Drew Thornton

Helah Milroy

Drew Thornton

Bachelor of Arts (Japanese), 2016
Bachelor of Science (Microbiology), 2015 - discontinued

Waiter, bartender, warehouse packer, maths and chemistry tutor, uncertified microbiologist, painter, illustrator, programmer, etc. Drew is interested in human perceptions of consciousness, and the way we attribute or deny consciousness to non-human intelligences (be they animal or artificial). In the course of studying for SymbioticA’s Master of Biological Arts, this focus has been brought to bear on the world of insects, leading to a final project wherein human and insect participants are presented with a cooperative video game task.

Electives Taken

Invertebrate Zoology
Philosophy of Mind
Integrated Design: Advanced Design Thinking
Object Oriented Programming and Software Engineering
Science Practicum

Research Project
TAKE me BACK to JUPITER! is a prospective research project and biological art installation piece. It entails the construction of an immersive virtual reality console for flies, facilitating a cooperative game activity for humans and flies. During exhibition of the interactive work, human and fly participants work together playing an arcade-style video game, also titled TAKE me BACK to JUPITER!

Motivation for this project is founded on a dissatisfaction with academic responses to the question of animal consciousness. The feeling is that neither science nor philosophy offers an acceptable approach to intuiting the subjective experiences of non-humans; anthropomorphism and reductionism are equally flawed. The proposed artwork is both an academic response to the literature’s conflicted accounts of consciousness, and also an effort to untangle the complexity of interspecies relationships in a time of ecological upheaval. This work’s objective is to challenge conventional perspectives on the conscious status of animal minds, by creating an audience experience where individuals interact with a familiar species in a novel context. Human players of TAKE me BACK to JUPITER! are given cause to ask: is the fly a free agent—and hence second player of the game—or is its behaviour deterministic, effectively no different from the rest of the game’s coding.

Embedded in the work are performative interspecies relationships, in the form of acts of care, collaboration and play. Through this, the work speaks to our relationship with nonhumans at a personal scale, where the stakes are as low as the outcome of a video game (and as high as the fate of the entire world). Good luck, pilot!

Projects, Exhibitions, Presentations
~dthornton | Artist’s Website | 2019 |

PedantInk Illustration and Design | Online Portfolio | 2017 - 2019

SymbioticA | School of Human Sciences | UWA | 2017 - 2019
Frankenstein’s Ghost: Elemental Ontologies in Monster Fiction | Quite Frankly conference | 2018
Insect Textuality and Media | public seminar | 2018
Behind the Lense: Visual Systems in Humans, Insects and Other Animals | public seminar | 2019

Museums Victoria | Research and Collections | Practicum Placement | 2019
 Art-Science Integration at Museums Victoria | review document | 2019

SymbioticA | School of Human Sciences | UWA | Practicum Placement | 2017
Resident & Postgrad Welcome Pack | digital resource | 2017

UWA Pantomime Society | UWA | 2011 - 2016
Writer | 2011 – 2015  Producer | 2012 – 2015  Director | 2015 Technician | 2016