BIOS Zone 2: The Space Between

In Alan Thomas’s work, The Space Between, images of microscopic living processes are projected onto blocks of dried and drying potters clay. 

Drawing on bioreceptivity (the ability of a material to be colonised by living organisms), the work explores the resilience of life.

Image by Alan Thomas


Alan says, “The work started to emerge when my art practice moved from making pottery to a more diverse enquiry into ways of understanding materials.

As a result of this shift in interest, a lot of damp clay sat unused in my studio, stored in white, sealed plastic bags. Opening a bag out of curiosity some years later, I was struck by the growths of algae, lichen and bacteria, the “seeds” of which must have been in the bags when they were first packed.

Looking further, some bags had small holes that had led to the clay drying, and this caused me to closely notice, perhaps for the first time, the form of the clay itself emerging differently from every bag.”

Concepts and Inquiries

Alan’s interested in the nature of matter, ways of understanding it, and limitations of the human experience.

In his words: “As a biologist, I enjoy a sense of awe about life itself, the force that has fundamentally shaped and changed this minutely thin layer of the planet we all live on. 

The work’s title comes from the similarly thin layer between the plastic bag and the clay surface where light has penetrated, allowing photosynthesis to occur.  In photosynthesis, the process that makes life possible for humans on earth, fundamental understandings about the nature of the world are thrown into sharp focus. 

Every answer evokes more questions, so I don’t think there ever will be a theory of everything. As an artist, I’m seeking ways to recognise and celebrate this inherent uncertainty. In all my work, there’s an acknowledgement that whatever the world is out there, it’s nothing like what I understand it to be.”

Image by Alan Thomas
Image by Alan Thomas
Image by Nimmy Santhosh Photography
Image by Nimmy Santhosh Photography


This is the first time the clays have been shown combined with projection, an attempt to contrast the brick-like materiality of the clays with the resilient delicacy of microscopic life.

Alan notes: “I expect life to continue to ebb and flow around these clays for their stay at WAM, and for that reason, I see ‘The Space Between’ as an evolving work”.

About Alan Thomas (ThoTho)

In the past Alan established and led research teams investigating the deep complexity of living systems. Having recently completed an MFA, his current interests explore limits to human empirical life.

Taking cues from recent neurobiology and evolutionary theory concepts, Alan’s practice explores relationships between materials and systems and how humans create versions of the world. His work has been in solo and joint shows and private collections in New Zealand and Europe.

Alan is part of ThoTho – an art entity fusing his partner Vivian Thonger and himself. ThoTho is excited to be co-producing the BIOS show at WAM in collaboration with AwhiWorld and contributing artists and researchers worldwide.


The Space Between was in Zone 2 of BIOS.

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