Lumen Prize

Jon McCormack receiving the Lumen Prize for Still Image (Photo: Sue Gollifer)

Jon McCormack receiving the Lumen Prize for Fifty Sisters in London (Photo: Sue Gollifer)

The 2016 Lumen Prize award ceremony was held at Hackney House, London on the 29th September. I was awarded the Lumen Prize Still Image Award for Fifty Sisters. It was a great honour to receive this award amongst so many great digital artists. You can see a full list of award winners on the Lumen Prize web site.

I also presented a short talk about the work at the Digital Arts Seminar that was held before the awards gala.

The winners announcement and gala also included an exhibition of  shortlisted artists’ works and there will be a global tour of the winning works, including exhibitions in Cardiff, Shanghai, New York and Berlin over 2016 – 2017.

The Lumen Prize 2016 Still Image Award Winner

Materia Prima

Fifty Sisters by Jon McCormack at the exhibition Materia Prima, LABoral, Barcelona, Spain

Materia prima presents outstanding work at the nexus of art and science but it is also a showcase for the notoriously curious and as such the whole exhibition space serves as an inspiring laboratory environment which in a literal way has a set of visitor labs as its central core. This hybrid form of presentation is a clear commitment to the didactic and inspirational potential of art and science and an expression of our wholehearted believe in the impact that art and science can unfold beyond their own territories and in the power and creative energy which can be derived from the collaboration of art and science.

Materia Prima, Experiments on digital art & science was an Exhibition project at LABoral in Barcelona, Spain that featured Fifty Sisters.

The exhibition ran from November 12th 2015 through to May 8th 2016. Read More

Fieldwork: artist encounters

fieldwork flyer

Curated by Gary Warner, this exhibition featured Colourfield and a quivering marginalia (with Gary Warner).

SCA Galleries
Building 29, Sydney College of the Arts
University of Sydney

7-30 July 2016

The project features works in diverse mediums derived from encounters by the artists in Russia, China, Indonesia, Japan, far north Queensland, southern Tasmania, Western Australian desert country, Origma Bird Sanctuary, the frontline of protest action against fossil fuel depradation in New South Wales, metaphysical inner space and the placeless space of immaterial code…

A limited edition catalogue accompanies the exhibition and will be available for purchase on the night.

More details at the exhibition website.

Fifty Sisters – digital exhibition

Fifty Sisters - Hargrave-Andrew Library

A software-based version of Fifty Sisters is now showing at the Hargrave-Andrew Library, Monash University, Clayton (map). In this version of the work, the computer acts as editor, selecting and framing several closeup shots of each sister, before finally displaying the full image. A new image is presented every 20 minutes or so.

The exhibition runs from 2 July 2015 until the end of September. More information on the library web site. Here’s an article in the Monash news.


IJCAI 2015

IJCAI-15It is a great honour to be an invited speaker at this year’s IJCAI (24th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) in the AI & The Arts track. This year the conference is located at Buenos Aires, Argentina – the first time in South America.

The title of my keynote talk will be “Art is a System”, which will look at specific approaches for AI research in the arts in order to better understand human creative processes and practice.


Most approaches to AI and the Arts are conceptualised as problems involving the production or classification of produced artefacts. This is unsurprising as we naturally think of human artists creating artefacts as the main activity that exemplifies this societal role. One implicit assumption of this conceptualisation is that art making is simply a problem of production, i.e. it is fixated on the problem of generating appropriate output.

In this talk I will offer a different view of Art and AI. Rather than focusing on the production of objects, we consider art as a system of exchanges, relationships and interactions and investigate what this means for AI approaches; past, present and future. A systems view enables us to reimagine the role of AI in artistic practice, and more broadly in non-anthropocentric creativity. Current approaches focus on the automation of human creativity, which I would argue is both a technical and ethical cul-de-sac. A systems view – which can incorporate machines as artists, critics, provocateurs, assistants or catalysts in an artistic ecosystem – allows us to imagine new roles for AI and the Arts and new kinds of art.

In addition, I’ll also be presenting a new paper (co-authored with Mark d’Inverno):
Heroic vs Collaborative AI for the Arts [pdf version of the paper]


This paper considers the kinds of AI systems we want involved in art and art practice. We explore this relationship from three perspectives: as artists interested in expanding and developing our own creative practice; as AI researchers interested in building new AI systems that contribute to the understanding and development of art and art practice; and as audience members interested in experiencing art. We examine the nature of both art practice and experiencing art to ask how AI can contribute. To do so, we review the history of work in intelligent agents which broadly speaking sits in two camps: autonomous agents (systems that can exhibit intelligent behaviour independently) in one, and multi-agent systems (systems which interact with other systems in communities of agents) in the other.

In this context we consider the nature of the relationship between AI and Art and introduce two opposing concepts: that of “Heroic AI”, to describe the situation where the software takes on the role of the lone creative hero and “Collaborative AI” where the system supports, challenges and provokes the creative activity of humans. We then set out what we believe are the main challenges for AI research in understanding its potential relationship to art and art practice.

The conference also included an AI art exhibition, ARTE@IJCAI at the Centre Cultural Borges, which included a new version of Niche Constructions, implemented with robotic drawing machines.

Niche Constructing Robot