Joey O’Gorman is a co-director at the artist-run organisation Catalyst Arts and is studying for an MFA at the Belfast School of Art. He was a research affiliate of the MA Art and Science at Central Saint Martins after working as a Molecular Biology research scientist.


“There are two areas of interest from which I have drawn inspiration during the recent development of my work: the interrelation of nature and culture; and conceptions of an extended world. My reading informs my research-led practice in many ways, from writing and drawing to digital media and sculpture, all feed into the development of a personal cosmology which I express through performative lectures and installations.

My practice engages with an holistic approach to environmental responsibility, sustainable development, and cultural plurality, especially in relation to an Ecosystem Services paradigm [1]. This global perspective brings together disparate fields of human endeavour which are often considered separately, drawing connections between empirical and political traditions. An aesthetics of human and natural phenomenon, taken as parts of a co-extensive whole, is also deployed with a hope to offset a hegemonic Western discourse [2]. These expansive and activist ways of seeing and doing are of vital import due to the existential threat posed by catastrophic, anthropogenic environmental degradation and the absolute failure of contemporary conceptions of economics and ethics [3].

Graham Harman’s Object Oriented Ontology [4] (which posits objects that forever withdraw beyond both their physical manifestations and what can be thought about them) and Bruno Latour’s “Actor Network Theory” [5] (used in his analysis of scientific research practice, where inanimate things become multivalent actors that continually shift register) inform my disavowal of a strict subject/object dichotomy. The History and Philosophy of Science and William James’ pragmatism have also instilled in me a wariness of epistemology. James’ essay collections “Radical Empiricism” and “A Pluralistic Universe” [6], have deeply influenced my thinking – inspiring a multilayered understanding of a rich, emergent world, populated by multifaceted, ultimately compromised, agents which interact within ambiguous fields of experience.

Another compelling area which speaks to the human subject’s connectivity with the physical world, one which draws the relatively unfamiliar vitality of inanimate objects into a more tangible realm, is Extended Cognition. This thesis builds on Embodied Cognition, a psychological framework which eschews a mind/body divide and posits that we outsource various aspects of cognition to the external environment [7]. Tools and information repositories, for example, can effectively act as parts of our minds, affecting how we act and what we believe [8]. For me, the social, cultural and ecological norms in which we are embedded similarly supplement our ability to navigate and respond to the world [9].

I am also considering various aspects of biology and theories which are informed by it as territories for artistic exploration. Especially niche construction (a theory which considers environmental modification by organisms to be an evolutionary process [10]), the idea of the holobiont [11] (a view of communities of organisms acting in symbiosis as a conceivable whole rather than historical conceptions of the individual) and sympoeisis (the co-creation of interacting species), a theory which has been adopted by thinkers such as Donna Haraway [12]. I am intrigued by the scope for linking these interdisciplinary conceptions, which are taking root in fields such as archaeology to anthropology, with more esoteric and mystical worldviews [13].”

[1] The concept of ecosystems services was introduced in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), which reported in 2005 on the state of global environments, how these are affected by and affect human activity and an analysis of how different policies could promote different outcomes. An ecosystem is a system of biological organisms and geographical environment. Ecosystem services are the services provided to humanity through the dynamics of ecosystems, for example, clean water and materials for food, fuel and shelter. Many of these are critical for human well-being, providing the foundations of everything from health to security. See, and ‘Science for managing ecosystem services: Beyond the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’, PNAS, 106: 5 (2009), p. 1305-1312, S.R. Carpenter.
[2] The Aesthetics of Natural Environments (Broadview Press, 2004), p76-88, Arnold Berleant, edited by Allen Carlson and Arnold Berleant.
[3] Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking, 2006), Jared Diamond and Bruno Latour’s 2013 Gifford lectures, which outline the need for a new generation of peoples to rise up and fight for Gaia (the manifestation of Earths dynamic systems) in the face of the catastrophic risks posed by environmental degradation and climate change, and the counterproductive actions of powerful elites.
[4] see G. Harman, ‘The Third table’, 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts No.085, dOCUMENTA 13 (2012), Harman’s starting point is Eddington’s two tables – the one we experience in everyday life and the one described by physics – discussed in A. Eddington’s 1927 Gifford lectures. And, Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory (John Wiley & Sons, 2016) where he adopts the theory of evolutionary symbiosis in order to understand the transformation of social objects.
[5] Reassembling the Social (Oxford University Press, 2005), Bruno Latour and, Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Harvard University Press, 1999), Bruno Latour. Through disavowing the imagined entity, the ‘Social’, Latour traces the emergence and evolution of various non-human ‘actors’ and the networks they form. Through painstaking reconstruction of events he shows how things often conceived of as inanimate act in the world and often evade easy or definite categorisation.
[6] Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912), William James, posits that the world is made up of neither matter nor thought but pure experience and A Pluralistic Universe (1909), William James, argues that generalised concepts distort our view of reality.
[7] Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension (Oxford University Press, 2008), Andy Clark.
[8] Controversially Clark and Chalmers go as far as to suggest that our beliefs can be dictated by something as mundane as a notebook, The Extended Mind (The MIT Press, 2010), pp. 27-42, A. Clark and D. Chalmers, edited by R. Menary,  This edited collection presents opinions from the fields of psychology and philosophy which argue for and against this position.
[9] In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology (Stanford University Press, 1990), Pierre Bourdieu
[10] Niche Construction Theory: a Practical Guide for Ecologists in The Quarterly Review of Biology, Volume 88, No. 1 (2013), John Odling-Smee et al.
[11] See the lecture “Turtles… dialectics all the way down” by Scott Gilbert for a fuller development of the term holobiont.
[12] Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin in Environmental Humanities, vol. 6, pp. 159-165 (2015), Donna Haraway, and Making Oddkin in the Chthulucene at the Anthropocene Consortium Series 2016, Evergreen State College (see DH’s examples of art and activism at CROCHET CORAL REEFNever Alone, and the Black-Mesa Water-Coalition), 10:45 to start and 1:23:45.
[13] Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness (Inner Traditions / Bear & Co, 2001), Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna and Rupert Sheldrake.

See subpage for CV


“While I complain of being able to glimpse no more than the shadow of the past, I may be insensitive to reality as it is taking shape at this very moment, since I have not reached the stage of development at which I would be capable of perceiving it. A few hundred years hence, in this same place, another traveller, as despairing as myself, will mourn the disappearance of what I might have seen, but failed to see.” Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Quest for Power, p.43


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