BALTIC 39 presents three solo exhibitions by Henna Asikainen, Kara Chin and Ben Jeans Houghton in the Project Space, BALTIC 39, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Henna Asikainen: Omens Project – Making Futures
Henna Asikainen’s work uses a variety of mediums and methods to explore human’s relationship with the environment we inhabit and the concept of nature. Asikainen is particularly interested in the impact of human’s destructive practices on ecosystems and other beings we share the planet with. Her recent works have explored the idea of home, belonging and the importance of access to nature. They have been created in collaboration with migrant and refugee groups based in the North East who have contributed their own experiences of displacement and their attempts to make a home in a new, unfamiliar and sometimes hostile location.
The objects were made by individual participants following the ancient practice of molybdomancy, a method of divination based upon the interpretation of cast shadows. A molten metal alloy is thrown into cold water and forms unique and complex shapes. These are held in candlelight and the shadows cast reveal the secrets of the omen maker. At BALTIC 39 more than 140 forms and shaped ‘omens’ will be presented suspended to reveal their shadows.
Omens Project – Making Futures was staged as part of Refugee Week and created the opportunity for local and migrant communities to discuss cultural traditions and their projected futures through making – casting omens. The activity of casting the omens became a prompt for storytelling. Through this process each sculptural element is at once individual and collectively produced.
Kara Chin: Sentient-Mecha-Furniture
Kara Chin creates installations that have included kinetic and robotic pieces, animation, sound, water features and horticultural elements. Her work focuses on the implications of fast evolving technologies; ethical conundrums and potential consequences of developing robotics and artificial intelligence.
Her work often draws together handcrafted and readymade objects, organic and synthetic materials. Her installations are constructed as cross sections of fictional narratives that weave throughout her practice. Anthropomorphic features, limbs and moving elements are used to transform sculptures into animated creatures; characters through which we can empathise and examine individual experiences within these imagined future scenarios.
At BALTIC 39 Chin presents Sentient Home Devices (virtual edition) (2019) and A Mass of Possessed Plumbing (2020). These are manifestations of fictional future household appliances gone rogue, a modern retelling of tsukumogami (in Japanese folklore these are tools that have acquired a spirit) where our smart household appliances transform into sentient home devices, sprouting limbs and morphing into bizarre hybrid contraptions. Complicated machines that hint at, once prescribed functionality, but given free will, reject their tasks and flounder about pointlessly. The spirit of the tsukumogami inhabits these works.
Ben Jeans Houghton: SCREAMING BIRD, SINGING DAWN, RAINBOW MOUNTAIN
Ben Jeans Houghton works across film, sculpture, photography, drawing, writing, performance and installation. Through these mediums he investigates ritual and magic’s potential for transformation from multiple perspectives: the astrological, animistic, philosophical, psychological and the cinematic.
This exhibition is centred around Jeans Houghton’s film essay, SCREAMING BIRD, SINGING DAWN, RAINBOW MOUNTAIN (2020), commissioned by BALTIC. The film has been developed during the artist’s two-month BALTIC residency at the Hongti Art Center in Busan, South Korea in 2018. It explores the ritual practices of Korean shamanism the mudang (shamans) who perform them.
Divided into chapters, the film considers intersections between Korean shamanism, Buddhism, Christianity and capitalism. Interviews with mudang, monks and astrologers provide insights into alternative knowledges, which are passed down through generations. The film’s narrative also discusses broader ideas around states of consciousness, possibilities of embodiment and notions of ‘cosmogenesis’ (the origin and development of the cosmos), through the exploration of creation myths and their associated belief systems.