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Nerves in Patterns on a Screen

Date: 29 August 2014
Time: 3:00pm
Location: SymbioticA
Speaker: Devon Ward

The recent exhibition by Devon Ward Nerves in Patterns on a Screen investigated the levels of care and control that humans maintain over microscopic life in order to generate knowledge. Traditionally a hierarchical order is maintained during laboratory experiments, whereby someone observes and something is observed. This project explores how biological technologies that digitally record the activities of life can be reframed as a means of destabilizing this order. Instead of extending of our perceptual boundaries, the limits of the observational tools are shown.

Living neural tissue is employed as both medium and agent in this project. Digital animations are choreographed and corrupted by the electrical signals of neurons as our technological gaze is disrupted by the agency of life. A collection of chapbooks accompanies the digital, featuring typographic collages and biodigital poetries that cut up the rules of language. These works ruminate on the imposition of symbolism on both digital and biological life, creating a biosemiotic exchange in which an electrical impulses are imbued with meaning.

Nerves in Patterns on a Screen is the culmination of Devon’s research while pursuing a Master of Biological Art with SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia. During this research, he engaged with scientific laboratory practices, drawing inspiration from the unpredictable and sometimes chaotic experiences when working with wet biology. The outcome, Nerves in Patterns on a Screen, explores the digitization of life processes and the materiality of the digital.

Devon Ward is an artist, designer and interdisciplinary researcher pursuing a Master of Biological Art at SymbioticA within the University of Western Australia. His work investigates the liminal space between art and science and engages with living materials as a medium for artistic expression. His process involves entering into the scientific laboratory as a means of elucidating and subsequently subverting the tools of objective observation, repositioning them as a means for subjective cultural investigation. Biological technologies are used to investigate the digitization of microcellular life and symbolic translation that occurs within this process. Through this trans-disciplinary practise Devon develops absurd ruminations on the influence of language and symbolism within technology and biology.

Devon hails from the Gulf Coast of Florida and received a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Florida in 2010 with the honour of Magna Cum Laude. After graduating he worked as a graphic designer, exploring cultural transmission through visual and typographic signs.

Devon participated in the City of Perth’s Light Locker Exhibition in 2013 and his photographs have appeared in the West Australian. He held two solos shows titled Through a Glass Darkly (2012) and Man-myth (2010), each of which explores the half-life of narrative and meaning as it is slowly unravelled and transformed by the passage of time. His upcoming Master’s exhibition titled Nerves in Patterns on a Screen uses living neurons as a medium to explore the agency of life.