Tuomas A. Laitinen is a Finnish multidisciplinary artist working with moving image, sound, light, glass, chemical and microbial processes, as well as algorithms, to explore the entanglements of human and more-than-human coexistence.
His new project, Protean Sap, released on Thurs 24 Sept, is being presented by Brighton arts charity Lighthouse in partnership with Daata, Finnish Institute and Helsinki Contemporary. The work creates a strange, dream-like reality where geometric formations encrust objects and bodies, paired with a mysterious seer’s text.
It consists of augmented reality filters, available via the Lighthouse instagram, and a single-channel video work, with narrative version viewable on www.tuomasalaitinen.com/proteansap and ambient version available to view and buy at www.daata.art.
The forms are drawn from protein chains of viruses, bacteria, and microbial life. These shapes are then changed through simulations into masks and ceremonial artefacts which are morphed in a hallucinatory way.
In the video, the metaphor for protean change is a tide pool; an intertidal zone influenced by the moon and the sun. This is an ecosystem that requires many adaptations from its inhabitants. The protein chains link us to our past and our future, and in the work they are mediated through a “looking device” and a seer, who utters recipes and predictions.
With the augmented reality filters, the viewer can experience protein structures becoming virtual body augmentations, and receive their own predictions from the seer.
The seer personifies our constant yearning to predict the future: to give weather forecasts, predict fluctuations in the stock markets, or predict the warming of the planet and its consequences.
By using the biological structures for this narrative, Laitinen aims to look at technologies of imaging and how these technologies change the reality settings of the world. This work explores different vantage points toward knowledge, while also taking inspiration from various science fiction stories..
“Initially, I wanted to realise something that was physically connected to the West Pier in Brighton,” Laitinen explains. “Due to pandemic travel restrictions, it was clear it would be better to work with digital tools, so I started to think about how the work could be experienced in multiple locations. The tide pool is an active ecosystem, where the ocean meets land, which is also true of a pier structure. So, the metaphor of the tidal push and pull is still present in the work.
“There are a few starting points that were important in the beginning of this work. I was researching Protein Data Bank, an open-source platform for scientists working with macromolecular protein models, the building blocks of life. These protein chains are a structural view of biology, also actively used in the research on COVID-19.’
Protean Sap is a co-commission from Lighthouse, Daata and The Finnish Institute. Lighthouse is part of Re-Imagine Europe, which is co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. Re-Imagine Europe is initiated by Sonic Acts (NL) and coordinated by Paradiso (NL) in collaboration with Elevate Festival (AT), Lighthouse (UK), Ina GRM (FR), Landmark / Bergen Kunsthall (NO), A4 (SK), Disruption Network Lab (DE), Ràdio Web MACBA (ES), Urban Paradoxes (NL) and Kontejner (HR).
In recent years, Laitinen has been working around questions of ecology, the notion of the extended mind, and processes of knowledge production. The works are often made with transparent and translucent materials in order to find ways to layer different epistemological systems and narratives.
Tuomas A. Laitinen’s Protean Sap runs on Thurs 24 Sept – Thurs 15 Oct 2020.