Joey Holder at Paris+ par Art Basel

A solo presentation by Joey Holder
Paris+ par Art Basel
Stand C14

A Cryptid is a creature which may or may not exist, unrecognised by mainstream science. For her new project for Paris+ Holder draws on the term to explore queer ecology and the limitations of Western scientific taxonomy. Turning her attention to the well known catch-all term for microscopic marine creatures – viruses, bacteria, plants and embryos – this new installation centres on plankton.

An eight-minute multi-channel film shows shifting, layered footage from laboratory cameras, cryptozoology forums and conspiracy sites, set to a frantic electronic score by Ptwiggs. The six channel video is displayed within a freestanding structure made from black acrylic housing the screens on which the footage unfolds. Flanking this central work are black acrylic wall panels bearing images derived from microscopy, cosmograms and illustrative diagrams. Adopting a diagrammatic aesthetic, Holder uses the visual language of science, through rhythmic data streams and electron microscope photography, informed by research from her collaboration with marine biologists. Although we know very little about planktonic creatures, they play a critical role in removing carbon from the atmosphere and regulating the Earth’s climate- they literally form the basis of the global food chain. Using 3D modelling, AI generative images of deep sea creatures and mystical symbology she reveals the position these creatures occupy across popular culture, and their importance to all life on earth.

Queer ecology states that people often regard nature in terms of dualistic notions like natural and unnatural, alive or not alive, human or not human, when in reality, nature exists in a continuously changing state. The idea of the natural arises from human perspectives on nature, not nature itself. This branch of ecology rejects ideas of human exceptionalism and anthropocentrism that propose that humans are unique and more important than other non-human nature, specifically challenging traditional ideas regarding which organisms, species, and individuals have value. For Holder this contrasts the prevailing, limited system of Western thought, where we recognise some bodies and not others.


New York Times 


An essay by Gunseli Yalcinkaya accompanying the  project can be downloaded here.


Joey Holder is an artist whose work raises philosophical questions of our universe and things yet unknown, regarding the future of science, medicine, biology and human-machine interactions. Holder has exhibited widely in the UK & internationally including the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Athens Biennale, Design Museum, Sydney Biennale, Transmediale & Venice Biennale. She is the director of SPUR, an online platform which supports digital practice and the director of Chaos Magic, an arts project space in Nottingham.

Working with scientific and technical experts she makes immersive, multimedia installations that explore the limits of the human and how we experience non-human, natural and technological forms. Her artwork is fuelled by continued dialogue and collaborations with researchers and practitioners from varied fields. She creates fictional worlds & constructed environments that respond directly to contemporary, real world events. Each artwork is considered a ‘set’ with filmic, narrative, architectural, visuals & sound elements created uniquely for the conceptual underpinning of the project. She has worked with computational geneticists, marine biologists, behavioural psychologists & investigative journalists where the artwork has addressed themes including future farming, synthetic biology and deep sea ecosystems. Mixing elements of biology, nanotechnology and natural history against computer programme interfaces, screensavers and measuring devices, she suggests the impermanence and interchangeability of these apparently contrasting and oppositional worlds: ‘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.