Biological Psychiatric Australia conference, Melbourne
27-29 October 2019

Australasian Neuroscience Society conference, Adelaide
1-5 December 2019

Headpiece: 80/20, EEG cap, cardboard, acrylic paint, varnish, pens, yarns, sequins, pearls, wire, plastic tubing, bike helmet, cottons and battery lights, 40 x 80 cm

Beneath the Surface (2019) is a series of works reciprocally informed by and informing scientific research in the neuroscience community. Zantis’ position as Artist in Residence within the Cognitive Neuroscience and Computational Psychiatric Lab at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences has enabled an ongoing process of collaboration and co-creation with neuroscientist Associate Professor Marta Garrido and her team. Zantis views anatomy and biotechnical interventions through a visual, artistic lens, recording and analysing her observations for cultural outcomes in parallel with the scientific endeavour that abounds in the creative incubator of the Lab. 

Zantis’ radically open, inquisitive nature and conceptual arts practice inspires and challenges the scientists in her midst; this permits the concerns of both the Layperson and the Arts to be heard and addressed in the Lab’s ongoing investigations. Healthy brain function versus the conditional, computational mechanisms of anxiety and schizophrenia are the shared focus in this collaborative journey, and Zantis’ synthesis of this topic permeates the works comprising Beneath the Surface. 

Broken EEG (electroencephalography) caps, given to Zantis by Garrido, first set the tone for a new series of sculptural works. Two unexpected yet equally compelling unions would follow; MEG (Magnetoencephalography) meets Alexander McQueen, and photography meets wearable art. In Beneath the Surface, a head piece of Zantis’ laborious construction is photographed by @novablooming, worn by model @serenawardell

The evocative photographs, which read like still frames from an indie film, illustrate the sensory and social disruptions experienced by sufferers of mental ill-health when performing daily tasks. The entrancing headdress integrates anatomical features of the brain and nervous system with intricate, elaborate elements of haute couture, externalising the inner world of schizoaffective and anxious disorders in a pan-cultural manifestation of thought, emotion and cognition. Beneath the Surface is a moving reminder of the silent disconnect between what is experienced internally and what is witnessed externally. 

Zantis’ trademark tungsten fairy lights recall Garrido’s expression of ‘poetry in science,’ of ideas, “glimmering and glistening like grains of gold in a swirling gold pan,” and, indeed, Zantis’ invitation into, and activation of, the scientific community is a Gold Rush of beauty and discovery.