June 2019 | Gnawing Fields by Devon Ward
Upon entering the lobby, you will find two paths: a corridor and a stairway. Do not climb the stairway. This plane is not for you. Instead, you must stay below. Beneath. Under. Grounded. Among them.
Follow the corridor until you find them, the Old Friends. Drawn from the depths, and bound in glass, they breathe life into this field as they chaw, chide, chomp and snarl. They came before us and in the great cauldron, when we were formed, they helped shape us, from the inside out.
In this field, they speak only with electric echoes and metal—calling out from a time that has yet to pass. If you listen closely you may hear premonitions through their chatter. They wish to mould us again. Forming, kneading, bending and, on occasion, breaking.
Gnawing Fields is a robotic installation that uses an emerging technology called microbial fuel cells — batteries made from mud, water and anaerobic bacteria — to create low voltages that trigger steel-jaw traps to open and close. Using mud collected from Herdsman Lake as the agent which controls the traps, Gnawing Fields subverts the passive role typically given to the natural elements, which are often seen only as a resource to be exploited. In light of the increasing number of natural disasters around the world, this work presents viewers with a speculative allegory about the changing relations between humans and our environment.
Devon Ward is an artist who creates living and digital systems to explore notions of time, place and identity. His projects often rely on allegories and speculative scenarios that use the "future" as a conceit to critically examine our current social systems. His work takes the form of installations, sculptures, video, books and sound. Ward earned a Master of Biological Arts from SymbioticA at the University of Western Australia in 2014 and a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Florida in 2010. He is a sessional instructor as UWA Design and has taught at Curtin University. He has exhibited nationally and internationally including China, Ireland, Japan, UK and US.