Kate Mitchell: All Auras Touch

‘All Auras Touch’ is an exhibition by Kate Mitchell on view at Carriageworks this summer. Mitchell is using the main occupations list from the census data to form the framework of the project. The audience is invited to sit for the artist who will take their portrait with the AuraCam 6000 – which makes a visual representation of each participant’s aura field. The exhibition will colourfully capture the census data that transcends the noun we use to describe ourselves. The project is ongoing, head to the Carriageworks website to sign up.

Kate Mitchell, All Auras Touch (artist portrait) (deetail), 2019. Commissioned by Carriageworks. © the artist. Courtesy the artist, Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Chalk Horse, Sydney and Carriageworks, Sydney

Hi Kate, can we start with the visuals of the exhibition?
I’m enlarging the original portraits to A2 size and wrapping them around the gallery. The installation will start as a text work with 1,023 placeholders of the job title. As I find that participant, the placeholder is replaced with the portrait. It transforms the work into an evolving exhibition.

Visually, they vary from being softly hued, to sometimes transparent to opaque colour fields that surround each person’s portrait – they’re very ethereal. The participants face emerges out of the colour, and the colour comes to the fore without dominating the person. It’s a nice relationship between the participant’s face and the surrounding colour fields.

How does this project relate to your previous works?
I have conceptually considered the topic of work for a while. My approach has been to view work as if it were an object, and I’ve tried to look at it from as many different angles as possible. I’m interested in the psychological, the philosophical, the history of and our identities forged through work, the social aspects of work, and the many offshoot topics such as worth, success, failure and time. As an artist, this interest extends to how artists work and how they make work.

Kate Mitchell, All Auras Touch, 2020, at Carriageworks, Sydney. Photograph: Zan Wimberley

How has the response been so far?
It’s been phenomenal. With any idea, you never know how the public are going to respond, and this is such a vast work, which requires public participation for its completion. We’ve had about 450 people signed up, so I’m almost halfway.

This project is about visualising the fact that we exist in a huge network or rather networks within networks. Firstly, we are embedded within an environmental ecosystem in which we play our part, and on another level, I’m considering the work ecosystem, where jobs rub against each other; and in this space, we assist, effect, prop up or make redundant, the next profession. It’s a visual articulation of the many ways we inhabit these networks, physically and energetically.

I was thinking about the whole idea of the aura and wellness, and it’s almost like the search for wellness is becoming a new religion.
For me personally, I’m interested in the many ways in which we exist, and I’m interested in exploring that conceptually. In this instance, aura photography is embedded within a conceptual artwork. I’m using it as a visual device to keep coming back to this idea of connection and compassion; connecting back into ourselves in a way where we can observe our thinking and to be a kind of witness to ourselves.

Where did the idea first come from?
I first read about the AuraCam 6000 online a couple of years ago, which was originally invented in the 70s, and I think of it as a pop-culture occult artefact. After giving birth and driving back from the hospital, I had this experience where I felt my awareness fragment, and I felt deeply connected to every single person and every single thing. It was a profoundly deep sense of awareness of our fundamental connection. On some level, this is an attempt to provide a visual representation of this experience.

Emma-Kate Wilson is a Sydney-based arts writer.

8 January to 1 March, 2020