No. 247

Snack Fountain

By : Kara Chin

Entrant’s location : United Kingdom



Snack Fountain is a water feature sculpture built in 2019 and originally shown as part of an exhibition, 'Sentient Home Devices'. Sentient Home Devices, was a series of physical and digital sculptures reimagining the legend of Tsukumogami in a contemporary setting. While it is not widely known in the West, Tsukumogami is a prevalent concept in Japanese folklore, as 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. The message I take from many of the folktales involving Tsukumogami is the idea of honouring your objects - taking good care of them and not discarding them frivolously. This message is all the more poignant in the midst of our current climate crisis, and the mounting consequences of throw away culture - our discarded plastic objects are starting to take revenge and wreak havoc upon the planet, like mistreated Tsukumogami. In light of the recent revelation that many of the items we put into recycle bins in the UK still end up being shipped to other countries for landfill, Snack Fountain is an ode to disposable food containers, an attempt to give them the respect they deserve, rather than being immediately discarded.

What did you create?

Snack Fountain is a water feature sculpture, made in line with a wider series of Artworks reimagining the legends of Tsukumogami in a contemporary setting. In these works I was considering the idea of Tsukumogami in relation to the rapid growth of smart home devices, imaging a future scenario where, after 100 years of smart technology service, all the smart home devices are infiltrated by runaway AI programs transforming them into Tsukumogami, or ‘Sentient Home Devices’. Each work envisioned different possible outcomes of humans and sentient home devices cohabiting in future households. To this end, Snack Fountain began as a piece trying to imagine a future sentient device trying to be as appealing to humans as possible, to establish kinship between human and nonhuman beings. It creates a calming and tranquil environment with its tricking water feature, and it is coated and served on a bed of rice - food being a renowned social lubricant, a way to bring beings together. But, I also wanted to create a piece that used all my plastic waste as integral parts of the sculpture. So, the water feature and many surrounding decorations are constructed from all the plastic food containers I have saved from on-the-go lunches in the studio.

Why did you make it?

Earlier this year, a news story broke that much of the plastic waste we put into the recycling bins in the UK is actually dumped in overseas landfill sites, rather than being recycled. This was shocking and upsetting news to many people who thought they were doing their small bit to help the environment. I've been thinking about this news in relation to Tsukumogami, if the legends were true then these landfill sites must chock full of furious spirits seeking vengeance for their unceremonious dismissal. After I heard the story I saved all the plastic waste and packaging that entered the studio and tried to incorporate it into my work, giving them honorary positions in my sculptures. The bed of rice plinth, mimics a sandbox littered with plastic yoghurt lids. It's a not-so-subtle reference to the devastating effect plastic waste is causing to our oceans and beaches. I hope the takeaway message of this piece is that we all need to honour our objects a bit more, for fear of the revenge they will take on us and the planet, and come up with fast solutions to the amount of plastic packaging that is inescapable in the supermarkets.

How did you make it?

I collected all the plastic food containers from supermarket bought lunches in the studio. The water feature tower is made from blueberry, strawberry and quorn sausage containers. yoghurt lids are used as decorative plates and the fountain contains plastic bag lily pads. The fountain base is a glazed earthenware ceramic piece made bespoke to the shape of the snack containers and hides the water pump inside a concealed chamber. The table is constructed from plywood and timber and coated in rice. The base plinth is a timber structure covered with tile grout for a stone effect, and is filled with a layer of rice, coloured plastic offcuts from a laser cutting facility, and ceramic shapes.

Your entry’s specification

80 x 100 x 60 cm Timber; tile grout; rice; origami paper; glazed ceramics, perspex, glass, plastic food containers; water and a water pump.