Kara Chins work reflects on contemporary confusions. There is a lot to be confused about... consider implications of fast evolving technologies for the already increased fusion of reality and simulation; potential consequences of robotics and artificial intelligence for daily life; ethical conundrums, especially regarding food and horticulture; and how best to incorporate transhumanist and nonhuman perspectives into dominant ideologies. This coming together of technology, ecology and future narratives throws up a pluriad of imaginable outcomes. Are innovations and smart devices bringing us closer to a bright or rather more bleak future?
Fictitious truths and modern myth making, these may sound like oxymorons to some, yet they present strategies to capture the spirit of these conundrums and their potential outcomes. Choosing to represent this through a jumble of juxtapositions, Chin creates chaotic settings where organic and synthetic materials clash. Senses are further conflicted by erratic cacophonies of sound and moving elements, which come and go with the help of kinetics, robotics and animation.
Characteristic for this mixed approach, robotic protagonists manifest in sculptures and then pop up plodding across screens, shown to exist in temporal ambiguity between real or virtual space. Elsewhere kitchen equipment has sprouted arms and legs, having life breathed into them by this anthropomorphising, yet temporarily frozen in action by their rendering in ceramic or vinyl. They are both a nod to smart devices, connected to the Internet so as to be able to monitor and make certain decisions, and a tale in Japanese folklore where once inanimate household objects gain sentience after 100 years of service. Collectively called Tsukumogami, the temperament and personality is determined by how well the object was treated in the years leading up to its transformation. Badly handled objects foster vengeful spirits, determined to wreak havoc on their careless owners, while properly maintained and respected items harbour friendly, mild-mannered dispositions.
Two newly produced works, Your Chairs Letting Off Steam (2020) & A Couple of Haunted Backwash Units (2020) seem to suggest the very being of DKUK
is coming to life. As if, once the hairstylists go home, the scissors, styling products and cutting chairs could run amok.
Subtle architectural interventions mean Chins work weaves itself into the fabric of DKUK, at times disrupting the naturally occuring circulation and use of space. Snack Fountain (2019), a water feature made from recycled snack containers, has appeared in the middle of the shop floor emphasizing this area as a public square where conversation and activity happens all around. In front of the window, a new half slat wall or disfunctional room divider has been constructed to frame the perspex and vinyl Future Tsukumogami Mosaic (2019). The double usage of semi-transparency within this piece plays further with the spatial design present throughout DKUK, where opaque materials have been avoided so as to not obfuscate any of the labour processes that are involved in running the space - from the office admin to the hoovering. There is an acknowledgement of the labour of humans, but also the work of objects, from those in the kitchen drawers to machines and robots. It is how we choose to relate to these and if their temperament will serve us well that is still up for debate.
This exhibition brings together an assortment of older and current pieces. They are connected by a common thread - the trials and tribulations of animated objects, where haunted appliances have turned mischievous and future technology descends into chaos.
Kara Chin [b. Singapore 1994] lives and works in Newcastle, where she is a member of the Newbridge Collective Studio. She won the Woon Foundation Painting and Sculpture Prize 2018, undertaking a yearlong residency in the Woon Tai Jee Studio, hosted by BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Northumbria University, resulting in a solo exhibition Sentient Home Devices (2019) at Gallery North, Newcastle. Chin graduated from The Slade School of Fine Art, London in 2018.