In 2003, Katie Holten represented Ireland at the 50th Venice Biennale. She turned her pavilion in- to a science lab. She performed research there, conducted meetings with experts, gave workshops and held discussions. She even led expeditions from there and brought back scientific information. The aim of her research was a fundamental study of Venice's ecosystem. Thus, instead of demonstrating her art in Venice, Holten turned art into a tool for studying the very place where she intended to exhibit her art. As the project di- rector, she obviously spent the whole Biennale in the pavilion, at the workplace.
Holten's more recent works seem to indicate her return to more traditional, almost panel forms of painting. However, even in these works their research component plays a dominant role. No wonder Holten's favorite art technique is drawing. It is indeed a technique that allows you to capture the data received during field studies, which invariably remains an essential component of her working procedure. For example, in a large-scale series of graphic studies (The City) she depicted stages of architectural changes – in Baltimore, New Orleans, Salina, etc. In another series ("Field of Infinity"), she put on paper riverbed changes. However, besides befitting eco- systemic research, Holten explores centuries- and even millenia-old social and natural processes, which took place in a specific location, explored by the artist during hours-long walks.
During one of these walks in Kansas, on a land which had once been the floor of the ocean, she discovered white chalk reservoirs. Thus the "Constellation" series was born. As the artist puts it, "It was great to realize that I was painting in the materials that had been developing during millions of years and that had living essences at its origin". In addition to that this white chalk drawing on black background recreates the pictures of the Earth's surface, taken at night by NASA's terrestrial observatory. What seems to be the starry sky, is actually a documentary image of the Earth, illuminated by terrestrial sources of light. "In my studies, – Holten continues, – I'm not looking out into space, I'm looking back in on ourselves... I'm interested in inviting the viewer to look at how our man-made world resembles the 'natural' world... It looks like nature because it is nature – we're a part of the natural world". The same principle made the artist transfer her drawing of 'cities' to an animated format. When animated, the emerging process of civilization resembles the rhythmic breathing of a living organism.