Joey Holder

So much biology is not what I was expecting from the artist talk this week.

Holder is interested in the structures and hierarchies of the technological and natural world and how these systems are constantly abstracted. Mixing elements of biology, nanotechnology and natural history against computer program interfaces, screen savers and measuring devices, she sees no object or substance in any fixed state or with any permanent definition, identity or order; everything is transforming and morphing into something else; everything is a mutant and a hybrid.

Connecting forms which have emerged through our human taste, culture and industrial processes she investigates complex systems that dissolve notions of the ‘natural’ and the ‘artificial’. GM products, virtual biology and aquatic creatures are incorporated into an extended web; challenging our perception of evolution, adaptation and change. By contrasting so-called ‘organic’ and ‘man-made’ substances and surfaces through a series of abstractions, she creates a world of manifold layers, none more unified or natural than the next. These hybridities may suggest a particular function or natural form but remain elusive through their odd displacement.


Joey Holder website

‘Artist Profile: Joey Holder’. Jamie Sutcliffe,, June 2016

Joey Holder’s Tumblr sites,,,,,,,,,,

Source: Email given prior to the talk.

Holder normally presents her work in a continual stream or sprawl as she feels like this is how her work comes together the best, and should be presented. She also mentioned that she is always working on new aspects, and so all the ideas collaborating together in a video is something to help her with this process. Holder uses different mediums within her work, however she does not necessarily consider herself a multidisciplinary artist.

The main themes within her work, that can be viewed on her many tumblr websites, is often natural and synthesised symptoms, and also where these two merge together. There are also the themes of organification, merging and technology that can be seen throughout her work.The work contains language, symbols and diagrams, which are often used by humans to help understand the world. Holden uses these and images of creatures, often sea creatures.

Although much of her work is displayed on computers, she finds that the computer is just another interface to look at the world.

Holden mentioned quite a few times that she is interested in biology, and told us that there are over one million detectors in our retinas but much less going from the retina to the brain. She also mentioned that she found the part of the brain named the hippocampus, which filters information and memories.

Hydrozolen is the first series of works that she introduced us to, which has an existing online element and had a physical exhibition alongside. The class of animals she used in this piece was mainly sea animals. This piece came out a residence of ‘Internet of growing things’ where she worked with scientists for the first time. One of these scientists was looking at new farming methods including vertical farming due to our constant need to grow things, and also a close loop hydroponics (where you are growing crops in water, not soil). In almost response to this, Holden set up Jacuzzi shells inset into walls, and projected scenes on to them. The pipes leading away from the Jacuzzi’s went into another room where mother of thousand plants, which are self-pollinating.

Holden also looked at dark creatures, and what we consider natural and artificial. Holden re-worded this to the separation of what we produce as humans and what we use. She looks at creatures that we would consider alien, even though they live right here, on earth. She used to go deep sea diving, and so many of these creatures fuel her inspiration and work.

Her work then went on to how our bodies are becoming digitised with sites such as Google Genomics and 23andme. On these sites, you can upload your genetic information and make comparisons on your genetic data. Holden is also interested in how our biological and medical information is going to be used once these companies and sites have it. In a piece that she did, she has the names of different genetic families as though they were on the stock market, with the background of a crab (she also added not to ask her why she chose a crab). Corporations have the possibility of knowing and accessing more information than we may know about ourselves.

Nematode looks at how scientists are now also sampling genetic codes of the animals in the sea. Craig Ventor is the main scientist looking at this and created the first synthetic life form. One person asked him in an interview Aren’t you playing God?, where he simply answered that I’m not playing. He wants to be able to find the cures to genetic diseases and believes that these creatures hold the key to that. Holden also completed a residency with deep sea specialists where she discovered that the creatures that live next to the deep sea vents do not need oxygen or to photosynthesise, and scientists believe that they hold the key to how life began on Earth. A film names Proteous, from Greek mythology (and is known for being versatile, assumable and able to adapt into many forms), used the footage from a British expedition that explored these vents.

Holden mentioned that she has very scientific based work (and mentioned Feltsbarehadelsbone, which is a mineral that is in abundance in the Earth’s crust), however then mentioned that she wanted to move away from this. Her inspiration for the film Ophicuous, was a book connecting molecular biology and shamenism, as they could see into the very molecular depths of our bodies.

Tetragrammation was a show with John Russel (a lecturer at Reading), whereupon they decided to have the voice of David Cameron speaking about the importance of the Church, how beliefs are misconstrued and how ‘the media has fucked up’.

Ophiux is the last piece that she talked about, as sadly time was running out, and it was the final big project of last year. She created a sci-fi medical room with the idea that scientists are collecting all the data that they could, and that they can, to improve humanity. In Cambridge, she met a scientist who builds apps to analyse genetic data, and found that we have no idea what 95% of our DNA and genetics are, and we are only certain of 3-5%. Ophius is a made up pharmaceutical company to almost mock those such as Illumina (which is a pharmaceutical company that so happens to sound like Illuminati), that collects and uses genetic data.

Source: Ophix: Joey Holder

Source: Proteus: Joey Holder

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