Launched in 2016, the V&A Research Institute (VARI) residency programme, in collaboration with V&A East, has facilitated a series of residencies embedded within east London’s creative community spaces, for international artists, designers and makers. These residencies form part of the V&A East Pre-Opening programme and are for creatives with a socially engaged aspect to their practice. They offer the opportunity to engage with the communities of east London and to develop connections between residents, communities and international creative practitioners.
V&A East is driven by the vibrancy and creativity of its surrounding boroughs. We aim to be locally rooted, creating spaces for creativity and possibility amidst the rapidly changing urban landscape and gentrification. Through our collaboration and dialogue with our communities in east London, we want to explore narratives and histories identified as important to the people of this vibrant and multicultural district of the city. In a concerted effort to produce a museum with galleries, exhibitions, and programming complementary to such a place, both of our sites at V&A East are forged through close collaboration with the people and communities it will serve. One of the practitioners who sits on our east London critical friends group outlined what is at stake:
“It would be a shame to turn it into heritage. There is a danger that in a museum dedicated to how things are made, all the stuff that has been made becomes heritage and not the living part of this area. It’s gentrification, we’re part of it but the V&A is a bigger part of it. We’re probably not going to stop it but maybe the V&A has power to.”
We aim to be a listening museum, and in response to calls to action from our community to celebrate and create dialogue around histories of making in east London, we are excited to recruit for two three-month residencies that centre around Raw Materials: Newham, East London, facilitated in collaboration with Bow Arts’ RAW Studios, Royal Albert Wharf.
VARI Offsite residencies, generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, constitute a new and experimental model of residencies whereby the V&A invites independent practitioners to help develop new ways of thinking about and working with V&A collections and the public, working across the V&A and east London.
Previous VARI Offsite Residents have included Mumbai-based artist, activist and academic Aqui Thami, Dutch artist Wouter Osterholt and Dhaka-based architecture and design collective PARAA. Each of them has worked with communities as an important part of their residency. Based at Shape Studios, PARAA worked with the Grandmas Group at the Bromley-by-Bow centre, developing with them an intergenerational card game, while Wouter Osterholt, based at The White House, explored the utopian aims of the garden city movement in the context of the Becontree Estate, using painting as public performance to engage local residents.
Most recently, Aqui Thami, based at Rabbits Road Institute and working with independent publishing collective OOMK (One of My Kind), launched a collaborative arts project with young women local to Rabbits Road Press, the ‘DIY Rabbits’, and worked with them to produce posters and zines inspired by the V&A’s collection of political posters.
In a city as ever-changing as London, there can often be a sense of amnesia about what lay before and an urgent need to remind ourselves of the fascinating histories that lie on our doorsteps, to shape futures that are born out of heritage and community.
This summer, from July 2022, our new off-site residencies will take the starting point of histories and traditions of making, manufacturing, and materials in Newham, which borders the east bank of the River Lea and encompasses the historic Royal Docklands. They will build on the already rich histories of making in Newham and resonate with legacies like William Ritchie’s jute-spinning textile factory based in Stratford and Canning Town in the late 1800s, or the more contemporary histories of the manufacturing of leathercloth, known commonly today as vegan leather, manufactured in Newham up until the early 1960s. Such layers of histories are the bedrock of our Raw Material: Newham residencies and provide expansive inspiration for the practices these could explore.
We look forward to receiving your applications and nominations. Submissions close on Sunday 12th June 2022.