only my own skill sets so that the work is not tied to one medium or process.

How important is the place or site where you practice your art?

I am certainly affected by the place that I practice within. With opportunities such as this, as an artist-in-resident at Norrköping AIR, I feel that traveling and living within a new culture that is not your own brings about awareness for the everyday practice of life within that environment. Not only through the culture but also the natural and physical phenomenon of a place as well. Sometimes the material resources differ from place to place, dictating and inspiring some decisions on certain projects to construct. I enjoy adapting to these conditions and experimenting with what is around me.

Can you describe an encounter with one or more members of your audience that have inspired you particularly in your artistic practice?
I can say that I really enjoy observing the audience participating with my work. The work becomes the conversation with the public. Like architecture, these works, when they exist in the world, have to speak for themselves. Sometimes the works say different things to different people and that is what I like observing. To see someone in the mode of discovery and conversation with a work is really exciting as well as enlightening to me. I think the part of me that is an architect tries to predict how people will engage and perform with the work, but the artist in me wants to just observe and see how people interact. I always learn from seeing the work in a sense come to life, and how the public responds.

What would you like to get out from a residency?
The residency is a great platform for artists to continue practicing and making work. For myself, who makes work that is usually outside of the typical gallery setting, it is a way to continue my art practice and research without relying on the work as a commodity, but rather a way to use the work to ask critical questions through these spatial installations. A residency also gives one an opportunity to engage among a peer of like-minded individuals that can stimulate and bring a critical discourse to your work. In addition to the new community, a new setting, culture and environment is also a source of inspiration. During my time at Norrköping AIR, I wish to discover the Scandinavian architecture that I have only studied in books, as experiencing architecture brings about such a different understanding of a place. I will also be creating a new work of architectural interventions within some existing spaces in Norrköping, perhaps both inside and outside. I hope the work will make you pause, contemplate and question your interaction of the built environment.

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