- 19 September 2023
- 5 minutes
Over 10 weeks Danielle Reuther(MA Photography, 2023) and Leonie Cameron (MA Sculpture, 2023) created work in response to KOKO, an iconic Victorian music theatre in Camden, London. The venue has seen the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Monty Python, The Rolling Stones, Madonna and Prince all grace its stage. Danielle and Leonie have been taking part in the Spatial Value Residency, which aims to explore the venue’s rich history, present physicality and its connections with the surrounding area and community.
Danielle Reuther and Leonie Cameron
After a three year restoration and redevelopment project, KOKO reopened in April 2022, with multiple new performance spaces and live streaming throughout. KOKO now inhabits two new adjoining buildings with art, food and music venue Café KOKO and a new members club, The House of KOKO.
Established by KOKO and RCA tutors Rut Blees Luxemburg and Sarah Staton, the Spatial Value Residency supports artists and curators exploring the intersection between art practice and the formation of spatial values. It also provides a supportive environment for students taking their first steps after graduation. As part of the residency, curator Brenna Horrox (Curating Contemporary Art, 2021) developed an outreach project with the local Camden community for children and young people.
The results of the residency were exhibited at KOKO Gallery from 8-10 September 2023.
Caring for the unnoticed
‘I’ve been looking at KOKO in a different way to the way I imagine most people who visit see it, when it’s busy and loud’ Leonie reflected. ‘I’ve enjoyed exploring the venues in quieter moments – behind the scenes, after events and during the daytime – then using these experiences to inform the work I have been making.’
Leonie uses hand constructed textiles, casting and found objects to explore themes of care, protection and resistance through a queer, feminist lens. Natural found materials such as rocks and shells are an important aspect of her practice. The process of finding these materials is something she wanted to replicate during the residency.
“I’ve tried to explore KOKO with the same sense of adventure that I feel when beach-combing or visiting a significant place to forage for material”MA Sculpture alumni
‘I’ve tried to explore KOKO with the same sense of adventure that I feel when beach-combing or visiting a significant place to forage for material,’ Leonie explained. ‘I began to investigate KOKO through the eyes of what was left behind, collecting remnants from around the venue and after events, and intertwining these artefacts with the research I had been doing.’
This approach ties into the themes that Leonie explores through her work, as she outlined, ‘the things we value the least, such as the discarded things we forget or leave behind, can hold the most conceptual value for me. This also relates to the concept of care, which is a constant within my practice, showing appreciation for the everyday things that we don’t notice.’
Coming from a background working with documentary practices, Danielle’s most recent work revisits her own archive of images, creating multidisciplinary artworks that express the new meanings those images have adopted over time.
During the KOKO residency Danielle has used research from historical archival images, newspapers, building records, and oral histories to memorialise the storied buildings that make up the multiple arms of KOKO today.
Danielle Reuther, What’s Your Name, 2023
“The more I dug into the evolutions of the buildings and the various industries that inhabited them, the more fascinated I became”MA Photography alumni
‘The more I dug into the evolutions of the buildings and the various industries that inhabited them, the more fascinated I became’ Danielle explained. ‘There were moments where the sheer volume of stories made it challenging to tear myself away from research and focus on making the artwork. I was also continuously surprised at how the things I was discovering resonated with my personal history as well.’
As a result, Danielle has intertwined these historical accounts with her own, inserting herself within the space and creating an imagined history.
Discovering new perspectives
Leonie Cameron, Untitled, 2023
The residency has pushed both Leonie and Danielle to consider their work and practice from new perspectives. ‘Making work in and about a specific site is not something I’ve experienced before, so it’s been a great opportunity to test out new things and adapt my practice to give it a sense of the place I am working within’ Leonie explained.
“It’s been a great opportunity to test out new things and adapt my practice to give it a sense of the place I am working within”MA Sculpture alumni
‘I have been using materials in different ways, such as deconstructing clothing taken from the venue’s lost and found to make yarn, which is a new development for my practice. I’m usually quite rigid with the aesthetics and colour palette I work with, but doing something so intertwined with a specific place pushed me out of my comfort zone and broadened the parameters I set for myself.’
Danielle Reuther, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants and Photo Interventions, 2023
“It was helpful to still have a goal and deadlines to create work in and not let my practice fall by the wayside.”MA Photography alumni
The residency offered Danielle a constructive focus during her graduation and initial time post-RCA. She reflected, ‘it was helpful to still have a goal and deadlines to create work in and not let my practice fall by the wayside.’
‘The KOKO spaces have such varied histories that there is a wealth of inspiration but there are still a contained number of places where an idea can spring from. I think this also helped give myself structure and momentum after graduation because I needed to look into these new inspirations with a limited time frame but also there were a finite amount of avenues to go down.’
Developing practice at the RCA
Both Leonie and Danielle found new ways of working while they were studying at the RCA. For Leonie that came through the support of staff and peers: ‘The technical staff and tutors at the RCA have been so nurturing and supportive, which has helped expand my practice and my confidence in my work. I was able to try out new processes, such as casting and machine knitting, which presented interesting developments within the work I make.’
“The technical staff and tutors at the RCA have been so nurturing and supportive, which has helped expand my practice and my confidence in my work”MA Sculpture alumni
Danielle was surprised by the journey her work took at the College. Before starting the programme she saw her work as documentary: ‘While I had an eye that had been finely tuned over the years, my main goal was to capture, to document, not to write, to create. My time at the RCA really changed all that and flipped that process on its head.’
At the RCA Danielle initially turned to her archive as a way to experiment with new printing techniques and technology. However, using this material became a new aspect of her practice. This journey has continued into the residency; the exhibition at KOKO will be the first time Danielle has publicly shown works that have no element of her own photography.
The Spatial Value Residency and beyond
Spatial Value exhibition
“Projects and relationships I started at the RCA are already continuing into post-university life”MA Sculpture alumni
For Leonie the Spatial Value Residency is a springboard into post-university life: ‘working in a completely new environment in a different way outside of an educational setting has helped me to position my practice in the “real world”.’ The positive experience has motivated her to apply for more residencies. She adds: ‘Projects and relationships I started at the RCA are already continuing into post-university life, and I have a few really exciting plans for shows and collaborations coming up over the next year.’
“As a more mature student, I am looking to continue the momentum I have built on my course to actively prioritise my practice”MA Photography alumni
Danielle also has plans underway: ‘I am working on a proposal for a book while developing other pieces, including works in progress from my time at the RCA.’ Prior to studying at the RCA Danielle worked freelance within fashion, and is now focused on incorporating her practice into commercial projects. ‘As a more mature student, I am looking to continue the momentum I have built on my course to actively prioritise my practice and work towards a life where I am able to support myself on my own artistic endeavours.’