Born Sydney 1982
Lives and works on Gubbi Gubbi land / The Sunshine Coast
Represented by Chalk Horse Gallery, Sydney
Kate Mitchell’s practice spans video, objects, image-making, and public interventions. Mitchell’s video works often position her as the central protagonist in absurd, challenging, and amusing situations – teasing out themes related to productivity, labour, success, and failure. The current focus of her practice draws on social uses of magical thinking and New Age practices and their collision and absorption by conventional structures and rational frameworks. Mitchell is interested in the multi-layered outcomes of these experiments that speak to who we are, what we value and how we exist.
By Bradley Vincent
It starts with a surprising story. Courtesy of artist Kate Mitchell, I learned that the United Nations previously used the services of a channeller (a specific kind of psychic medium who receives messages from a non-physical entity, or entities, and delivers them as received wisdom), who visited and channelled ‘wisdom for the guidance of humanity’. It is worth reflecting for a moment on the fact that this august institution, established to answer the practical matters of the global body politic, has on numerous occasions turned to the spirit realm for guidance. It is a joyful anachronism in the current global climate crisis, where questions of global futures are anxiety-inducing, at best. Mitchell mused on the comedy of the situation: ‘And in my mind this was such a wonderfully humorous image! Like politicians consulting a magic 8-ball or astrology during question time. And honestly, I feel at this point in time, the magic 8-ball would probably have more compassionate answers’.
For Mitchell, this presented an opportunity. What would a contemporary equivalent look like? The answer, a kind of conference call with the spirit world. Open Channels continues Mitchell’s investigations into psychic phenomena, so memorably staged recently in All Auras Touch, 2020, at Carriageworks. In this new video work, real channellers from across the planet were consulted. They were asked questions sourced from data captured by search engines such as Google – essentially, the burning, often startlingly depressing, questions we have been asking ourselves in these tumultuous recent months, or, more to the point, the questions we have been asking the faceless algorithms of the digital world. This way trouble lies. In the realm of big tech, data is capital, repeated back to us. Why not turn instead to another plane? Mitchell’s channellers are mediums for entities from across space and time. Our belief, or that of the artists, in their veracity is not the point here. With characteristic humour, coupled with sincerity, Open Channels gives us a vision of an escape route from the evidently relentless path we are on.