BALTIC 39, Newcastle, UK 24/01/2020 - 26/04/2020


Commissioned by Irene Aristizábal (Head of Curatorial and Public Practice) and Emma Dean (Curator) for BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art.


The exhibition is centred around Jeans Houghton’s film essay, SCREAMING BIRD, SINGING DAWN, RAINBOW MOUNTAIN (2020), commissioned by BALTIC. Developed during the artist’s two-month residency at the Hongti Art Center in Busan, South Korea in 2018, the film explores the ritual practices of Korean shamanism, through conversation with the mudang (shaman) who perform them.


Divided into chapters, the film considers intersections between Korean shamanism, Buddhism, Christianity and capitalism. Wandering first person shots document the people and places of Busan; the estuaries, ancient temples, markets and city streets. Interviews with mudang (shamans), monks and astrologers provide insights into alternative knowledges, which are passed down through the generations. The film’s narrative also discusses broader ideas around states of consciousness, types of embodiment and the notions of  ‘Cosmogenesis’ (the origin and development of the cosmos), through the exploration of creation myths and their associated belief systems.


Presented on four screens, which are arranged according to the four cardinal directions of the compass: east, south, west, north, the ambient light and sound of the film provides an immersive experience. The pyramidal seating arrangement is etched with a diagram that Houghton has developed, based on his own magical symbolic system for transformation, also reflected in the large banners on the wall and floor.


As part of the installation, a series of shelves display Alchemical Ghost Food (2020), inspired by South Korean ritual where the ‘ghost food’ is laid out as offerings to nourish or venerate ancestors, ghosts, spirits and gods. The work Ancestral Armour (2020), a costume made of leather and horse-brasses pays homage to his ancestors; master craftsmen who shared their lives with horses and maps the planetary alignments of his birth chart.