Phil Gamblen

Further information

Country of origin





Born in the UK in 1964. Migrated to Canada in 1966. Trained and worked as a gem cutter in the 1980's. Resettled in WA in 1991 after two years of travel. Graduated from Claremont School of Art in 1996 and Curtin University of Technology in 1998 with an Honours Degree in Fine Art, majoring in sculpture. Current artworks utilize motion and light to investigate technological aspects of today's culture, the overlap of art and science and the re-use of obsolete and discarded materials.


Research projects

Silent Barrage

The nature of thoughts, free will, and neural dysfunction is examined in this work which is a collaboration between Symbiotica and the Dr Steven Potter of the Laboratory for Neuroengineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, United States.

Silent Barrage declares its presence in scale and sound. This architectural scale arrangement of noisy pole robots is more then a mere amplification of neuronal activity in a culture dish.

One of the very few real art and science works – in that it is both artistically meaningful and scientifically valid, Silent Barrage investigates the nature of thoughts, free will, and neural dysfunction. The work focuses at the bursts of uncontrolled activity of nerve tissue, a typical characteristic of epilepsy and cultured nerve cells. Silent Barrage uses audience movements in, and responses to the architectural space of amplified neuronal activity to feed it back to the cultured nerve cells in an attempt to silence the barrage of electrical impulses. The scientists hope that this might help them understand better how to quieten the activity in the culture dish, and this in turn would assist in treating epilepsy.

From an artistic perspective Silent Barrage provides an immersive and somewhat overwhelming sensorial manifestation of questions that are in the core of our understanding of the stuff that make us think. Using the presumption of free will of the audience, who chart their own path trough the space, this work draws real and imaginary parallels between the person and nerve cell.     

Each pole in the arrangement represents a region in the culture dish, and the movements of the individual robots correspond to the level of activity in the area. The robots markings on the poles hint to the continuous neuronal activity, conjuring traces of “memories” of past actions.  The movement of audience in the Silent Barrage’s space is used to stimulate the culture. Nerve cells activity usually happens when a certain combination of stimulations reaches a threshold; the same can be said about our decision making. The navigation through Silent Barrage is made out of a series of incremental decisions made in an overly stimulated environment, out of the context of daily life. The nerve cells are also out of context, removed from the brain they once belong to, they are cultured in an artificial environment, trying to make connections with the cells around them. The barrage of activity is a symptom, can pairing cells and the audience can help make “meaningful” connections that will quieten the barrage? Can it happen in a place which is nothing but quiet? 

Below is a video of Silent Barrage:


Silent Barrage has been assisted by the State Department of Culture and the Arts and its participation at Exit Art was assisted by Australia Council.

Period of Research

2008 - 2009

Kinetics and motion - investigative residency

Phil Gamblen developed art practice in the area of kinetics and the study of motion during his period at SymbioticA.

This residency was vital in the concept, research and development of Fish and Chips. It involved the construction of the artificial air muscles and investigation of their use in robotics. Phil gamblin collaborated with Dr Stuart Bunt in the setting up and testing of an electrophysiological recording system to monitor and record neural activity in fish tecta.

Gamblen continues to be a key researcher in the SymbioticA Research Group’s MEART project (originally Fish and Chips).


The one-year part-time residency was funded by the New Media Arts Fund of the Australia Council.

Period of research

2000 – ongoing