My Inspiration – Kara Chin | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Kara Chin is a British artist, born in Singapore and raised in the UK. She moved down to Newcastle last year to undertake the Woon Tai Jee Art Fellowship, a year-long residency for graduating students funded by Northumbria University in partnership with the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. 

For the end of the residency, Kara will display her work in a solo show coming up at Gallery North called Sentient Home Devices. It will feature a selection of kinetic sculptures and animations based on a contemporary reimagining of Tsukumogami in Japanese folklore.

The Private view is on Thursday 19th September, and the show will run from the 20th September – 4th October 2019. Ahead of the exhibition, Kara shares with us the inspiration behind the project.

Sentient Home Devices is a series of physical and digital sculptures, reimagining the legend of Tsukumogami in a contemporary setting. In Japanese folklore, Tsukumogami is the collective term for once inanimate household objects that gain sentience after 100 years of service.  The objects sprout limbs, faces and personalities, their temperament determined by how well the Tsukumogami was treated in the years leading up to its transformation. Mishandled objects foster vengeful spirits determined to wreak havoc on their careless owners, while properly maintained and respected objects harbour friendly, mild-mannered dispositions. 

Making the work for this show, I was thinking about the idea of Tsukumogami in relation to smart home devices, as our homes are gradually filling up with appliances and furniture all wirelessly connected to the internet, listening to us and monitoring our activities, keeping track of our food inventories, remotely performing various chores. There are so many new, ridiculous appliances being added to the list; even smart salt and pepper shakers are now available that weigh how much salt and pepper they contain and send you real-time mobile updates about your spice stocks. So, in the work I’m thinking about a future scenario where, after 100 years of smart technology service, all the smart home devices are infiltrated by runaway AI programs – escaped from some big technology lab and slinking across the Internet of things into your fridges and tables and coffee machines etc– thus transforming the the smart devices into Tsukumogami, or ‘Sentient Home Devices’. Like the legendary Tsukumogami, the temperament of the sentient devices will depend on how they were treated in the preceding years, and they’ll have plenty of information to base their opinions on having monitored, collected and transmitted habitual human behaviour data for so long.

The exhibition brings together sculptural elements from different possible outcomes of humans and sentient home devices cohabiting in future households; fictional armoured gloves for humans to fend off vengeful robot-Tsukumogami in the kitchen; physical and digital sculptures showcasing rebellious sentient devices, fed up of performing mediocre human tasks and rejecting their assigned functions by merging with other objects, reconstructing themselves with surrounding household debris into bizarre hybrid contraptions; ceramic and acrylic mosaic tributes to ancient and modern Tsukumogami; and a commemorative tomb for the first Toaster to be connected to the internet in 1990 – a toaster-Adam/Eve equivalent to the sentient home devices.

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