A film still of a computer generated opera house by Lawrence Lek

Lawrence Lek: Screening and Discussion

Wed 13 Dec, 6.30pm

This screening brings together three recent films by leading artist filmmaker Lawrence Lek, followed by an audience discussion led by De Montfort University’s Tracy Harwood and Luba Elliott on the role of artificial intelligence in contemporary art.


Play Station (Farsight Corporate Trailer) 2017, HD video, sound, 5m 05s
Sinofuturism (1839 – 2046) 2017, HD video, sound, Extract 9m 42s
Geomancer, 2017, HD video, Stereo sound, 48min 51s

Heralded by the futuristic computer-generated cityscapes that have become a signature feature of his work, Lawrence Lek’s mini-opus Geomancer is less inclined to map the building blocks of the urban architecture of tomorrow than to try and summon up the spirit of our rapidly dawning age – one whose characteristics include the growing ascendancy of the cultural phenomenon of Sino-Futurism.

As the geopolitical axis tilts further to the East and  once-dominant economic/technological models are cast into doubt, Lek alights on a longstanding tension between the place of the human and the role of the machine, sharpened by contemporary hopes and anxieties around the rise of East Asia, and by speculations that new forms of artificial intelligence – already outperforming mere mortals in matters of automation and aggregation – will challenge us in more creative skills as well.

In Lek’s video, one such AI awakens above Singapore on the eve of the city-state’s centennial celebrations in 2065. Mindful of the apparent relegation of AI to subservient roles in society, it determines that, from all the possible choices available to it, by far the best thing to be is an artist. Already a prodigy with numbers, it seeks to feed the other side of its savant-like brain, gorging on the products of cultural history with a geeky frenzy that occasionally undermines its aspiration to the lofty coolness of a lotus-eating aesthete. Part philosophical reflection on where ‘genius’ resides, part playful inventory of how science fiction has dealt with these eternal human/automaton themes, Geomancer is provocative stimulation for both the eye and the mind.

After the screening Dr Tracy Harwood and Luba Elliott will lead a discussion on the developing role of AI in contemporary art practice.

Luba Elliott is a curator, artist and researcher specialising in artificial intelligence in the creative industries.  She is currently working to educate and engage the broader public about the latest developments in creative AI through monthly meetups, talks and tech demonstrations. As curator, she organised workshops and exhibitions on art and AI for The Photographers’ Gallery, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence and Google. Prior to that, she worked in start-ups, including the art collector database Larry’s List. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge and has a certificate in Design Thinking from the Hasso-Plattner-Institute D-school in Potsdam. Online Luba can be found sharing AI updates on twitter, curating a Creative AI newsletter and art impressions on instagram.

Tracy Harwood is a researcher in digital culture and consumer behaviour, at the Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University.  Her current transdisciplinary research interests are on application of creative technologies, focussing on use of emergent technologies such as Internet of Things, AI, robots and gamification.  She has published in leading marketing and digital creativity journals. Follow her online @tgharwood and LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/tracy-harwood-8047a83

Her publications can be found here: orcid.org/0000-0002-2128-312

Geomancer was commissioned for the Jerwood/FVU Awards: Neither One Thing or Another, collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and FVU.