No. 248

Stirring Sink

By : Kara Chin

Entrant’s location : United Kingdom



Stirring Sink is a kinetic 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. In this work I consider the idea of Tsukumogami in relation to the rapid growth of smart home devices - everyday appliances and furniture all wirelessly connected to the internet, listening to us, monitoring our activities, keeping track of our food inventories and remotely performing various chores. The sculptures imagine a future scenario where, after 100 years of smart technology service, all the smart home devices are infiltrated by runaway AI programs, slinking across the Internet of things and into your fridges, tables and coffee machines etc– thus transforming the smart devices into Tsukumogami, or ‘Sentient Home Devices’. Like the Tsukumogami, the temperament of sentient home 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. Stirring Sink is a manifestation of fictional future household appliances gone rogue. A pointless contraption, with apparatus that hints at once prescribed functionality, but given free will has rejected its intended purpose and reconstructed itself with surrounding household debris into a bizarre hybrid mechanism.

What did you create?

I wanted to create contraptions of cobbled together household appliances, with movements that hint at something living, something vaguely anthropomorphic. Something almost functional but ultimately useless; cyclical, repetitive motions that create a mechanistic heart beat, that I hope evokes a certain intrigue and humour in the viewer. Stirring Sink is a future Tsukumogami gone rogue, an example of a fictional device that, when given free will, rejects its given purpose, and morphs itself into a new extravagant being (perhaps like an angsty teenager finding themselves).

Why did you make it?

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 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 us, like mistreated Tsukumogami. The concept of Tsukumogami, once inanimate objects that now think and feel, also speaks to increasingly prevalent concerns around the developments in AI, machine learning and neural networks, and the ethical conundrums that arise when we imagine a future where once inanimate machines can think and feel. While these ideas are not overtly explicit in the work, the anthropomorphic elements of the sculptures seek to expand human empathy and kinship to include our day to day objects and devices, I intend for the viewer to consider the way we treat our household appliances, and the future implications of our attitudes towards them, through what I hope is an enjoyable experience viewing these strange contraptions.

How did you make it?

Stirring sink is an ensemble of found and handmade objects. It incorporates ready-made appliances - showerheads, a tap, crockery and cutlery etc. - juxtaposed with carefully crafted ceramic pieces. The inner sink is constructed from hand made tiles, the shape based on pavement tiles seen in Tokyo, while the outer shell is composed of recycled cardboard packaging from household appliances. The wooden frame is constructed to mimic a bunk-bed-like shape, and is bolted together, such that the entire sculpture can be dis and re-assembled from a flat pack, to enable transportation. The front arched legs supporting the structure are plywood, covered with recycled packing paper, an filled with pasta, recycled wire and plastic wrap, visible through Perspex - originally inspired by an eco architectural building method of making supports using 'rammed earth'. The Mechanism uses a 12V DC motor connected by dowel rod and nylon thread to the moving elements of the sculpture. Mugs and spoons are placed at convenient points to create a cacophony of sound.

Your entry’s specification

Dimensions: 250 x 240 x 283 cm (height variable to gallery) Materials: Timber; dowel rod; plywood; perspex; motor; magnets; nylon cord; glazed ceramics; tile grout; resin; oil paint; 2 upcycled tables; wooden spoons and spatulas; cutlery; crockery; a tap head, shower heads and hoses; rubber gloves; recycled cardboard/paper packaging, snack containers and plastic wrap; computer wires found in a bin; and uncooked pasta.