Born in London in 1963, Claire Oboussier was placed in foster care at birth and subsequently adopted by her parents, an architect and a musician. Brought up in Devon, Oboussier went on to study French in the School of African and Asian Studies at the University of Sussex, graduating in 1986. She met and married Vong Phaophanit during a year studying in Paris in 1985. In 1991 Oboussier was awarded the Dyment and Thomas Scholarship for Doctoral Research in the Arts and Humanities at the University of Bristol where she taught French Feminist Literature and Theory and set up and ran the Interdisciplinary Critical Theory seminar for faculty. Her doctoral thesis was on French critical theory in the visual field. Completed in 1995, it explored the poetic and theoretical intersections of the visual and verbal realms.
Alongside her academic and critical writing Oboussier maintained a studio practice using a range of media from the written/spoken word to film, sound and sculptural elements. From 1998-2002 she was a member of the Executive Committee for the pioneering magazine MAKE which provided a platform for under-represented women’s art practice, subsequently becoming an editorial advisor. During these years she also worked experimentally with digital images and sounds from prisons for a multi-screen installation entitled ‘Doing Time’. Oboussier has been an invited speaker at symposia internationally and also written extensively on, and in parallel with, Phaophanit’s work, collaborating with him on the film ‘All that’s solid melts into air (Karl Marx)’ and the book ‘Atopia’ for which she wrote the text.
Throughout her early career Oboussier maintained a close creative dialogue with Phaophanit and they frequently collaborated on projects together. From the late 1990s the duo began the process of formally unifying their practices and went on to create their current shared studio.