This week we meet YAKA, a brand new artist collective based in Glasgow!
YAKA are a collective of seven artists – Tim Dalzell, Samuel Devereux, Rachel Forrest, Richard Krantz, Rae-Yen Song, Emma Thomas and Tess Vaughan. Having schooled together in GSA’s Sculpture and Environmental Art, making is the main factor which co-ordinates their individual practices. Beyond ethos and artist statement, YAKA’s main interest is in ‘activating spaces’ - from which the significance for them is twofold. Sculpture is so often a sort of object; with immediate function to occupy space and to capture attention. SO IT IS (YAKA Collective’s first exhibition, which opened for two weeks last November) occupied four spaces, awarded to them from the generosity of WASP Studios – who manage The Briggait – and WAVEparticle, who programmed events venturing out towards three more distinctly urban venues of central Laurieston: Cleland Lane Arches, Caledonia Road Church and Laurieston Arena. This allowed YAKA to construct themselves around the curios of these cave-like environments; where artist and audience could actively participate in the revival of spaces which had went generally unseen by the public.
YAKA entertain the idea of showing work in spaces which aren’t normally used creatively as a means of being ‘open’. It’s often said that sculptures are best seen from the outside, en plein air. Much of what we discuss – between eight of us – is said with little reference to singular processes or artworks. For YAKA, in turn, are open people; coming together to curate and manifest their own opportunities as a means of creative development. Furthermore, what ties them together is a common interest in responding to a site, and to create site-specific work:
“Sculpture is quite a social thing. Sculpture encourages communal working and interaction, and I think coming from the same department and knowing each other through art school has made it feel natural to come together and form a collective.”
“It’s a lot less daunting to write proposals and face an empty exhibition space when you know there’s six other people all working with you.”
“...You don’t feel as isolated as you would if you were practicing as an individual. When you’re making work, and you have the security of a shared environment and you’re curating together, you feel as though you can really go for things – other people have your back... I think it changes the way you look at previous works as well...being experimental about how I show things, and honest about the process behind making.”
It’s notable that the majority of works featured within SO IT IS weren’t from the founding members of YAKA collective Altogether, there were thirty artists involved in the show. Amongst them is an assemblage of installation, sculptural and composition-based art; like a ‘happening’ where Technicolor and Jesmonite, Helium Balloons, fishing rods and grassy slopes spontaneously converse and play. From a curatorial perspective, SO IT IS lacks the seriousness of a formal gallery setting - but you’d be wrong in thinking they were trying to emulate the gallery experience:
“Coming out of art school, you could aim to join an already established arts organisation, but it didn’t feel any more relevant to what we were making or doing.”
Instead, YAKA maintain a drive to ‘learn by doing’ – and in doing, hopefully creating ‘worlds’ in which artwork can be made accessible to audiences, independent of the branding of certain institutions or awards:
“We just wanted to jump into making our own exhibition, take the chance and see where it would take us. We’ve never been too focussed on finding a theme...it was fun to have an open call, to invite people to make proposals to us. The exhibition consisted of a wide range of artists - some with practices we already recognised and knew would fit well with our intentions or vision, and others who were new to us and would be exciting and experimental to include in the show. Sometimes we’d come across two people who we thought would work well in the same space, and would encourage artists to talk and work collaboratively.
“Right now, we think it’d be good to do an exhibition where we act as curators, then maybe another where we work solely as artists...when you see that title - ‘artist and curator’ - it often comes across as being a bit false. A lot of artist involvement begins and ends with the making, and then installation of the work. But that doesn’t really give an audience a proper chance to know anything about the person behind who created it. We all just wanted to be as involved as possible...with the artist talks, the tours, and the opening and closing celebrations. It can be a challenge to be both artist and curator in the same show and we'd like to really focus on the curatorial aspects of producing exhibition through experimenting with different ways of thinking and doing, and by working together in a shared studio in a very practical, hands-on way we hope to learn through experience and continue take our ideas forward. ”
Speaking about moving into their new studio base in Cambuslang, there seems to be little difference between what they require of a studio, and what they want out of a exhibition space – in fact, it’s discussed that the two may well act as one and the same in future projects: “...something light, and very open-plan...big enough that we could all work together, but inclusive enough that we could personalize it and start afresh and make something of our own.”
With an Member’s exhibition due to show the Project Room at Trongate 103 this coming October, it seems the new year has left YAKA with a spring of new intentions.
Article by: Rachel Boyd