- Christina Cushing
- Ayrmer Cove, Devon
- 9th September 2023, 18.55 BST
RIFTS is a light box sculpture situated on the shore between Wyscombe Beach and Ayrmer Cove between 18.55 and 20.25 BST on the 9th September 2023. The journey to the site was made by sea on the sailing boat KARESTA from Bigbury Beach.
Our travels were marked by back and forths. Trips in the dinghy between KARESTA and shore to transport all of our things. Water sloshing in. The light box - the size of a small child - lay balanced across my lap as we rowed. One vigorous wave and we would have both toppled in. Onboard, Cushing and our captain moved from bow to stern and back again, guiding us across the waves. Seeing the coastline from the sea gave us a view of the craggy rocks and how they shift in colour: from streaky oranges to moss-covered greys. We anchored where there was promise of dark shadows within the towering slate.
It has washed ashore - a glowing, steaming cuboid. There, tucked into the sand. Dark smudges mark the surface behind the dripping condensation. It looks sharp and white against the jagged black rocks. A hunk of ice with perfect hard edges, keeping its form before it melts. Hold its gaze for too long and it starts pulsing as if there is a slippery being within - a hard shell with a soft centre, an oyster, a whelk. It must have come from the ocean. And yet its wetness has somehow been stilled, the drips never drip - a replica of how water actually is. It is a version of a sea creature imagined by an extraterrestrial. Caught between a thing and an image of a thing.
This middle ground is where Cushing hopes to hover, investigating somewhere between the bodily and the man-made. At each stage in the making process, she examines these two states. First, she uses AI predictive eye tracking on her existing artworks, generating a heat map which predicts where the human eye would naturally be drawn to. Removing the original image, we are left with just the dark patches of where we would have looked. A watery texture is added to this new image, steaming it up like a shower door. This is then applied to the surface of the cuboid structure she has built. A light sits inside, illuminating the image from within. What began as a visual record of data tracking has morphed into an object containing a living presence. This is not a complete overhaul of the technological influence: the AI software imitates the human eye it has learned - or been trained - from. Cushing takes us back there, where the bodily had been from the start.
Perception is a key theme in Cushing’s practice, expanded through situating the work in this context. Seeing - or more specifically, seeing light - is essential for sailors. Stern lights, side lights - red and green for port and starboard - and masthead lights mark a sailing boat as it moves, an anchor light for anchoring. Beacons and buoys mark channel borders and direction, dangers and so on. In the night these lights take on a mystical quality, glinting against dark and unknown waters. RIFTS belongs to this maritime world where function blends with superstition, where a light could guide you back to shore or beckon you out into the depths. It is hard to shake the feeling that it might be alive, that looking away for too long it could drift across the sand back into the ocean.
Christina Cushing is a Thai-British artist based in London. Following her role as Curatorial Assistant at 180 Studios, Cushing has gone on to complete an MFA at Slade School of Fine Art. She is a recipient of the 2023 Sarabande Foundation Award and has recently been featured in IGNOTA’s January Full Moon Journal. In 2017, Cushing co-founded arts project space Chaos Magic.
Special thanks to Alex Flowers and Zoltan Ver.