Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier’s Studio is based in London and has evolved over a period of 25 years to integrate their independent practices. It is a place of creative and collective reflection whose ethos is to remain discursively open and generative of new ideas. Areas of particular interest to Phaophanit and Oboussier’s practice include dislocation, memory, and deterritorialization. They recurrently explore forms of meaning-making that exceed national, cultural and social borders.
Phaophanit and Oboussier create work in a broad range of media and scale: major installations and sculptural works, films, books and socially engaged public commissions, as well as smaller scale studio work including drawings, limited edition prints, and photographic work. Their work is held in public and private collections internationally and they produce commissioned work for a range of institutions and clients globally.
Vong Phaophanit (b.1961 Laos) and Claire Oboussier (b.1963 London) began working collaboratively over 30 years ago alongside their respective studio practices. Over time this collaboration has become an integrated practice and they now work as a duo. Their work, encompassing large-scale installations and sculptural works, films, books, and socially engaged public commissions, explores issues of language, memory, deterritorialisation and forms of meaning-making that exceed national, cultural and social borders. In 1993 Phaophanit was nominated for the Turner Prize and was invited to take part in the Venice Biennale in the same year. In 1994 was awarded the DAAD fellowship in Berlin where the duo subsequently relocated. During their time in Berlin, Phaophanit and Oboussier produced ‘Atopia’ (Berliner Künstlerprogramm DAAD, 2003) in response to the transitioning cultural, political and physical landscape of the city. In 2004 they created the video work ‘All that’s solid melts into air (Karl Marx)’ (collection of the TATE), part of ‘The Quiet in the Land’, a pioneering transnational arts project in Luang Prabang, Lao PDR. The work explores the precariousness of language and memory and the role they have in constructing both national and personal identities and engages with the “instability and ephemerality of meaning, it’s fluctuation across time and languages” *
Phaophanit and Oboussier have produced a number of groundbreaking public commissions including ‘Outhouse’ (2004) for Liverpool Housing Action Trust, a sculptural glass ‘abode’ sited within a public park for the collective use of local residents. In 2008 they were selected for the Channel 4 Big Art Project for which they proposed ‘Northern Light’ – a suspended architectural work for North Belfast, ‘a ‘third space’ beyond polarised territories’, again conceived for the collective use of local communities. Other key works in public space include neon installations such as ‘Topography of Dreams’ (2007), Curzon Street Station, Birmingham, ‘Light Curtain’ for Hull Truck Theatre (2009), ‘Light of Day’ (2010) for the Neo-Natal Baby Unit at St Georges Hospital in London and ‘Coronium’ (2011) for Kilden, the New Performing Arts Centre in Kristiansand, Norway. In 2012, as part of the cultural Olympiad, they were commissioned to make ‘Light Veils’, a permanent laser installation for Weymouth Seafront and a legacy work for the town.
‘Mute Meadow’ was inaugurated in 2011 on the banks of the River Foyle in Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland – a major socially engaged public work commissioned as part of the ‘post-conflict’ re-imagining of the city. In 2015 they installed ‘Dream House’, a public sculpture commission for downtown Toronto that explores diasporic notions of home and belonging. In the same year they were commissioned by the Wellcome Trust to produce ‘IT IS AS IF’, an immersive video installation which launched at at Block 336 Gallery in Brixton, South London. The work is an experimental collaboration between the artists and surgeon Professor Roger Kneebone (Imperial College, London), investigating the unspoken languages of medical surgery and extending their commitment to engaged practice, inter-diciplinary dialogue and their interest in non-narrative, trans-cultural forms of meaning.
In 2017 Phaophanit and Oboussier participated in the ground-breaking Diaspora Pavilion at Venice Biennale and served as mentors for artist Erika Tan.
More recent projects include newly commissioned work for Thailand Biennale 2018 and Singapore Biennale 2019 and a major permanent video installation ‘The Call of Things’ in the City of London for Fen Court (Eric Parry Architects).
Phaophanit and Oboussier have exhibited at venues such as Tate Britain, National Gallery Singapore, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa, IMMA, Dublin, Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, Iziko National Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa, the Shanghai Biennale, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen and Void Gallery, Derry~Londonderry. They frequently collaborate with leading architects, engineers, musicians and choreographers including: Eric Parry Architects, Hopkins Architects, Wilkinson Eyre, Architects Alliance, Wright and Wright, John McAslan and Partners, Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners, Grimshaw Architects, Price & Myers, PLP Architecture, Ushida Findlay, Gensler, Savanh Phaophanit and Rosemary Butcher.
*(Tate Gallery exhibition text, 2008)