In association with the Royal Academy of Arts

Past Finalists: Joey Holder's mutant hybrids

The artist behind this year’s Converse x Dazed Emerging Art Award identity talks futuristic vertical farms, projection mapping and Hydrozoa

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Joey Holder
Courtesy of the artist

Artist Joey Holder – creator of this year’s online identity – is fascinated by the networks and systems that weave together our natural and man-made worlds. Collating elements of biology, nanotechnology and natural history into technological interfaces she makes artworks that mutate and transform. Always in flux, everything is a mutant hybrid at the point of morphing into something else. 

Since being selected as a finalist for the Converse x Dazed Award last year, Holder has had some incredible opportunities come her way. Her latest success, a dazzling solo show called HYDROZOAN at The Royal Standard, was developed out of a six-month residency where she met with bioscientists at University of Nottingham. Joey explains how this exhibition came about and how it formed the basis of her commission for The Converse x Dazed Emerging Artists Award 2015.

Tell us about your research with the bioscientists?

Joey Holder: Earlier this year I completed a six-month research commission Internet of Growing Things with Near Now where I met with scientists based at the University of Nottingham. Both scientists I met specialised in post-genomics. They were experts in plant biology researching inventive futuristic new ways of farming and engineering food to maximize yield and shelf life. Dr Chungui Lu, for example, was developing vertical farming (cultivating plant life on vertical surfaces) and aquaponics systems (symbiotic acquatic environments) in order to grow fruit and vegetables in urban centers. The systems are controlled with highly sophisticated technology that precisely manages nutrients, heat, light and growth of the plants.

What interested you about these ideas?

Joey Holder: I was fascinated by the idea of a controlled closed-loop ecosystem – an ecosystem that doesn’t rely on matter exchange with any part outside the system. In Aquaponics you grow food from fish - their waste acts as a natural fertiliser for plants. The fish and the plants have a symbiotic relationship where both are interdependent upon one another.

How did the research feed into your work?

Joey Holder: For my exhibition at The Royal Standard I created a large installation set over three rooms of the gallery that simulated an aquaponics system. I sunk large hot tubs into the walls of the gallery space and used projection mapping to map Hydrozoa (underwater animals such as sponges and jellyfish) over their surfaces. Hydrozoa are the creatures most likely to thrive in the conditions which humans have created in the environment – polluted waters and rising temperatures. I also included Mother of Thousands plants, which are an asexual species able to self-pollinate. I hung LED lights used in vertical farming above the plant tank to encourage their growth. The plants were connected to the hot tubs via large pipes, which hung down from the ceiling of the space, simulating an interconnected networked ecosystem.

What is it about networks that fascinates you?

Joey Holder: With computers controlling more aspects of our everyday lives we are being mediated, augmented, produced and regulated by digital devices all the time. Everything is connected through complex natural systems and I am critical of the reduction of this to algorithmic computation.

How did the ident for the Award website evolve from this exhibition? 

Joey Holder: The video I made for the Award website includes a 3D model which was a virtual sketch I made for the design of the HYDROZOAN exhibition. I’ve overlaid images of the “Dragonfly vertical farm” an urban farm concept developed for New York City's Roosevelt Island. It also shows virtual models of interiors - representing an idealised vision for the control and containment of nature.

Submissions are now open, for a chance to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts click here