18 May 2016



Rebecca Baumann on air and light and time and space

Rebecca Baumann (b. 1983) lives and works in Perth, Australia. She visited HIAP between February 5th and April 29th, in the hopes of coming across interesting light phenomena such as the Northern lights.


A long residency period in the isolated environment of Suomenlinna, as well as trips to Lapland, Tampere, and Tallinn, resulted in solitary reflection, interesting experimentation, and some finished works.

TA: What are your working methods?

RB: I work with everyday objects, subtly intervening with them in order to subvert their inherent language. This is a process of considering what a material does, what relationship you may have to it in the world, and what happens when you alter its function. Materials and objects I have worked with include; flip-clocks, coloured smoke, fans, billboards, and more recently light as both a subject and object, and activation device.

Much of my work is driven by various mechanisms and machines, and this can require a knowledge of certain technologies – which I often don’t have – so I will work with different professions to realise my ideas, as needed. In the past I have collaborated with engineers, pyrotechnicians, and computer programmers. I enjoy the process of exchange that happens, and gaining access to different fields of knowledge.

TA: What inspires you? Can you name any influences outside the art world?

RB: I think inspiration is everywhere – it can be in the way that light comes through the window to create a temporal composition on the wall, or it may be finding a new material that has piqued my curiosity and I want to try and work with.

While I’ve been on Suomenlinna I’ve been taking ‘Field Notes’ – a collection of research images, text, and artworks that relate to light, time and space. While I’m on residency I find this process to be really important in trying to understand and process all the new information and experiences that I’m having.

TA: How is travel and contact with other cultures pertinent to your work? Do you consider your work site specific?

RB: I think residencies are really important in allowing you to step outside of your normal and familiar routine. In experiencing a new place and culture you become hyper-aware of the world around you, and you begin to ‘see’ again, in a way that I always seem to drift from while at home.

I was interested in travelling to Finland because of the extreme light conditions which can be experienced here, such as the polar winter, the midnight sun, Aurora Borealis… it is very different to Australia. During my residency I travelled through Lapland and Norway, and my journey through the arctic circle, both seeing the Northern Lights, but also experiencing the very specific light conditions which exist at that latitude, led me to think about perceptions of light and time.

TA: Time seems to play a big role in your work; seemingly still objects creating a narrative.

RB: Yes it is, with my sculptures and installations I try to activate a moment in time. I often think about when does one moment end and another one begin? How and why do we place importance on one moment in time, over another?

Seeing the Northern Lights was an amazing experience of colour, but what has stayed with me most about this ethereal spectacle was its temporality – waiting for a moment to happen, a moment which you couldn’t control, or know how long it would last for.

At first glance, Rebecca’s work seems distant and unemotional, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is so much more to her pieces than mere formalism. All her experiences, the joy that can be found in the morning light that shines through the blinds, and the light that reflects itself from the breaking ice of the Suomenlinna coastline are all there, in her work to be seen.

Read more:

Rebecca’s ‘Field Notes’ taken during her HIAP residency: http://rb-hiap.tumblr.com
‘Automated Colour Field’ uses flip-clocks to create an ever-changing colour field: http://www.rebeccabaumann.com/Works/Automated-Colour-Field/

Interview by Tessa Aarniosuo.
Images by Rebecca Baumann.