Kara Chin Interviewed by Juliet Fleming
Transcribed by Juliet | Edited by Kara
Juliet: Hello! Thanks so much for coming for an interview :) questions things what we chatting about your art, you just had a really big show Sentient Home Devices it was really great! I really enjoyed it.
Kara: I feel like I’m on This Morning or something ahahha
Juliet: You are, you are on This Morning – this is my telephone voice. Your show was incredible – I loved it, I loved obviously the ceramic work, first and foremost but all of it was incredible and do you want to tell me a bit about your experience of it and the Woon?
Kara: Oh I don’t know where to start. Well I’ve spent this year doing a residency funded by Mr Woon, and its been great I’ve got to used the facilities at Northumbria uni including the kilns which seem to have been sort of hiding away
Juliet: In the paper room…
Kara: Yes! And then I’ve had funding so I’ve been able to buy all these nice glazes, and I’ve run some ceramic workshops for the Northumbria BA students which has been nice, it’ s been a lovely year.
Juliet: Speaking of you’ve run some low key ceramic workshops for The collective studio which you are a 19/20 cohort member of! Lots of ceramic under bubbling in Newcastle. But lets get back on to your work – the content and for those who didn’t have a chance to see your show what story you were telling with Sentient Home Devices. You went on a big trip to Japan during the residency.
Kara: Well I saw loads of lovely art out there and I went to Kyoto which is like the home of ceramics, so I saw loads of amazing Japanese ceramics while I was out there so I came back fully inspired to get going and get back into ceramics.
Sentient Home Devices show was actually based on a Japanese ledged called Tsukumogami – they are creatures in Japanese folklore. Tsukumogami is a household object that’s been inhabited by a spirit. Basically, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of this object, so when it was made, it gains sentience. Sentient Home Devices a modern retelling of this story but thinking about more contemporary issues. So, I was thinking about future technologies, how all our household objects are being connected to the internet, communicating across the internet of things, and the potential future consequences of that. The idea that all these objects are connected and becoming exponentially smarter, maybe one day they will gain sentience? Maybe in a 100 years like Tsukumogami and then they won’t want to function as the
objects we have assigned them. Sentient Home Devices is a comical retelling of theTsukumogami legend. If there is a moral to the legend, it’s how you treat your objects during life, how well you care for them, whether you dispose of them too quickly. We are dealing with the repercussions of throw away culture now.
Juliet: TheTsukumogami legend and your retelling or reworking of the story feels very relevant, seeing all those objects – there was lots of items especially to do with the kitchen, lots of metal spatulas and kitchen house hold utensils were not remade, they were the physical objects and seeing those in a gallery setting was quite jarring…
Kara: That is almost a pun
Juliet: That is what I was going for, glad you caught that one ;)
And then all the videos as well as the physical works, installation sculptural works, kinetic works, video works…
Kara: Yes I do like to work in lots of different mediums
Juliet: You were quite prolific during your years residency
Kara: I’d like to think so! I had to make the most out of it, I was given this amazing opportunity, so I couldn’t not do that. In the end I was really happy with the whole body of work.
Juliet: And it came down in October but fear not dear readers as I hear a couple of them are going down to London?
Kara: Yes I am doing a show at DKUK which is a hair salon/art gallery in Peckham. Which I’m really excited about. The premise is that instead of looking in the mirror you look at art while getting your hair cut.
Juliet: So no mirrors anywhere?
Kara: Yes no mirrors, oh there’s one mirror at the end which is like a big reveal its really cool, at the end you get wheeled over and its a two way mirror. So normally its back lit so you can see the piece of art behind it and then once your hair is cut, they switch the light off and you see yourself! I’ve been making some of the ceramics here at the Goldtapped x NBP Ceramic workshop.
Juliet: Yes they are looking gorgeous, I’ve particularly enjoyed helping you piece all your puzzle pieces back together. And do you think it has transitioned from the Woon residency or have you been looking at a different aspect of your practice?
Kara: Its nice since there’s a bit of time between the two, so I’m hoping to develop some of the work a bit more. Although, actually January in not a long way away.
Juliet: Especially in terms of ceramics!
Kara: Yes especially in ceramics and also the work I make seems to take so long.
Juliet: Oh sorry we just received a phone call there but we listened back and got to hear our voices and the call does not show up, not that it matters as I’m going to type it up anyway….
Kara: And we got to hear our lovely voices back on record and oh its so low. Its such a low voice, it weirdly didn’t sound as nasal as it normally does, when I listen back on phones and stuff it’s like oh so nasal.
…. Text lost, fill in your own gaps…
And it’s like I lap up programmes like the fyer festival documentary.
Juliet: Yes god, that was great tv.
Kara: I watch one similar to fyer and it was about this woman who started up a company – it built machines to do blood tests but like really, really quickly and it only needed a prick of blood but it all turned out that is was a massive scam and the machines didn’t work they work using other . technology which already existed but this woman portrayed herself as like the new Steve jobs, there was all these articles about how amazing she was going to be, though I have a feeling she may be in prison now??? But in this documentary it talked about how she deliberately lowered her voice to sound more
authoritative and I'm wearing a turtle neck, I'm totally Steve Jobs, I’m channelling her!
Juliet: She sounds great Ahahha Yeah I’ve definitely heard that before, women lowering their voices in order to be taken more “seriously”, I’ve got some inverted commas here going on.
Kara: Apparently women are more likely to lower their voice, because people think that womanly voices are not professional.
Juliet: Yeah all that stuff about vocal fry – it’s just very specifically sexist. But lets say we’er going back to the art!
Kara: Yeah what were we talking about?
Juliet: Haircuts, London, art.
Kara: Oh yes! Yes they get their hair cut and then get to see the final art work. Do you remember when you were a kid did you every play with playdough?
Kara: All my work has been quite kitchen based – machines and appliances and DKUK are happy for me to show that but I wanted to make some pieces were more specific to the setting and I think what I want to make is a big ceramic version of those dolls which are like a dome with loads of holes in it and you push the playdough through it and it becomes squidgy hair! So that’s what I’m doing in January its opening on the 13th of January.
Juliet: That sounds horribly exciting! Your also on the collective studio? The same programme I was on last year with The NewBridge Project, and you’ve decided to stay up in Newcastle! Now you are the first woony, as far as im aware, if there are other woonys that had stayed I apologies in advance! But as far as I know you are the first woony to stay up past your residency.
What has lured you, seduced you?
Kara: I mean essentially cheap rents and opportunities, now that I have been job hunting I noticed there are a lot of opportunities in London but it’s just not feasible to live there. I’ve been trying to cost how I can do it and still make work and have a studio and it’s just extortionate, I know that’s not new news.
Juliet: But I think it is more new news that people are living pretty much 3hrs away, which is what Newcastle is on the train from London, to live up here and work up here and then going down to London on occasion when they need to, say if they are going to show art there. Which people do do.
Kara: Which is the thing and its totally doable, this year I’ve been thinking, and originally I thought when I left London I was definably going to go back to London, but I really I love living here now. And I did love living there – ive got lots of friends down there, but I figured out that even if I got the train to London every month, it would still be cheaper living up in Newcastle and traveling down than renting a place in London.
And there is loads of stuff going on here in Newcastle, loads of opportunities, loads of really great artist,
it’s not like nothing is happening, I’m never bored, and I can actually go to things because I’m not having
to work constantly to be able to be there (in London).
And also I’ve hooked some of my friends to coming up here (Newcastle).
Juliet: Harley! Yes that was very clever!
Kara: Yes they are all coming up here!
Juliet: ….I am such a fan of your pieces and now I want you to tell me a bit more about your sad frogs.
Kara: He he… well its funny, they do really look like frogs don’t they….
Juliet: Are they not frogs? :s
Kara: Well I don’t even know what they are to be honest, they’re these weird blobby characters, I use a
lot of anthropomorphisation in my work or I like to anthropomorphise my work. So there are a lot of
characters, and little narratives that run throughout my work. My degree show was based on a narrative
about these weird blobby fish characters. Originally they were meant to be inter-dimensional fish, they
look a bit worm holey – and they are meant to be traveling through different dimensions. And I just really
liked making those characters, they were my first forays into ceramics, and they are really easy to make!
Juliet: For me just the presence of being there and doing ceramics, working away, do you think that is a
draw for you? I mean I get a bit sad when I haven’t been doing it for a while.
Kara: Yeah definitely… but I think the thing I love the most about making ceramics and why I always
return to them is all my other work is quite complicated and it’s always quite confusing – I find the same
with painting you never know when it’s finished and I find that really stressful, that tension of knowing
whether something is going well or not, knowing when something is finished or not. With ceramics, and
also a bit with animation but less so as it takes so long, with ceramics you can make an object and glaze
it and then it’s done. If it fails in the kiln then if fails, and if it doesn’t it doesn’t, there’s a lack of control of
what it is actually going to look like when it comes out. But when it’s finished it’s a done piece that’s done,
there’s nothing else that you have to do. There’s no coming back to it without starting again.
Juliet: Yes and it’s almost like a present, in other mediums there isn’t such a surprise moment, whereas
when it comes out of the kiln you’re not entirely sure of what you going to get!
Kara: When the glazes come out nothing like how you thought they were going to look, there’s an
element of not taking responsibility – you can blame it on the kiln or something. But with a painting it’s like
“I’ve made all of these decisions, its all my fault” there’s no leeway.
Juliet: So true!
Kara Chin’s Up and coming exhibitions! Wooooow
Opening 15th January 6.30 - 8.30pm
13 January 2020 – 14 March 2020
Address & Opening Hours
191 Queens Road, Peckham, SE15 2NG
Monday 10am – 8pm
Tuesday 10am – 8pm
Wednesday 10am – 8pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm
Friday 10am – 8pm
Saturday 10am – 6pm
Sentient Mecha Furniture
Opening Friday 24th January 6pm - 8pm
Open Sat 25 Jan - Sun 26 Apr 2020
Project Space during exhibition periods
Northumbria Art Auction
5 February 6pm - 8pm
Breeze Creatives Bamburgh House.