A Short Guide to the 2016 Lumen Shortlist, Part 1

Charlotte Lee

Had time to explore this year’s Lumen Prize shortlist yet? These 28 artists are now all eligible for the top prizes worth $11k and will be heading on the 2016/17 Global Tour which is set to kick off in London on September 29th at Hackney House.

Which is your favourite?  Over the next few days, we’ll be highlighting all 28 works on the blog – with an extra post devoted to the People’s Choice Winner who will be announced at the Gala on the 29th.  Here’s a peek at the first seven:

Nick Verstand, onformative & Pufflefish ANIMA 

A visual knock-out that dominates a room, ANIMA is an interactive installation that investigates communication between humans and artificial intelligence. Acting as the sole light source in the space it occupies, the orb communicates with its surroundings by detecting body movements using a Kinect tracking system. Drawing viewers in to react to its presence, the orb portrays different emotions and sounds over its liquid-like surface. Make a quick movement or be in close proximity to the orb and you’ll cause it to spin out of control.

Esther Rolinson & Sean Clark Flown

Commissioned for the 2015 Illuminating York Light Festival, Flown is a sculptural installation that takes on the form of a cloud-like structure. Created from over 800 hand-folded acrylic forms and animated with programmed LEDs, Flown can adapt and fit itself to suit any environment it finds itself in. You’ll be able to find this work at Hackney House from the 29th – 28th September.

Stefan Reiss O.T. 875 

A spatial, site-specific, immersive installation, O.T. 875 brings the immateriality of data into the three dimensional space through video projection. Having reduced digital drawing down to its simplest and engaging with the Constructivist works of El Lissitzky and László Moholy-Naghy, Reiss gives materiality back to the computer file by transforming them into a visual process


Using augmented projection the audio-visual collective Xenorama bring a wooden sculpture to life as a fictive entity. Playing on light and sound, the object undergoes a transformation from its natural shape towards its technical formation. While both strive for dominance, the organic veins of the wood are continuously dissolved by geometric patterns in a never-ending cycle.

Physical Computing Project (Headed by Josephine Leong) Don’t Touch Red

Developed at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Don’t Touch Red is a game that uses Kinect technology to encourage physical cooperation. Dodging hazards and colliding with collectibles, players become their avatars and move around the game world freely and naturally. 

Wengu Hu Eddy Melody

A student of New York’s School of Visual Art, Wengu Hu has created a video game that highlights the power of music through its narrative and its design. In a world where every creature has its own pitch, the story follows a group of musicians as they travel the world.

Sam Rolfes and Lars Berg Limp Body Beat

Music gets a twist in Limp Body Beat. Rolfes and Berg put forward a new and visceral take on the drum sequencer, giving the player a chance to create tunes by flinging three-dimensional bodily forms across the screen.




cellular forms - andy lomas

#LumenInFocus: Andy Lomas

Charlotte Lee

Andy Lomas won the 2014 Lumen Prize Award with Cellular Forms, an exploration of biological forms that can be produced from a digital growth system. Lomas, a self-confessed code junky, uses his own software to explore the numerous aesthetic possibilities opened up by the code he writes. Charlotte Lee interviews Lomas about his award winning work and what he’s been up to since winning the Lumen Prize.

What was your creative practice up to The Lumen Prize?

I've been working on ideas of creating things through simulating growth for many years, but until recently it was what my friends described as my 'extra-curricular activities' along side working in visual effects and animation. My art practice was my space where I could explore my own work without the demands of clients, but very much something that worked in tandem with my production work where I could learn the craft of working with computer graphics and animation.

What was the inspiration behind Cellular Forms? 

The idea that many of the intricate forms that we see in living things could be the natural types of structure that emerge from growth processes has been one that has intrigued me for many years. Probably the main original inspiration was reading D'Arcy Thompson's book 'On Growth and Form' about 30 years ago, where he looks at commonalities between the forms of many living things as well as how simple repeated rules could create beautiful structures like seashells. Next year is the centenary of the publication of On Growth and Form, which is definitely worth celabrating.

Since winning the 2014 Lumen Prize, what have you been up to?

The big change is that I'm now working full time on my art practice. There have been a lot of things going on, including being invited to give one of the keynote presentations as well as an exhibition of new work (Hybrid Forms) at last year's the European Conference in Artificial Life. I've also recently had my first major solo exhibition in London at Watermans. That exhibition seemed to created a lot of additional interest, including from some major collections.

You’re a self-confessed code junky, but what is it that draws you to the medium? 

What draws me to the medium is the huge potential of computation to do things that wouldn't be achievable by any other method. If you take an algorithmic approach, computers are the ultimate blank canvas. You can definine a process and repeat it hundreds of millions of times. Alan Turing's idea of universal computation, which leads to the idea that a suficiently complex digital machine can simulate any formally describable process to any desired level of approximation, is both humbling and empowering.

Where has your work been heading most recently?Any exciting new developments? 

I've been working on a lot of background work, learning new techniques and refining directions that I've already been working in. In particular I've been exploring the possibilities of digital fabrication (such as 3D printing) as well as augmented and virtual reality. In the exhibition at Watermans I was showing the first 3D printed sculpture of one of my forms, as well as using 3D stereo viewing techniques for the installation that was at the centre piece of the exhibition. I've also been doing quite a lot more work on the tools and techniques that I've been using to find the combinations of values that create the results that I'm looking for when working with systems that are driven by many parameters. I'm using a combination of machine learning and genetic algorithms to explore the space of possibilities. I presented a paper about that work at a conference in July and it appears to be getting quite a lot of interest.

woman without mandolin - fabiano mixo

You Vote, We Listen

Carla Rapoport

Who decides what art is the best? In the art world it’s the auctions, the institutions and the critics. But at Lumen we feel that everyone should have their say. The annual Lumen Prize People’s Choice Vote gives you the opportunity to become the judge. This year, over 400 art lovers have voted for their favourite work from the 2016 Lumen Longlist. The winner - to be announced at the September 29th Winners Gala - will receive US$250 and a place on Lumen's global tour, which will travel the globe.  

Each year, we're pleased to report, the People's Choice winner is a real stunner. Last year, the winner of the 2015 People's Choice Award was Brazilian artist Fabiano Mixo’s Woman without Mandolin. A portrait in motion, Mixo’s engrossing experimental film captured the public's imagination with its embrace and rethinking of Cubism. Since winning the People’s Choice Award Mixo has gone on to win the EMAF Media Arts Award of German Film Critics and the Best Experimental Film Prize at the 29th MEDIAWAVE. Mixo is now developing a new video installation Letters to Lumière which will be showcased at the Museum of Arts and Technology Oi Futuro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this year – we can’t wait to see the finished piece. Nor can we wait to see who the People have selected this year. Be sure to reserve your place at our Winners Gala now. 


Art in the City

Carla Rapoport

Partnerships are important to Lumen and one of our first partners, the Financial Conduct Authority in London, has been featuring Lumen work on its video wall for three years. In its annual party this year to celebrate the 2015 winners, we were delighted that two of our guests, Eddie Bacon, a talented light artist, and David Upton, a respected blogger, came along. Eddie contributed these photos while David wrote this incredibly thoughtful blog. For Eddie's reflections on one of the winning works on display at the party, The New Jerusalem, please read on: A New Jerusalem is a revolutionary virtual reality experience that integrates sight, sound and the soul.

An audience member described the experience of “feeling like I was truly part of that world”.

The work was created by Michael Takeo Magruder with Prof. Edward Adams and Drew Baker and won this year's Lumen Prize Immersive Environment Awards. The piece is based upon the narrative of the Book of Revelation to create a heavenly city referred to as the New Jerusalem that arises from the remains of the old world. The installation seeks to embody the spirit the New Jerusalem and manifests into beautify metropolis of light that can be witnessed on the screen and stepped into via a virtual reality set up, the virtual reality is in real time with the screened display so the viewer can choose to look at the world from the outside on the screen or step inside by wearing the virtual reality headset and along side the visual display is a mesmerising soundscape that completes the experience of the New Jerusalem.

The virtual space is situated within the heart of metropolis and if you look up the structures are endless with the walls pulsating with light and reflections, it is a similar limitless view when you look down, an audience member described the experience of “feeling like I was truly part of that world”. The structure of the city is based upon the text of the Book of Revelation being translated into data code form and then rendered into a four dimensional virtual space, the imagined cityscape is then constructed further using Google Maps data of present date Jerusalem and in the words of theologian Professor Edward Adams “a new creation is not a wholly unrecognisable place, even if the new Jerusalem is like no city the world has ever seen”.

The metropolis created is an experience of wonder that interplays ancient text with cutting edge virtual reality to represent one of the finest pieces of I have every had the opportunity to experience. The installation represents not only a truly wonderful piece of art it also shows what can be done with the unique vision technological boundaries of which Michael and his team have gone to in creating the New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is part of the Decoding Shows series other parts of the series focus on the destructive elements of the Book of Revelation, Michael's work can be found at

Selling Digital

Charlotte Lee

The Lumen Prize Winners' Gala last week wasn't just about the winners or the art - it was also about one of the most dynamic aspects of the art market – the commercialisation of digital art. Kicking off the session was Greg McMullen, Lawyer and Chief Policy Officer of, a Berlin-based tech company which works to protect the works of digital artists online.

His talk, entitled: Copyright, Copyleft and Copy/Paste: Making the law work for digital artists discussed the issues that surround the Jpeg/MP4 culture. Digital art can be copied with a click, resulting in the work becoming instantly available to the masses. So how do you control digital reproduction? Ascribe’s solution is not to bottle the digital within a physical container – a USB stick or a DVD - in order to sell the work. Instead, they want to allow artists to register their work with them using blockchain technology and then create a certain number of editions that would be available for sale. Lumen is excited to be partnering with Ascribe to create an online sales arm later this year – watch this space!

The next talk was by Elizabeth Markevitch, the founder and CEO of ikonoTV. Broadening the topic of conversation, Elizabeth explored how digital technology can be used to widen access to art. Acknowledging that the art world tends to talk too much, Elizabeth discussed what ikonoTV wants to achieve. Offering a 24/7 streaming of the arts, ikonoTV allows the viewer to pick a playlist – like you would on Spotify – and tune in to view artworks close up. No voice over is provided, instead you are confronted with new ways to view the art works all from the comfort of your own home. Here the image is being left to speak for itself, and ikonoTV is proving just how much power an image holds.

The final segment of the seminar looked at an artist’s perspective on selling digital art. Scott Draves, winner of the Founder’s Prize for Electric Sheep recounted the plethora of ways he had attempted to commercialise his practice. It seems as though Scott has tried it all – selling CD’s, T-shirts and even becoming a ‘VJ’ (you could hire him out to do the visuals at your party!). Yet, the aim of his work couldn’t come through via these methods of commercialisation – his desire to ‘create an artificial life form that is live and animated’ doesn’t really come across on a T-shirt. His answer has been Electric Sheep, a collective intelligence consisting of 450,000 computers that breed together to create generative art, often used as screensavers. Next in the pipeline is Gold Sheep which aims to offer a subscription-based service that would allow a higher quality of experience – as well as providing Scott with welcome income for his work.

The Artists' Voice

Charlotte Lee

The Lumen Prize Exhibition 2015 arrived in London last week, kicking off what promises to be our best global tour to date.

But Lumen doesn’t just bring great art to the table. Each Lumen event includes a digital art seminar or workshop – sometimes both. Last week, ahead of the Winners’ Gala, we were lucky enough to have six of the 2015 Lumen Prize Exhibition artists on hand to provide valuable insights into their creative process.

First up was William Latham, one of the leading names in the digital art field globally and a Professor of Computing at Goldsmith University London. He took to the stage to discuss how his work has developed since the late 1980s, when he first delved into digital art. Taking inspiration from natural forms and genetics, William uses the computer to ‘breed’ ideas culminating in works such as his Lumen Prize Exhibition work Mutator 2 Triptych. Admitting that one of his sources of inspiration is heavy metal imagery, despite not actually being a fan of the music, it was fascinating to see how so many different avenues merge together in his work.

Anaïs met den Ancxt one half of the artist duo Scenocosme – the winners of the Lumen Prize Silver Award – was up next. Placing physical interaction, sound and digital technology side-by-side, Scenocosme creates multisensory experiences that beg you to reach out and touch them. Offering an immersive environment that the audience responds to physically, Anaïs explained how works such as Metamorphy are points where nature and technology collide.

As Lumen is based in Wales, it was great to have Marcus West, a Cardiff-based artist, talking about his work which goes all the way back to the beginning of the computer age. Looking at his work ‘then and now’ his talk focused on how his artwork has changed in line with the advances in technology. He pinpointed seeing the work of the Op-artist Bridget Riley as a turning point in his aesthetic, pushing him towards works like his 2 Fibonacci images shortlisted this year. What came to the fore in Marcus’s talk was just how intertwined nature and digital art is – a topic that cropped up for nearly all the speakers. Emphasising the role of the Fibonacci sequence, Marcus even provided a tutorial on how to create works of art based on the Golden Ratio – creating a spiral that could, in theory, go on indefinitely.

Anne Spalter, author of The Computer in the Visual Arts, then showed what lies behind her kaleidoscopic imagery. She showed how her photos – often taken when on holiday – were transformed into mesmerising works of art, offering a rare view of how a digital work is created. Time of day takes on a particular significance in Anne’s work, offering the hypnotic colours that are central to her imagery. Transporting us to Bora Bora, Anne recalled how she stood under a palm tree at different times of the day and captured the images that later became the work Bora Bora: Palm Fronds, consequently warping the natural world into something almost spell-binding.

David Moraton, another Lumen Prize Exhibition artist, concentrated on the concept of synaesthesia – the ability to see colours from sound. Through his work David aims to make visible the invisible – reflecting his own internal experience that occurs when he hears music. David too offered a glimpse of the ‘making of’ his shortlisted work Visus Sonitus I. Choreographed to the 1972 ‘Cantus Arcticus’ by the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, the work takes music into a whole other dimension, providing the audience with a stereoscopic experience.

To conclude the talks, Beatrice Lartigue, part of the collective LAB212 and winners of this year’s WNO Performance Award, discussed colour, music and space. It was great to hear that in a world revolving so much around technology and machines these artists aim to keep the human in mind – concentrating their work on establishing a dialogue between artist, audience and machine. In their winning work Portee/ music intertwines with the digital world responding to the physical interaction and presence of the viewer, creating a multisensory experience that exists between the spheres of music and the visual arts, with the aid of a grand piano!

Pioneers and Prizes

Carla Rapoport

Mark your diaries - May 12 - 16th is a big few days for Digital Art in London. Both Lumen and  Watermans, one of London’s premiere arts centres, are staging a week of exhibitions, seminars and workshops on digital art, including art that makes itself, creatively coded and performance art by both digital pioneers and the latest Lumen Prize winners.

Lumen's Founder & Director, Carla Rapoport, a former Financial Times correspondent and editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, says:  “Digital Art is where photography was 40 years ago – an art form with incredible potential. These two shows will take your break away – and experiencing them will give you a glimpse into the future of contemporary art.”

“Computer Art is older than artist’s acrylic paint,” notes Paul Brown, whose work is the centerpiece of the Watermans show, Brown & Son, alongside his son Daniel’s works. “It’s good to see that the digital arts are finally getting some recognition within the mainstream art world."

Brown & Son is at Watermans Arts Centre until May 31st and includes a Seminar on Art that Makes Itself on May 16th featuring Frieder Nake, computer art pioneer; Margaret Boden, Professor of Cognitive Science Sussex University; Douglas Dodds, Senior Curator at Victoria & Albert Museum; Nick Lambert, CAS chair and Lecturer in digital art and culture; Nico Macdonald, writer on design and innovation; artist and computer art pioneer Ernest Edmonds. Tickets can be purchased using this link.

The Lumen Prize Exhibition for digital art opens in The Crypt Gallery, London on May 14th and runs to May 21st. It will hold a Seminar on Digital Art featuring Douglas Dodds, Senior Curator, the V&A and Lumen Jury Panel member plus Academics, Curators & Lumen Prize artists.

Other events include:

A Basic Introduction to Generative and Code Art

Led by Paul Brown at Watermans 
Tuesday 12 May. 11-4pm  

Free, booking required (max 10 participants, 17+ yrs)

Creative Coding Workshops for Children, led by Genetic Moo

Saturday, May 16th Ages 8-14, The Crypt Gallery. Enjoy the Lumen Prize Exhibition while your children learn to make interactive art.

Tickets are £5. To book, please click one of these links:

12 noon Workshop

1:30pm Workshop

3:00pm Workshop

And the Lumen Prize  Exhibition itself:

Opening Times: 12 - 6pm, May 14-16 & 18-21st (Ex Sun)

Admission: Free. For details, please click details here. We look forward to seeing you there.

Lumen Underground

Carla Rapoport

With less than 2 weeks to go until Lumen's 4th Call for Entries, plans are afoot for the last stop of the current global tour - London's magical Crypt Gallery under St Pancras Church, Euston. Once again, we'd delighted to be working with the MA Fine Art Digital students at Camberwell School of Art, who will assist with curating the show.

Our Digital Art Seminar on the first day of the show - May 14th - will feature talks by 2014 Lumen Prize winner Andy Lomas, Christine Hooper, winner of the 2014 Lumen Animate Award, as well as Donna Halford Lovell, Director of NeON, Scotland's largest digital art festival, as well as other academics and members of Lumen's Jury Panel. Straight after the seminar will be the opening party for the show, so please save the date. The show itself runs to the 22nd and will include all the 2014 works plus a few extra surprises!

Dutch Masters

Carla Rapoport

Every Lumen Prize Exhibition comes with a seminar or educational activity, involving academics and artists. In Amsterdam, among other speakers, we were lucky enough to have Katja Kwastek, a professor of modern and contemporary art at the VU University Amsterdam, with a research focus on digital art, media aesthetics, and the digital humanities. Previously, she taught at Ludwig-Maximilians-University (Munich) and Rhode Island School of Design in the US. She is also the author of “Aesthetics of Interaction in Digital Art” (MIT Press, 2013). This book is a must for anyone aiming to connect today's interactive digital art to the rich and storied history of contemporary art over the past 100 years.

[Katia] argues that the aesthetic experience enabled by digital art can, in fact, open up new perspectives for art historians.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, she writes in the book's introduction, artists have increasingly sought to involve the viewer and stretch the boundaries of the traditional concept of the artwork. Since the 1960's, this trend has been the object of much academic research. However, she points out, most art historians still have difficulty acknowledging  interactive digital art as a fully valid form of artistic expression. Instead, she argues that the aesthetic experience enabled by digital art can, in fact, open up new perspectives for art historians and not only as it connects to other digital art. In fact, she says, the fresh perspective gained from studying the aesthetics of interactive art might inspire art historians and art lovers alike to begin looking at other contemporary and historical art forms from new angles.

Inspiring words, indeed.

Happily Going Dutch

Carla Rapoport

Lumen Exhibition has been to a bookshop (Riga), art galleries (Shanghai, London and Hong Kong), a cathedral (Cardiff) and now it's on to a glamourous big-city hotel, Amsterdam's Art 'otel, one of a small chain of art hotels across Europe which feature artists such as Andy Warhol, Wolf Vostell, and Georg Baselitz. The Amsterdam Art 'otel, located in the heart of the city, has its own gallery - 5&33 - and what is claimed to be Europe's longest interactive curtain. We're thrilled to be invited to show this year's Lumen Prize show at this venue and are even more pleased that three of this year's artists have created bespoke work for the interactive curtain. The show - featuring this new work - runs from January 9th to 30th, coninciding with Amsterdam's Light Festival and Fashion Week.

Happily, there will also be a seminar and demonstration of digital art on January 17th from 3pm - 5pm, followed by a drinks reception and opening. Speakers at the seminar include Emmy and Lumen Prize winner Andy Lomas, Dr Nick Lambert of Birkbeck College and chair of the Computer Arts Society, as well as Laura Dekker, a Lumen Prize artist and Prof Katja Kwastek of VU AmsterdamArt history, author of Aesthetics of interaction in Digital Art.

Hope to see you there!