Gemma Holzer & Phoebe Stringer: Secret Lab

7 – 11 September 2021


Secret lab is a show made by artists Gemma Holzer and Phoebe Stringer. Verging on installation, the works are curated to simulate the experience of wandering into a hidden fantasy laboratory. The eerie colours, mutated creatures, and empty spaces reflected in the show are designed to give the viewer the experience of clinical awe at what could possibly be in process.

Both artists utilise avatars to convey a sense of self in their work; the characters are vessels meant to be related to. The creatures await their viewers, presented as they would be found in a scientist’s work shop. The space within the gallery is transformed into the cold environment of a laboratory in the midst of experimentation. Hung in isolation and suspended in mutation.

The viewer is encouraged to experience the work as if they’ve come across a science fiction setting. The reflecting eerie colours illuminate something in transition, something meant to be hidden.

My work in Secret Lab is about feeling alone and disconnected. Within the pieces, there is a sense of time standing still. The works mirror my feelings of being suspended in a state of uncertainty. The series depicts little alien creatures floating in lava lamps. The imagery of the lava lamp harkens back to my childhood. It is a period in my life that I draw much inspiration from. During darker times, I tap into memories of a life that was carefree and safe.

The creatures floating in the lava lamps are a representation of me. They act as online avatars in make-believe virtual worlds. Through them, I consider issues around being human in today’s age. Their isolated condition reveals experiences of communicative deterioration and resulting separation during recent times. These little alien test subjects are kept safe in their capsules; secluded from one another. They can see each other, but they can never touch. They just float in their own little worlds. Suspended in Isolation.

After the turbulent and insular year of 2020 the internet became a space of refuge for many, a digital holiday with a secret language. As somebody already deeply immersed in internet culture, I found the once quiet space filled with new users and new approaches to memes that felt like the start of a new era. The rediscovery of old forum boards and old memes being resurfaced by a whole new generation lead me to imagine how old temples and ancient areas of worship must feel when being surrounded by archaeologists and tourists, which lead me to further question how we handle digital space. When the ancient Egyptian god KEK was ironically being re-worshipped in 2016 by edgy internet users, was that in some way like an archaeological find, even if it was purely digital? The work made for secret lab was made in response to some of these imagined spaces, the rediscovery of ancient gods and temples being rewritten for a digital age.