Pattern of Activation (Mutants), 2018

Katja Novitskova
Pattern of Activation (Mutants), 2018
Digital print on aluminium, steel, cut-out display; dimensions variable
Installation view: Art in the Age of Anxiety, Sharjah Art Foundation, 2020
Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin
Photo: Danko Stjepanovic


Katja Novitskova’s work tackles the complexity and eventual failure of depicting the world through technologically driven narratives. Her work merges art and science and brings them to the level of nature to draw attention to mediation and representation tools used to portray the two realms. Using technological tools such as microscopes or brain scans, she focuses on mapping biological territories that are inside, not outside, biological bodies in an attempt to alter how biology and technology develop.

In Pattern of Activation (Mutants) (2018), Novitskova uses images of the C. elegans or roundworm species as visual material. A sculptural piece consisting of an adult worm and seven smaller sculptures with images of eggs in various stages of development mimics an alien nest of an ancient species. C. elegans is used as a model organism in research because of its distant kinship to humans and the simplicity of its biology. Widely used for lab experiments, this species was the first to have its genome fully sequenced and its neural network fully mapped, and it was also the first organism to have a digital simulation of itself. As lab research is often performed with the use of advanced technologies of vision, such as microscopes, sensitive cameras, scanners and image-processing algorithms, the organism’s genes can be edited in such a manner that its body is capable of visually answering some of the questions about its own nature. C. elegans has become a living image of itself, a map, and the expressions of its genes have become ink. Novitskova uses C. elegans as a symbol of our current times, a species as a resource, the voiceless mutant, the unaware cyborg, the constantly surveilled industrial worker, the living data graph, the unknown icon that in many ways defines our era of the expanding colonisation of life on Earth through the constant intrusive documentation of it—documentation that is largely not meant to be seen by a single person, but rather to be numerically analysed by mechanical eyes.

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