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new hhhorizons


M I M I, SKY H1 and Mika Oki: Nature and the supernatural

Jasmín Hoek (author)

Jasmín Hoek

Jasmín Hoek is a DJ, writer, and music producer with an academic background in Gender Studies. She likes to bring a critical perspective into her music practice, and place music and club culture into an academic context. Her fields of interest range widely from pop culture, to fashion, to electronic music technicalities.

Published 28 Sep 2023


min read

Belgium’s Horst Arts & Music and Het HEM have joined forces for the second year in a row. This ADE, they will set up a two-day programme called  New HHHorizons at a hidden architectural gem in Amsterdam Zuid - De Thomaskerk, a brutalist Protestant church that is still in use for its original purpose. On Thursday (October 18th) of ADE, it will serve as the backdrop for the work of three stirring artists hailing from the ever-fruitful scene of Brussels. This includes a healing-focused hybrid performance conducted by M I M I through the use of sound, smoke, and natural elements. SKY H1 and Mika Oki will bring their transcendental collusion of sound and visual art to De Thomaskerk, creating a recontextualized execution adapted to the church's architecture and the natural sources of light entering the room.

Ahead of their performances, Jasmin Hoek chatted with M I M I, SKY H1 and Mika Oki to learn more about their practice, uncover their sources for creativity, and dive into their connection to nature and the supernatural.

Picture by Marieke Bosma


With her genre-erasing DJ sets and music productions, Brussels-based M I M I has become an intriguing name on the rise in the leftfield global club scene. She is heavily influenced in sound by her own Afro-European cultural heritage; her selections range from hypnotic percussive rhythms, to classical music, to futuristic club tracks. M I M I seems to be creating a layered self portrait each live performance. Which fits right into her full artistic practice; she creates, researches, and experiments to answer existential questions.

"Sometimes I’m in the process of creating, work based on my own intuition, and research my own motives within the process and experiments afterwards."

Exploring the purpose of her own existence has become a common thread throughout her work. "Everything I do is kind of always in relation to questions like, 'What am I to this world? What is my role? What am I to other people? What impacts do I have on my environment and my peers?' Through music, visuals, herbalism, and all that, I consider it as research, exploring the purpose of my existence. Sometimes the research happens beforehand. I get obsessed with an interesting topic and fully dive into it. Then I use it as a tool for my art or link it to what I’m doing. Sometimes I’m in the process of creating, work based on my own intuition, and research my own motives within the process and experiments afterwards. Experimenting in the sense of asking questions like, 'Why have I been working with this symbol? What does this symbol mean?' and then linking it to my emotional states or my environment. I think I'm in a constant dialogue with myself."

This adds an extra layer of meaning and challenge to M I M I’s already multidimensional work. Even when performing as a DJ, she regularly creates installations on or around the booth. "We live in times where people constantly need to be visually captivated. Our attention span is reduced. So I feel like when you add a third dimension such as lights, heat, or smell, it adds texture and creates a more immersive experience. We experience a lot of things in a two-dimensional way since everything is digitized. I think bodies still need some external stimulation. I like to smell things, I like to be able to touch something; I want my physical body to experience it as well."

M I M I feels that creating a universe around her when performing helps her overcome stage fright. She mentions she doesn’t consider herself to be an entertainer, so creating this extra atmosphere helps distract her from the idea that a crowd is looking at her. "I create everything out of intuition and feeling. I initially create it for myself, but it does bring something to the table, especially to my own production. My installations coexist with these layers of the environment. The aesthetics of my work are important to me. Not just beauty, but I enjoy creating something that feels more uncanny or weird as well."

Picture by Jitse Roels

Another tool for M I M I to ease into her performances is playing one of her own field recordings, which has become her signature introduction. "The first thing I do during a performance is ground myself, and field recordings are a tool for that. Listening to it takes me back to the place I was when I recorded it. From there I start building up, as if it’s showing the way." She compares the magic of field recordings to the curtain of plants in a dense jungle; you feel that there’s a lot happening, but you can’t see it.

Her comparison to the jungle highlights how subconsciously all her work is framed as an ecosystem. Another source of inspiration she often pulls from is soil. "I think I draw most of my inspiration from soil. I don’t know why, but my obsession with dirt is very strong. I like to touch it, and the smell of it too. The whole concept of it is just mind-blowing; it was once alive as organic matter, it broke down, and then was disintegrated by microorganisms. Eventually, it gets used again to cultivate our food or for other important purposes to us humans. Then again, it’s also strongly linked to our existence; most of us go back to the earth after all. So, soil is like a cycle." M I M I sees humans not as opposed to nature but highlights our being part of nature as a species in her work. To her, technology is not nature's enemy but a tool that, in the right hands, can bring us closer to nature again. Her ecocentric approach is evident in her work, in which she often aims to bridge spirituality, science, and technology to rediscover our connection with the earth. In M I M I’s ideal world, humans could realign with our basic needs and nature, while taking useful modernities and forward-thinking knowledge along with us into the future.

Though spirituality and nature may seem distant from technology and Brussels nightlife, M I M I believes that what happens in nature and on the dancefloor or inside a club is intimately connected. "Throughout human history, music and sound have united us, even predating speech. Babies, unable to walk, instinctively engage with sound. Music has always been present for our species. Based on this notion, I have been deconstructing the role of some DJs and musicians and repositioning it more as that of a shaman in some ways. A shaman leads the ceremony; they’re in control of elements like the rhythm of the drum," says M I M I. “As DJs, we have a similar kind of control over an audience. It’s amazing when you think about it; you’re in charge of how people feel in a room, and even their state or a certain kind of trance you can get them into. What you do has an effect on the psyche of people; some can have a great and healing experience, and some can have a terrible experience. I think I have been trying to find the intricate links between DJing and shamanism I know are there." Similarly, she describes being in a club or at a concert as a ritual, where we’re all connecting through sound, as some people are not dancing but still participating in the joint ritual.

“It’s mind-blowing how someone can lift some of those things off you by playing the right frequency at the right moment”

M I M I recalls a specific situation that made her more aware of the healing experience sound can have. "One time I was DJing, and in the middle of the set, I played an ambient track. I emptied half of the dancefloor, but those who stayed were really engaged with it. Then after my set, someone came up to me to thank me for playing that. Apparently, they were having a bad trip, and that bit of music just snapped them out of it." A remarkable incident that encouraged her to further explore and research healing through sound. "Personally, I also love to go dancing," she says. "It’s like exercising, but accumulated frustration, anxiety, even physical pain, or trauma, often things we’re not even aware of mentally but just build up in our body, somehow can get out on the dance floor. It’s mind-blowing how someone can lift some of those things off you by playing the right frequency at the right moment."

Picture by by Maryan Sayd

SKY H1 and Mika Oki

Brussels-based SKY H1 and Mika Oki first discovered each other’s work in the process of becoming part of the same local booking agency. The two had an instant, strong sense that their sonic and visual worlds would match seamlessly. SKY H1 is a sound artist, known for her futuristic ambient music with hints of pop and club music, from classic rave samples, to more abstracted traditional club drum patterns. Her productions have been released on influential electronic music labels as PAN, AD93, and Codes.

Mika Oki aims to redefine spaces through an impressive variety of creative outlets. She works with video, sound, and electroacoustics by creating abstract textures and mental images that trigger unconscious parts of our mental space. Mika is a shapeshifter that takes on many forms, which might have to do with her  initial artistic background in sculpture. Next to her practice, she DJs, organizes events, programs (online) radio, and actively advocates for women in the music scene.

Last year, their first joint project came about when Mika was working on an installation that both of them felt would perfectly work as the set to the live performance of SKY H1’s latest release and debut album, Azure. The installation, Parhélion, gets its name from a natural phenomenon, an optical effect that arises when light reflects back onto the atmosphere from ice crystals. "It manifests itself with iridescent luminous spots and an impression of the sun’s multiplication. My installation is inspired by this illusion and tends to recreate the sensation of a ‘trip’ above a sea of clouds."

Mika describes drawing a mental landscape in her head when listening to SKY H1’s music, which makes her see certain forms and colors. In this particular collaboration, she recreates these visions in the physical space through light, smoke, strobes, and visuals, building on the basis of an installation she started years ago, while SKY H1 takes on the designated part of music and all other aspects concerning sound. "We both adjusted our own pieces to create something that worked as a collaboration," SKY H1  says. Mika adds: "Our way of collaborating is very natural because we have a lot of sensitivity to each other’s work." SKY H1 agrees: "We are similar in our approach to working, with a slight tendency to strive for perfection. I think working together has brought some calmness to those types of feelings."

Picture by Jakub Dolezal

When I ask both of them about what a visible layer, as images, lights, smoke, or an installation,  adds to an otherwise audio-only performance, SKY H1 expresses that she’s not always the biggest fan of adding visuals to music, but Mika’s work is an exception; "What I often don’t like about scenography or visuals is that it guides too much of the imagination in one direction. What Mika made, on the other hand, really enhances the music. I think she triggers the imagination without being too literal. There’s a lot of room for interpretation. The scenography feels more physical instead of trying to convey a specific visual meaning."

Interestingly, where Mika seems to experience a strong form of synesthesia, imagining forms and colors when listening to music, SKY H1 does not translate inspiration from the visual into her music. "I don’t use any visual inspiration while composing, unless it is for a task that actually requires me to do that, like scoring a film. I prefer taking inspiration from a feeling, and then later on seeing how that gets translated into some kind of visual representation while I listen to it." To Mika, the link between image and sound comes intuitively. She closes her eyes to let a piece of music speak to her visually, and moving shapes and colors just appear. These images, as well as the kinaesthetic experience, inspire her installations. "I like to play with mental projections and unconscious images as well, leaving room for each person’s imagination to escape the festive atmosphere or the turbulence of everyday life for a moment. To me, SKY H1’s album alternates between stormy landscapes and moments of calm. While listening to it, I get the image of a mental form drifting along, always in search of a horizon of absolute tranquility."

"In a way, the machines are kind of doing their own thing next to what we are doing."

Mika’s image of the horizon gets reproduced within their collaborative performance. "In the visuals, Mika is trying to create this destabilizing feeling by playing with the horizon line. I think all of these elements together really play with the senses and almost make you feel like you are one with the surroundings. This is especially visible in some of the photos I’ve seen, where the light brushes through the crowd; it almost looks like some kind of UFO landing where people are sort of staring blankly into the light," SKY H1 comments.

Picture by Maryan Sayd

The extraterrestrial and posthuman aspect gets reinforced by the use of machinery in their performance, where Mika’s laptop gets triggered by the sound of the music through SKY H1’s sequencer, meaning that the lights react to the frequencies of the music. "In a way, the machines are kind of doing their own thing next to what we are doing."In addition, SKY H1 points out that because of the focus on sub frequencies and trance-like arps, the sound invokes a strong physical response, encouraging our bodies to take on a role of its own in SKY H1  and Mika Oki’s performance as well.

The hyper-technicality that goes into the work of these three forward-thinking artists seems to be far away from anything worldly and otherworldly they’re inspired by; M I M I’s connection to nature and shamanism, Mika’s fascination for the human subconscious and the sky, or SKY H1 working purely based of feelings. Where M I M I sees technology as a tool for reconnection with our basic need as human species part of the ecosystem, Mika and SKY H1 let the technology and  machines they use live lives of their own in their collaborative project. In the context of connecting to our spirituality and life beyond us, the mystical Thomaskerk seems to be a perfect home for both of their performances.