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Intuition and Ingenuity at Phoenix: An Art Exhibition in Celebration of the Life of Alan Turing

8th October - 9th November 2012
Phoenix, Leicester

2012 will be the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alan Turing, one of the greatest minds Britain has ever produced. Between inventing the digital computer and helping to decode the German Enigma machine, to founding the science of Artificial Intelligence, the world today would have been a very different place without him and his ideas. His work on morphogenesis (the biological processes that cause organisms to grow in a particular shapes) and the now famous "Turing Test" for machine intelligence have captured the imagination of artists for decades whilst his technological developments have given them the tools to create new kinds of artworks.

This exhibition, which takes its name from Turing's own writing on the subject of mathematical reasoning, brings together a number of important artists from digital art pioneers to emerging contemporaries to investigate Turing's enduring influence on art and contemporary culture.

This is an official Turing Centenary project curated by Anna Dumitriu, Sue Gollifer and Nick Lambert. Arts Council England, The Computer Arts Society and The University of Hertfordshire have kindly supported the exhibition. The Phoenix exhibition has also been supported by Leicester-based digital arts organisation Interact.

Exhibition Dates

8th October 2012
Exhibition Opening with a talk by co-curator Nick Lambert and showing of Decoding Alan Turing in Screen 3.

3rd November 2012
Meet the Artists and showings of Decoding Alan Turing film in Screen 3. FREE.
Talks and conversations between 2pm and 6pm.
An opportunity to meet some of the artists behind the Intuition and Ingenuity exhibition. Featuring Alex May and Anna Dumitriu, Vicky Isley and Paul Smith from boredomresearch, Tom Castle from the Trope Troupe, Sean Clark from DMU, Nick Lambert, Chair of the Computer arts Society and others to be confirmed.

9th November 2012
Exhibition closes.

10th/11th November 2012
Final showings of Decoding Alan Turing film in Screen 3.

Behind Intuition and Ingenuity


The Artworks

Cube Gallery

1. William Latham - "Organic TV"

Artist: William Latham
Mathematician: Stephen Todd
IBM UK Scientific Centre

William Latham was a student at Oxford University and at the Royal College of Art. His organic imagery has been exhibited in the UK, Japan, Germany, Australia, Spain, France and Hong Kong to much critical acclaim.

His work deals with the themes of artificial life and man's manipulation of the natural world and was recently described in one press article as "instantly recognisable, genetically unique and sometimes disturbing". Latham's computer art has cult status within the computer graphics world.

From 1988 to 1994 he worked as an independent Research Fellow with IBM Research in the UK developing evolutionary techniques and software which have become known around the world in computer circles. His 'Mutator' code - developed with Todd - can be used for evolving designs of anything from buildings to shampoo bottles, or even for financial planning when linked to a spreadsheet package. Mutator enables designers to breed designs using the same methods as Latham uses to breed art.

From 1993 to 2003 William moved into Computer Games and founded Computer Artworks working with Universal Studios, SONY SCEE and several other leading publishers running a company of 70 people. He then moved back into academia later in 1997 becoming Professor in Computer Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, collaborating with Professor Frederic Fol Leymarie, and working again with Stephen Todd and his son Peter after a gap of 13 years. Recent work has included re-applying the old FormGrow system rewritten in Java in the world of protein folding and scientific visualisation working with Lawrence Kelly at Imperial College.

His video installation Organic Television was shown at The Royal Festival Hall in London in 1994.

Horn of Horns (1988)

Artist: William Latham
Mathematician: Stephen Todd
IBM UK Scientific Centre

This work follows the legacy of Turing's work with Fibonacci numbers and plants structures. The image shows a ribbed structure with a heavy 3D volumetric marble texturing, it shows the first example of a "horn or horns" with sub horns offset from the perpendicular with transforms of bend, stack and twist from the FormGrow grammar. The work is key in that it starts to cross the line where the forms generated started to look more natural, with sensuous and at times savage undertones of a system based on survival by aesthetics driven by the artist. First Exhibited in The Conquest of Form Exhibition at The Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol in 1988.

Evolutionary Etching (1985)

Artist: William Latham

Produced whilst still a student at The Royal College of Art in 1985, this early work shows the FormSynth rule based system being used to generate a tree of evolutionary sculptural forms, where working to the FormSynth rules (designed by William and not shown in the image) William used his mind as a computer to imagine and then draw the result of a rule's effect on a form (starting with simple 3D Primitives). The work follows the legacy of Turing's work where in 1952 Turing manually by hand emulated the way a computer would play chess before the computer was created. Exhibited at The Arnolfini Gallery in 1988 and The O Art Museum in Tokyo.

2. boredomresearch - "Fragments of Lost Flight"

boredomresearch are fascinated by the diversity present in nature, in the same way scientists use computational processes to gain insight into the mechanisms by which this diversity arises, boredomresearch are interested in using similar techniques to create fictions of nature.

In Fragments of Lost Flight scaled wing fragments are generated by computational mechanisms, inspired by Alan Turing's descriptions of a virtual machine now known as a Turing Machine. Over time a narrow facet of diversity is explored as the 'machine' is fed random programs. Each wing fragment generated by the 'machine' exists only for the time it is on screen and is unlikely ever to be recreated. In nature the process that leads to familiar forms such as butterfly wings are exposed to intense selective pressure with only those of value for survival remaining, in contrast, Fragments of Lost Flight treats all possibilities equally.

boredomresearch is a collaboration between Southampton UK based artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith. Since 2000 boredomresearch have been creating generative artworks which explore extended time frames. They are greatly inspired by the diversity that exists in nature. Using computational technology they explore a similar diversity to simulate natural patterns, behaviours and intricate forms that gradually change over time.

boredomresearch has artwork housed within the British Council's Collection and has been awarded honorary mentions in Transmediale.05, Berlin (2005) and VIDA 7.0 Art & Artificial Life International Competition, Madrid (2004). Their artwork has been exhibited worldwide including KUMU Art Museum in Tallinn, Estonia (2011); Today Art Museum in Beijing (2010); LABoral Centro de Arte y Creacion Industrial in Gijón, Spain (2010); STRP Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands (2009); Instituto Itaú Cultural in São Paulo (2008); iMAL Center for Digital Cultures and Technology in Brussels, Belgium (2008) among many other venues.

3. Paul Brown - "Dragon"

Alan Turing pioneered the field that was later to become known as artificial life in his famous work on morphogenesis, where he sought to algorithmically understand the biological processes that cause organisms to grow in a particular shape, and the mathematics behind leopards' spots and tigers' stripes.

The kinetic painting Dragon continues Paul Brown's interest in artworks that use simple systems to construct themselves and is a product of his ongoing concern with the systematic creation and exploration of surface. Brown's work is based in a field of computational science called Cellular Automata (CAs). These are simple systems that can propagate themselves over time and display complex behaviour. CAs are part of the origins of the discipline known as Artificial Life or A-life.

"I have been interested in CAs and their relationship to tiling and symmetry systems since the 1960s. Over the past 40 years I have applied these processes to time-based artworks, prints on paper and large-scale, site-specific public artworks." (Paul Brown).

Paul Brown is an artist and writer who has specialised in art, science & technology since the late 1960s and in computational & generative art since the mid 1970s. He has an international reputation as a pioneer of both generative art and alife art. He is currently honorary visiting professor at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, University of Sussex and Synapse Artist-in-Residence at the Centre for Intelligent Systems Research, Deakin University. His most recent book - White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960-1980 - which he co-edited with Charlie Gere, Nick Lambert and Catherine Mason was published by MIT Press, Leonardo Imprint.

4. Ernest Edmonds - "Shaping Form"

Alan Turing is considered to be one of the greatest influences in the development of computer science. His development of a theory of computation and formalisation of the concept of the algorithm are directly responsible for the myriad of digital systems that now form such an integral part of our lives today.

"My work takes its inspiration from Turing in that it is constructed by a deterministic computational system: a set of rules. Shaping form is an abstract interactive artwork that takes data from a camera and continuously calculates the amount of activity seen. This steadily modifies the rules. Shaping Form is a representation of computed life, moving and changing of its own accord but maturing and developing as a result of the movement of audiences. The shaping of the form is a never-ending process of computed development." (Ernest Edmonds)

Ernest Edmonds was born in London in 1942. He has a PhD in logic and has been inspired by Alan Turing throughout his career. He is a research professor at UTS, Sydney, and DMU, Leicester. His art is in the constructivist tradition and he concentrates on systems and computation. He first used computers in his art practice in 1968. He first showed a generative time-based work in 1985. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is collecting his archives. His work is represented in the Digital Art Museum (DAM Projects GmbH, Berlin).

5. Martin A Smith (Sound) and Alex May (Video) - "Sound Portrait"

A sound portrait of Alan Turing by Martin A Smith using music, found sounds and sound collage, featuring contributions from Professor Kevin Warwick and Professor Ernest Edmonds, quotations from Alan Turing and poetry from Hallie, aged fifteen from Manchester. The soundscape was generated from Turing Patterns using image to sound software and incorporates recordings of the Bombe, the Second World War and elements from Snow White, a story that meant so much to Alan Turing.

The intent, like a conventional painted portrait or photograph, is to represent aspects his character, life and work by using the medium of sound.

A video collage has been created by artist and VJ Alex May using his own custom software to accompany the sound portrait. The piece was created as a live, real-time performance at Watermans Gallery in London for Turing centenary day, 23rd June 2012, 100 years after Alan Turing was born.

Martin A. Smith is a composer and sound/video artist whose work is concerned with the creation of atmosphere rather than of form, melody or rhythm, of creating an environment through subtle and harmonious changes rather than through force.His work explores the areas of sound, image and environment, creating immersive, multi-layered pieces focusing on the way sound alters, reinterprets or enhances our emotional response to the nature and spirit of place, memory and environment.

Alex May works with light emitting technologies, computer programming, math, power tools, and physical objects as a canvas to create hybrid collisions of images and unexpected context. Developing his own software to combine 17th Century scientific theories of perspective and projective geometry with the real-time possibilities of readily available technologies such as high power graphics cards, Arduino, and Microsoft's Kinect, Alex's work uncovers and explores new artistic mediums that offer joyful extensions of the human experiences at best, and darkly invasive and upsetting self-reflection as its shadow. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow: Artist in Residence with the Adaptive Systems Research Group at The University of Hertfordshire.

6. Sean Clark - "Moving Pictures"

The Interact Symbol was created in summer 2011 to represent The Interact Gallery and my thinking at the time regarding the nature of interactivity. It consists of a double ouroboros in which two snakes consume each other. The symbol is both ancient and modern and can been found in many of my current works.

In this piece twelve the columns of Interact Symbols rotate at different speeds in response to the presence - or lack of - of a viewer or viewers. As they spin new patterns and alignments appear to emerge.

Sean is a digital artist, a PhD researcher, the director of web/mobile developer Cuttlefish and the curator of Interact in Leicester. His art work is inspired by systems theory, the nature of interactivity and creative explorations of flow and connectedness.


7. The Trope Troupe - "Departures"

Inspired by 'State_Sponsored_ Homophobia_2010' (Daniel Ottosson,, this screen-based 'travel information system', seems like a twisted admonition to 'behave' ourselves on holiday, but is, in reality, a shocking reminder that, around the world, so many gay people's sexuality is still criminalised.

I make art installation objects with small embedded computers. I wanted to make an upright monitor piece! I love the way all the upright monitor display systems are based on horizontal operating systems - so when they break - which they do - you get system messages at right-angles to the picture. Well my piece, it turns out, is no different.

I found myself looking for information on the existence of countries that still outlaw gay sexuality. I came across a fascinating and thoroughly researched web-site. On the site I found the document State Sponsored Homophobia by Daniel Ottosson. I have had to interpret the information in the document - sometimes the legal phrasing does not make it clear exactly what sexual act is being described and therefore punished. There are confusions in many legal utterances about rape and under-age sexual activities. In some cases the proposed sentences are vague and confusingly wide-ranging.

I have added reported punishments carried out unofficially. Some of these are disgusting - I have to remind people that is art, not an automated legal advice display device. I have quoted some colourful phrases "Anus Locking" and "Haffi dead", found in press reports about anti-gay murders:

"Anus Locking" How Islamist Gangs Use Internet to Track, Torture and Kill Iraqi Gays
"Haffi dead" The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?

I first made the piece in September 2010 - though it has had minor alterations.

The first version at Kinetica had sound! There was a subtle long-cycled sonic element to Departures (1.00). An airport stytle chime can be heard every two minutes, sounding out mashed-up fragments of "I Am What I Am" from La Cage aux Folles. According to Wikipedia, the song was composed in 1983 by Jerry Herman, an openly gay man.

8. Jeremy Gardiner and Anthony Head - "Light Years : Jurassic Coast"

Jeremy Gardiner and Anthony Head present a data-driven exploration of the Jurassic Coast, the 95-mile World Heritage site that goes from Orcombe Point near Exmouth in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in East Dorset. This work renders the coastline that Alan Turing would have been familiar with during his schooldays at Sherborne.

Light Years : Jurassic Coast presents a three-dimensional temporal world that can be dynamically viewed from different angles and at different times of day. This world evokes a contemplative atmosphere based on real and abstract elements, but also offers some playful elements such as the sound of the birds, wind and waves.

All the images of Light Years : Jurassic Coast that make an appearance in the digital projection are painted in the studio. Starting with a prepared wooden panel on which the entire development of an image takes place, each one is a subtle relief constructed of large flat poplar panels. Many layers of paint are applied which are then scraped down and overpainted so that the intermingled strata echo the multiplicity of memories that inform the work. The complex physical construction of the panels reflects the accretions of memory.

Unlike painting, digital media can create the illusion of time-travel, in which the viewer has the illusion of entering some other place and period through a virtual window. Time and space travel is purely speculative, encouraging daydreams and reverie. Travelling in this manner is an imaginative act, an act of memory and reflection.

Jeremy Gardiner is a graduate of The Royal College of Art and received a BA Hons Fine Art from Newcastle University. He was awarded a Churchill Fellowship and later a Harkness Fellowship, which allowed him to work in Boston and New York during the 1980s. He has exhibited his work internationally for many years, including North America, Japan and China. Recent exhibitions include 'The Coast Revisited' at the Paisnel Gallery, London and 'Imaginalis' at The Chelsea Art Museum, New York City. His work is held in numerous corporate, public and private collections in Europe and the United States. He has explored the Jurassic Coast on long walks, boat rides and flights, forever seeking out new points of view. Creating distinct layers of colour, Gardiner's working method involves scouring, building accretions of paint, collaging and sanding down, in an attempt to emulate on the surface of his paintings the effects of geological time on the landscape.

Anthony Head: As a digital artist and designer, my practice resides in the crossover of art and science, with both areas offering equal fascination to me. This interest has lead into the major area of my work, which is focused on digitally created interactive objects and virtual environments. I create these environments through a combination of programming and 3D modelling techniques. My practice resides in the crossover of art and science.

Part of my practice involves the investigation of digital media in relation to Kinetic Sculpture. I create 3D interactive sculptural objects that move, and can be influenced by the viewer. One of my sculpture series is metamorphic in nature (changing in form) and the other zoomorphic (animal-like and form changing). Mathematics generates the structure of the forms, through computer programmed graphic technology and physics defines their motions. As such, mathematical equations are my chisel, manipulating a basic geometric form, the sphere.

9. Prints

Paul Brown, 4^16-2030311203312120, Giclée Print, 50 x 50 cm, 2005/06
Paul Brown, The Deluge - after Leonardo, Giclée Print, 50 x 50 cm, 1995
Paul Brown, The Book of Transformations, 2 pages of 8, Giclée Print, 80 x 64 cm, 2000
Computer Technique Group, Return to Square, 1968
Computer Arts Society, Computer Art Week, Poster, 1970

10. Anna Dumitriu and Alex May - "My Robot Companion"

Visiting Phoenix on 3th November. Free entry.

Artists Anna Dumitriu and Alex May are collaborating with Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn and Dr Michael L Walters from the Adaptive Systems Research Group at Sussex University to investigate their into social robotics and to ask the questions, do we want and need robot companions? And, if so, what kind of robot companions do we, as a society, want?

Research shows that often people find humanoid robots appealing as companions and that the 'head' though technically irrelevant (sensors can be placed anywhere on a robot) acts as a focal point for users to communicate with their robot companions.

The interactive robot head is the ultimate in personal robotics. It can take on the appearance of any user to provide a potentially comforting sense of recognition and familiarity, as can aid users in every aspect of their lives, even while they are sleeping [reminiscent of witches "familiars" from folklore].

The "Familiar" head uses a Microsoft Kinect to take features from visitors faces and combining them with features from their friends and family's faces based on their proximity to the robot. It looks most like the person that it sees most in order to promote bonding. As you approach, it turns to you and begins to change. The robot tells you "I like your face" or "I love you". Of course this can also lead to a feeling of discomfort known in robotics as "the uncanny valley" (Mori, 1970), where users feel a sense of repulsion as robots become very humanlike (in this case very like themselves and their companions) but stopping short of being wholly human. The depth camera in the Kinect can be used to measure this effect in operation by recording how visitors approach the robot.

Anna Dumitriu's work blurs the boundaries between art and science. Her installations, interventions and performances use a range of digital, biological and traditional media including live bacteria, robotics, interactive media, and textiles. Her work has a strong international exhibition profile and is held in several major public collections, including the Science Museum in London. Dumitriu is known for her work as founder and director of "The Institute of Unnecessary Research", a group of artists and scientists whose work crosses disciplinary boundaries and critiques contemporary research practice. She is currently working on a Wellcome Trust funded art project entitled "Communicating Bacteria", collaborating as a Visiting Research Fellow: Artist in Residence with the Adaptive Systems Research Group at The University of Hertfordshire (focussing on social robotics), a Visiting Research Fellow in the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics at The University of Sussex and Artist in Residence on the UK Clinical Research Consortium Project "Modernising Medical Microbiology. She is also chair of the Alan Turing Year 2012 Arts and Culture Subcommittee and a member of the Alan Turing Year 2012 International Advisory Committee.

Alex May works with light emitting technologies, computer programming, math, power tools, and physical objects as a canvas to create hybrid collisions of images and unexpected context. Developing his own software to combine 17th Century scientific theories of perspective and projective geometry with the real-time possibilities of readily available technologies such as high power graphics cards, Arduino, and Microsoft's Kinect, Alex's work uncovers and explores new artistic mediums that offer joyful extensions of the human experiences at best, and darkly invasive and upsetting self-reflection as its shadow. He is also a Visiting Research Fellow: Artist in Residence with the Adaptive Systems Research Group at The University of Hertfordshire.

Screen 3

11. Christopher Racster - "Decoding Alan Turing"

Have you ever heard the rumor about the Apple Computer logo? Rampant in circles of geek-based urban legend, is the idea that the Apple with a bite missing that adorns so many of our most prized electronics is a nod to those in the know about Alan Mathison Turing, an English Mathematician (widely hailed as the father of the modern computer) who was found dead at age 41 with a poisoned apple laying next to his bed.

"Like many, I grew up gay and felt alone and different. I had no role models, no one to make the path easier or more clear. Today my goal is simple. Find those people and stories, that we may or may not know about, who have made a difference in the world and are gay. And then to tell their stories. Give someone a role model. Someone to light the way." (Christopher Racster)