The Electric Retina (2008)
Neurobiology at the Institute of Zoology, University of Zurich
Jill Scott (Switzerland/Australia)
The Electric Retina is a "neuromedia" sculpture which combines retinal research with interactive media art and metaphorical associations in order to explore the complexity of visual perception. Based on her residency in Neurobiology at the Institute of Zoology, University of Zurich, Scott gained a deeper insight into the genetic control of visual system development and function by analysis of zebra fish mutants, which are used as the main phenotypes for human eye disease research. While the Electric Retina displays examples from some of this research at the lab, its surface is constructed according to the rod and cone pattern array of photoreceptors in the human retina inspired directly from the Scanning Electronic Microscope. When the viewer looks into the "cones" or oculars, animations appear about the histological evidence, behaviour tests, molecular staining, cellular research images and related keywords from the researchers. The issues covered are macular degeneration, human diseases of the eye, genetic deficiencies and polarization. It is as if the viewers are looking through the tunnels into the neural chemical layers of the eye. From the other side of the sculpture, films of underwater movies are projected onto the wall. These are shot from the perspective of the impaired subject, which shows how visual impairment can affect neural behaviour. Therefore the projected films (affect) are directly related to the content of these ocular films (evidence) and aim is to allow the general public to gain a better understanding of how vision is affected by genetics, disease and degeneration.
Jill Scott was born in 1952, in Melbourne, Australia and has been working and living in Switzerland since 2003. Currently she is Professor for Research in the Institute Cultural Studies in Art, Media and Design at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) in Zürich and Co-Director of the Artists-in-Labs Program (a collaboration with the Ministry for Culture, Switzerland) which places artists from all disciplines into physics, computer, engineering and life science labs to learn about scientific research and make creative interpretations. She is also Vice Director of the Z-Node PHD program on art and science at the University of Plymouth, UK. Her recent publications include: Artists-in-labs Processes of Inquiry: 2006 Springer/Vienna/New York, and Coded Characters Hatje Cantz 2002, Ed. Marille Hahne. Her education includes: PhD, University of Wales (UK) MA USF, San Francisco, as well as a Degree in Education (Uni Melbourne) and a Degree in Art and Design (Victoria College of the Arts). Since 1975, She has exhibited many video artworks, conceptual performances and interactive environments in USA, Japan, Australia and Europe. Her most recent works involve the construction of interactive media and electronic sculptures based on studies she has conducted in neuroscience- particularly somatic response and artificial skin (e-skin) 2003-2007 and on the retinal responses and neuromorphology in human eye disease (The Electric Retina).