Batten and Kamp

Curator Text: Charmaine Tam

2 Dec 2021 – 22 Jan 2022

Novalis Art Design, 197 Hollywood Road, Hong Kong

This collection is about exploring the concept of ‘Elsewhere’, of the many layers and connotations this word conjures up. There are many ‘elsewheres’ hidden within this exhibition. The main principle being that even though we project ourselves to a time or place to get away from the present, we always end up circling back to it. The word itself implies a sense of escapism. We want to run from the problems of our present and hence we go to this hypothetical fictional place that we conjure up. In a sense science fiction also presents a thought experiment to get away from present problems, and yet, the imagined world is never detached from the contemporary as it is an attempt to imagine solutions to current problems. We might also choose to conjure up an ‘elsewhere’ from our memories, a place from the past and yet, details are always blurry, never completely accurate, tinted by nostalgia. Those places from the past too, are to an extent imagined places, tinted by our current mood or outlook within our perspective. Hence, ‘elsewhere’ is a projection that always ends up circling back to present day, our here and now.

Perhaps the circumstance that this collection was created in had an influence on why this particular theme was developed. William Figliola, founder of Novalis Art Design, approached Batten and Kamp for this collaboration back in 2020. In March 2021, Daniel Kamp tested positive for Covid and spent 31 days in an isolation hospital. It was during this time, with Daniel in a hospital bed sealed in a glass box, and Alexandra Batten within their studio, mediated by Zoom, that they finalized many of the designs in this collection. Having formulated their joint practice at the end of 2019, they have since been confined to Hong Kong, both hailing from New Zealand, stuck ‘elsewhere’ perhaps dreaming of home, or at least dreaming up a reflection of their past, their present and their future. And yet Batten and Kamp would like to stress that this dreaming of ‘elsewhere’ is not a negative view of their present, but more of a reflection of their past, their inspirations, influences, imagining of futures.

Here, in this collection, Batten and Kamp have created a fictional beyond, this hypothetical universe where things are slightly different to our current universe, but not enough that it is completely alien. There is a sense of play between the familiar and unfamiliar which can be seen throughout the collection.

‘Elsewhere’ started out with a few key pieces which then organically blossomed into the idea of this collection. The first of which are the silk and neon hanging sculptures and lounge chairs.

The hanging sculptures ‘Longing for the Space Between Stars,’ and ‘Longing for the Company of Trees,’ developed as a dialogue with each other, from a need to articulate emotions sparked by isolation caused by this unusual time in Hong Kong, where Batten and Kamp found themselves away from home. These emotions led to introspection and retrospection, to look at the past (to see what has led them to where they are today) and imagine the future (where they might be heading, or things they would like to improve or keep). Silk sheets are printed with a collage of different images to express both their longing for home, their retrospection for the past that has shaped them, and their visions for the future, or science fiction imaginings of the present, of sci-fi what-ifs. The former, ‘Longing for the Company of Trees,’ features a collage of images of ‘habitats,’ of New Zealand forests taken from Batten and Kamp’s last trip home to New Zealand (which also features an unrecognizable photo of Batten’s father jumping into a clear spring in New Zealand). The latter, ‘Longing for the Space Between the Stars,’ features a collage of images from space, as well as images from the recent landing of NASA’s ‘Perseverance’ Mars rover.

The same idea is expressed in the chaise chairs, ‘Origin,’ and ‘Elsewhere.’ ‘Origin’ is an oak plywood lounger, stained black, and suspended above a granite boulder and ‘Elsewhere‘ is its clear acrylic partner. For ‘Origin,’ when Batten and Kamp imagined it, it was ‘sitting on top of a misty hill or wind-swept coastline in New Zealand’ that ‘stares into the beyond.’ ‘Elsewhere’ is the antithesis to this, as it is supposed to exist sitting ‘on the surface of the moon’ looking back at Earth. ‘One “here” looking “there”, and one “there” looking “here”’.

The rest of the collection sprung into being as an extension of this exploration of ‘Elsewhere,’ of looking at our universe from an outsider’s point of view to see things in a new light and gain a new appreciation or perspective of our present. ‘Eden Found’ is floor standing light sculpture with a 3D scan of a natural branch in cast aluminium. The humble everyday branch is transformed into an alien yet familiar beautiful object, so that we get a new sense of appreciation for the beauty in nature, looking at the everyday object with renewed eyes. The small sculpture, ‘An Impossible Stack of Unlikely Advances Reaching Skyward’ is a digital assemblage of internet-sourced 3D files printed in titanium. In their own words, ‘a human hand reminiscent of religious iconography sits atop an industrial robot suction gripper, atop a Noguchi coffee table leg, atop a 3D scanned 1.7-million-year-old proto-biface stone tool, all precariously balanced on a piece of found stone.’ This piece reflects Batten and Kamp’s process of making assemblages of their various influences and past experiences together into a new work. It also speaks of human progress, of technological advance where now that we’ve reached a forefront of technology where we are once again looking back to our roots of craft and nature. The human touch. The primal.

We shall end here with words from Batten and Kamp: ‘Elsewhere reminds us of the precious complexity and strangeness of the here and now. It tells stories of futurism and naturalism intertwined. It is what Dan and I (Batten and Kamp) thought about our world for a time.’

We hope that through this collection you, dear viewer, are also projected ‘Elsewhere.’ And gain new perspectives and new eyes for our present.