Image description: A Chinese-American woman with short dark hair in front of blurred falling letters projected, a line of light through her eyes. // Photo by Cam McLeod.
Lauren Lee McCarthy (she/they) is an artist examining social relationships in the midst of surveillance, automation, and algorithmic living. She is a 2021 United States Artist Fellow, 2020 Sundance New Frontier Story Lab Fellow, 2020 Eyebeam Rapid Response Fellow, 2019 Creative Capital Grantee, and has been a resident at Eyebeam, ZERO1, CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Autodesk, NYU ITP, and Ars Electronica. She is the recipient of grants from the Knight Foundation, the Online News Association, Mozilla Foundation, Google AMI, Sundance Institute New Frontiers Labs, Turner Broadcasting, and Rhizome. Her work SOMEONE was awarded the Ars Electronica Golden Nica and the Japan Media Arts Social Impact Award, and her work LAUREN was awarded the IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction. Lauren's work has been exhibited internationally, at places such as the Barbican Centre, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Haus der elektronischen Künste, SIGGRAPH, Onassis Cultural Center, IDFA DocLab, Science Gallery Dublin, Seoul Museum of Art, and the Japan Media Arts Festival.
Lauren is also the creator of p5.js, an open-source art and education platform that prioritizes access and diversity in learning to code, with over 1.5 million users. She expands on this work in her role as a Director of the Processing Foundation, whose mission is to serve those who have historically not had access to the fields of technology, code, and art in learning software and visual literacy. Lauren is an Associate Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts. She holds an MFA from UCLA and a BS Computer Science and BS Art and Design from MIT.
You can say turn off the lights. You can say wake me up at 7am. You can say talk to me. I am captivated by the ways we are taught to interact with algorithms, and how this shapes the way we interact with each other. Central to my work is a critique of the simultaneous technological and social systems we’re building around ourselves. What are the rules, what happens when we introduce glitches?
I create performances inviting viewers to engage. To remote control my dates. To be followed. To welcome me in as their human smart home. To attend a party hosted by artificial intelligence. In these interactions, there is a reciprocal risk taking and vulnerability, as performer and audience are both challenged to relinquish control, both implicated. We must formulate our own opinions about the systems that govern our lives. We begin to notice their effects play out on our identity, relationships, and society. Situated in everyday life, my projects have real life consequences. We’re reminded of an urgent need to find a sense of agency.
I am working with performance, software, electronics, internet, film, photography, installation. My work exists within and beyond the gallery, seeking edges of art and media performance. There are different layers of experience, from the intimate performance to a much wider audience invited in through the ripples of viral videos and media coverage.
Each work feels like an attempt to hack my way out of myself and into closeness with others. I am embodying machines, trying to understand that distance between the algorithm and myself, the distance between others and me. There’s humor in the breakdown, and also moments of clarity. Who builds these artificial systems, what values do they embody? Who is prioritized and who is targeted as race, gender, disability, and class are programmatically encoded? Where are the boundaries around our intimate spaces? In the midst of always on networked interfaces, what does it mean to be truly present?
Thoughts about code
Code is a medium like any other, with its own rules and affordances. I feel freedom being able to rapidly prototype ideas in code and build my own tools, it is a way of thinking through questions. I often am tweaking the software in real-time while each performance runs. It is important for me that my code is open-source, that is, others may use, share, modify, and build on it. Around this code sharing communities form, decentering individual artists and prioritizing collaboration.
My background in computer science gives me a level of fluency and understanding of what’s happening with technology on different scales at the same time. I see the systems around us, and I imagine the code and underlying logic, I then zoom out to the way we are experiencing it as individuals which feels unique and personal, then zoom further to see the larger social patterns the technology is encoding. I look for the opportunities to insert hacks and glitches at any of these different levels, watching the effects propagate. I care deeply about questioning the technologies around us because no tool is neutral. Each is embedded with the biases and beliefs of its creators. Every software system is also a social system. How do we reclaim a feeling of control, how do we participate?
A software system is a set of instructions, a code or a script. I gravitate toward performance because it shares much of this logic. But there is a humanness in the interpretation of a performative score, whereas a machine interpreter demands a precise series of directions or it fails. As technology moves ever closer to us, the scripts start to blend. I’m chasing the program crashes that open something up.
Selected Awards and Grants
Ars Electronica Golden Nica Interactive Art+
United States Artist Fellowship
United States Artist Fellowship
IDFA DocLab Creative Response Support Grant
Pioneer Works Residency
Sundance Interdisciplinary Program Grant
Pioneer Works Residency
Sundance Interdisciplinary Program Grant
Ars Electronica STARTS Prize Honorary Mention
Eyebeam Rapid Response FellowshipSundance New Frontier Story Lab Fellowship
Women at Sundance Adobe Fellowship
Social Impact Award. Japan Media Arts Festival
Andy Warhol Foundation for Contemporary Arts Curatorial Fellowship
Getty Foundation Pacific Standard Time Research Grant
Getty Foundation Pacific Standard Time Research Grant
Creative Capital Award
NEA Art Works Grant (Processing Foundation)
Mozilla MOSS Partners Grant, Mozilla Foundation
Google Focused Research Award, Google Artist and Machine Intelligence
CLTC Cybersecurity Arts Grant, University of California, Berkeley
STRP ACT Award, STRP Festival, Eindhoven, NL.
ZERO1 American Arts Incubator Residency, San Francisco, California / Gwangju, South Korea
Faculty Research Grant, University of California, Los Angeles
Dean’s Research Grant, University of California, Los Angeles
Journalism 360 Challenge Award, Google News Lab, Knight Foundation, and Online News Association
Knight Foundation Grant for Processing Foundation Node Cities
Ars Electronica Honorary Mention, Digital Communities Category
Metal Liverpool Artist Residency, Liverpool, UK
Mozilla Open Leaders Program
Harvestworks Residency, New York, NY
Art Works Grant (Processing Foundation)
Instructional Improvement Grant, University of California, Los Angeles
Sundance New Frontier Fellowship, Sundance Institute
IDFA DocLab Award Immersive Non-Fiction, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, NL
Academie Schloss Solitude & ZKM Web Residency, Stuttgart, Germany
International Kunstverein Luxembourg Residency
Faculty Research Grant, University of California, Los Angeles, CA,
Faculty Career Development Award, University of California, Los Angeles
Confucius Institute Grant, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Arts Initiative Award, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
HOW International Design Awards Merit Winner (with Sosolimited and PAOM), New York, NY
Communication Arts Interactive Award (with Sosolimited and PAOM), New York, NY
Innovation by Design Finalist (with Sosolimited and PAOM), New York, NY
Ars Electronica Transmit³ Residency, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
ADC Young Guns Award Winner, Art Directors Club, New York, NY
Share Prize Honorary Mention, Share Festival, Treviso, Italy
Stochastic Labs Residency, Berkeley, CA
Dean’s Faculty Grant, New York University
Lifelogging Residency. Science Gallery Dublin, Ireland
CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry Residency, Carnegie Mellon University
ITP Research Residency, New York University Interactive Telecommunications
Autodesk Pier 9 Artist Residency, Autodesk, San Francisco, CA
NYSCA Independent Artist Grant, New York State Council on the Arts
RISD 2050 Fund Research Grant, Rhode Island School of Design
Share Prize Honorary Mention, Share Festival, Treviso, Italy
Rhizome Commission, Jury Award
Rhizome Commission, Member Award
Eyebeam Artist Residency, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center
Processing Fellowship, The Processing Foundation, New York, NY
Intel Research Grant, Intel Labs, Portland, OR
Core Design Award (Sosolimited), New York, NY
Elsewhere Residency, Elsewhere Museum, Greensboro, NC
Jury Recommended Work, Japan Media Arts Festival, Tokyo, Japan
UCLA Dean’s Scholarship, University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA University Fellowship, University of California, Los Angeles
Awesome Foundation Fellowship Grant, Boston, MA
Twitter Artist in Residence. Brooklyn Art Museum
Solo and Two-Person Exhibitions and Performance Events
The Changing Room. Ogden Contemporary Arts Center. Ogden, Utah
Set the Room. Brownie Project. Shanghai, China
Stay put / idle. panke.gallery. Berlin, Germany
Follower. Coreana Museum of Art. Seoul, South Korea
Smarter Home / 더 똑똑한 집. Gwangju Cultural Foundation. Gwangju, South Korea
Follower Performance. Fotomuseum Winterthur. Winterthur, Switzerland
LAUREN Performance. Living Room Light Exchange. San Francisco, CA
24 hour HOST. MU Artspace, Dutch Design Week. Eindhoven, Amsterdam
LAUREN. MU Artspace. Eindhoven, Netherlands
Follower. International Kunstverein Luxembourg. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
LAUREN Overnight. IDFA Doclab. Amsterdam, Netherlands / Los Angeles, CA
How We Act Together. Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. With Kyle McDonald. Frankfurt, Germany The Changing Room. Queensland University of Technology. Brisbane, Australia
Friend or Follow. OPEN Gallery. Boston, MA
Follower Debut. Stochastic Labs. Berkeley, CA
Social Galaxy. Samsung 837. With Kyle McDonald. New York, NY
Friend Crawl. Electric Objects / Online. New York, NY
Crowdpilot. Rhizome Frontpage Exhibition. New York, NY
Social Turkers. Intel Research Labs / Online. Portland, OR
InterACT. Broad Art Center, University of California, Los Angeles. Los Angeles, CA
Group Exhibitions, Performances, and Screenings
Edition. EIGENHEIM Weimar/Berlin and medienkunst e.V. Berlin, Germany.
Open Secret. KW Institute of Art. Berlin, Germany.
AR Biennial Düsseldorf. Kunstpalast-NRW-Forum. Düsseldorf, Germany.
Modern Love. IMPAKT Festival. Utrecht, Netherlands.
Contingent Systems. Illingworth Kerry Gallery. Alberta, Canada.
Artificial Intelligenz - KI. Deutsches Hygiene-Museum. Dresden, Germany.
What do you want me to say? Instructions Follow. Feral Files.
The Changing Room. Nostos Festival. Athens, Greece.
AI Delivered: Abject AI. Chronus Art Center. Shanghai, China.
Modern Love. Tallinn Art Hall. Tallinn, Estonia.
Cairotronica Egypt. Cairo, Egypt.
Mozilla Festival. Amsterdam, NL.
Real Feelings. MU. Eindhoven, Netherlands.
The Best Inventions: Fifteen Years of the Web.Art from Share Festival. Share Festival. Torino, Italy.
New Public Festival. Civic Signals. Feeling Seen Being Watched.
AI: More Than Human. World Museum Liverpool. Liverpool, UK. .
Make Room. Los Angeles, CA.
Far Away, So Close. Gallatin Galleries. New York, NY
Sundance Festival. Online. Park City, UT.
We=Link2.0 Sideways. Chronos Art Center. Shanghai, China
IDFA DocLab. Amsterdam, NL
Manipulations. Institute for Contemporary Ideas and Art. Göteborg, Sweden
Unsound Festival. Liquid Architecture. Virtual
HOT STEAM. MIT Museum. Cambridge, MA
Digital Art Festival Taipei. Taipei, Taiwan
Falling Up. Reriddle Gallery. San Francisco, CA
Returning the Gaze. Ars Electronica @ Keplers Gardens. Los Angeles, CA
Ars Electronica Festival. Ars Electronica Center. Linz, Austria
Japan Media Arts Festival. Tokyo, Japan
Breaking News? How the smartphone changed journalism. The Media Majlis, Northwestern University in Qatar. Doha, Qatar
Understanding AI. Ars Electronica Center. Linz, Austria
Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies). Museum für Neue Kunst. Breisgau, Germany
Singularity. ARTE LUCE. Berlin, Germany
Affective Prospective. MediaLab/UnB. Brasília, Brazil
Post Hoc. Online. May 2020
Women in Tech: Reimagining Cybersecurity for All. Bechtel Center, UC Berkeley, California
Streaming. gallery@calit2. San Diego, CA
Refiguring Binaries. Centro de Cultura Digital. Mexico City, Mexico
Real Feelings. HeK, House of Electronic Arts Basel. Basel, Switzerland
How to make a Paradise. Frankfurter Kunstverein. Frankfurt, Germany
Art Will Save Us. Berlin, Germany
Selphish / L’exposition de soi. Mécènes du Sud. Montpellier, France
Algotaylorism. Mulhouse Kunsthalle. Mulhouse, France
Algotaylorism: Rage Against The Machine. Espace Multimédia Gantner. Bourogne, France
Artefact 2020: Alone Together. STUK Art Center. Leuven, Belgium
Mind the Deep - Artificial Intelligence and Artistic Creation. Ming Contemporary Art Museum. Shanghai, China
She-nvisible. Print Screen Festival. Tel Aviv, Israel
Deus Ex Machina. Art and Artificial Intelligence. LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial. Gijón, Spain
Meteoric. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Strange Temporalities: Out of the Box. Ars Electronica. Linz, Austria
Mozilla Festival. Ravensbourne University. London, UK
AI: More Than Human. The Barbican Centre. London, UK
Smarter Home / 더 똑똑한 집 (American Arts Incubator). International Symposium of Electronic Arts. Asia Cultural Center. Gwangju, South Korea
Entangled Realities. Haus der elektronischen Künste. Basel, Switzerland
DE JA VU. Today Art Museum. Beijing, China
GETXOPHOTO. Bilbao, Spain
Future of Privacy. Dublin, Ireland
See and Be Seen: Picturing Notoriety. Norton Museum of Art. West Palm Beach, Florida
STRP Festival. Eindhoven, NL
Refiguring the Future. Hunter Art Galleries. New York, NY
Forging the Gods. Transfer Gallery #ONCANAL. New York, NY
Rubbings for $20; Bootlegs for $100. SPRING/BREAK Art Fair
Printemps Numérique. Kanal - Centre Pompidou. Brussels, Belgium
For Real. April 2019. Senne for Art Brussels
Vienna Biennale 2019: “Brave New Virtues Shaping our Digital World. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts. Vienna, Austria
Immortal on Screen. National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. Taichung City, Taiwan
Counting Digital Sheep. Hogeschool Avans. Den Bosch, Netherlands.
Intimacy. Science Gallery Dublin. Dublin, Ireland.
Microwave Media Arts Festival. Hong Kong.
Work. Art Quarter Budapest. Budapest, Hungary.
Seoul Mediacity Biennale. Entire; having no element left out, complete in degree. Seoul, South Korea.
Clustering. Artificial Knowing. Los Angeles, CA.
SITUATIONS. Fotomuseum Winterthur. Winterthur, Switzerland.
Refiguring the Future: Netgain Exhibition. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Chicago, IL.
FACELESS. Gallery of the Austrian Cultural Forum. Berlin, Germany.
Open Codes. ZKM | Center for Art and Media. Karlsruhe, Germany.
Electric Women. Online Exhibition.
Lost in the Net Dream. National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. Taichung City, Taiwan.
ZER01 Festival. La Rochelle, France.
Counting Digital Sheep. Tetem. Enschede, Netherlands.
Authenticate. Cypress College Gallery. Cypress, CA.
Hard To Read: Lovelace. Navel. Los Angeles, CA.
tech (in)dependent. Pierro Gallery. Newark, NJ.
Otherly Space/Knowledge. ACT Festival. Asian Cultural Center. Gwangju, South Korea.
In Our Present Condition... MIT Dean’s Gallery. Cambridge, MA.
Neotopia: Data and Humanity. Art Center Nabi. Seoul, South Korea.
Day for Night. Barbara Jordan Post Office. Houston, TX.
Materalising the Internet. MU Artspace. Eindhoven, Amsterdam.
Vulnerability. Young Projects Gallery. Los Angeles, CA.
Uncharted Rituals. IDFA Doclab. Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Radical Networks. Chem Creative. New York, NY.
Dear Diary: A Celebration of Diaries and their Digital Descendants. Somerset House. London, England.
Sundance World Building Showcase. University of Southern California. Los Angeles, CA.
First I Was Afraid…. Dorsky Gallery. Long Island City, NY.
Feminist Climate Change. Ars Electronica Center. Linz, Austria.
NODE Forum for the Digital Arts Biennial. Frankfurt, Germany.
I Dread To Think. Boston Center for the Arts. Boston, MA.
Body Politic. OPEN Gallery. Boston, MA.
AppDate. Literatur-Kunst-Medien Universität Konstanz. Konstanz, Germany.
Blindspot. Design Matters Gallery. Los Angeles, CA.
Hybrids. Onassis Cultural Centre. Athens, Greece.
Geek Girl. Creative Industries Precinct at QUT. Brisbane, Australia.
Elastic Reality. IDFA Doclab. Amsterdam, Netherlands.
State of Emotion – The Sentimental Machine. STATE Festival. Berlin, Germany.
Radical Networks. Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. Brooklyn, NY.
Eastern Bloc Sight and Sound Festival. Vancouver, Canada.
TLDR (Too Long; Didn’t Read). B4BEL4B Gallery. Oakland, CA.
Social Computing. Centro Studi Città di Foligno. Foligno, Italy.
House Guests. Share Festival. Treviso, Italy.
Social Galaxy. Samsung Galaxy Studio. Olympic Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Social Discovery. Bangkok, Thailand.
Happenings for SET. DOOSAN Gallery. New York, NY.
Radical Networks. MAGNET NYU Poly. Brooklyn, NY.
Wrapped in Code – The Future of the Informed Body. NODE15 Forum. Frankfurt, Germany.
Lifelogging. Science Gallery Dublin. Dublin, Ireland.
Terms of Service. Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts. Grand Rapids, MI.
Social Soul. SXSW Festival. Austin, TX.
Your Friend, Correspondence and Collaboration. Gallery Factory. Seoul, South Korea.
Stillness In Motion. TED Conference. Vancouver, Canada.
Device Art. Ars Electronica Center. Linz, Austria.
Meditating Technology. CRUX Space. Philadelphia, PA.
Eyebeam Annual Showcase. Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. New York, NY.
Social Soul. TED Conference. Vancouver, Canada.
CSIS Data Chandelier. With Sosolimited. Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Washington, DC. Permanent Installation opened January 2014.
Real Time | Real Space. Share Festival. Treviso, Italy.
New Cinema. Eyebeam Art and Technology Center. New York, NY.
God Mode. 319 Scholes. Brooklyn, NY.
Collision Collective. Boston Cyber Arts Gallery. Boston, MA.
Patterned by Nature. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Raleigh, NC. Permanent Installation. With Sosolimited.
Northern Spark Festival. Minneapolis, MN. Collaboration with David Wicks.
Energy of the Nation. Installation at the London Eye for 2012 Olympics. London, England. With Sosolimited.
THINK IBM Centennial Exhibit. Lincoln Center, With Sosolimited and Mirada.
FILE Festival. São Paulo, Brazil. New York, NY.
Impractically, Practical. Take My Picture Gallery. Los Angeles, CA.
Anatomy Riot. Alexandria Hotel. Los Angeles, CA.
Tell Them Nothing…. New White Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles. Los Angeles, CA.
Japan Media Arts Festival. The National Art Center. Tokyo, Japan.
Mindshare. The Downtown Independent. Los Angeles, CA.
WIRED Store. New York, NY.
#TheSocialGraph. Outpost Gallery. Bushwick, NY.
LACMA MUSE. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, CA.
Conflux Festival. New York, NY.
TouchPoint: Haptic Exchange Between Digits. SIGGRAPH Art Gallery, Los Angeles Convention Center. Los Angeles, CA.
2014-16 Full-Time Faculty, NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program
2013-14 Adjunct Assistant Professor, NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program
2011-13 Adjunct Faculty, RISD Department of Digital+Media
2008 BS Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
2008 BS Art and Design, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Los Angeles Times. “Alexa, meet Lauren: L.A. artist turns her apartment into an experiment in artificial intelligence.” Sharon Mizota.
CLOT Magazine. “LAUREN McCARTHY, the coder among the wild beasts.” Lidia Raoi.
Ars Technica. “Artist transforms herself into a virtual assistant and obeys your commands.” Dorothy Santos.
Observer. “Artist Lauren McCarthy Takes on Amazon’s Alexa Like John Henry Did the Steam Engine.” Brady Dale.
Kill Screen. “Lauren McCarthy Takes on Silicon Valley Optimism.” David Wolinsky.
The Verge. “Giving your love life to Google Glass and the hive mind.” Tim Maly.
Interviews and Podcasts
Bloomberg. ART + TECHNOLOGY: Episode 5: Lauren McCarthy, Has data destroyed privacy?”
Mozilla Blog.“Creating art with open source.” Interview with Abigail Cabunoc Mayes.
Team Human Podcast. “Live at Gray Area Night Two Part Two.” Interview with Douglas Rushkoff.
Team Human Podcast. “Live at Gray Area Night Two: Lauren McCarthy.” Interview with Douglas Rushkoff.
Request for Commits Podcast. “Design, Software, and Open Source.” Podcast interview with Nadia Eghbal and Mikeal Rogers.
Hyperallergic. “Want a Smart Home Assistant? Invite This Artist to Watch You for Three Days Instead.” Interview with Hrag Vartanian.
Y-Combinator Podcast. “Artist Lauren McCarthy Will Be Your Home’s Brain.” Interview with Craig Cannon.
Especially Big Data Podcast. “Let’s hear it for the girls!” Interview with Alex Geller.
Ars Electronica Blog. “Lauren McCarthy Provokes Fellow Feelings in Her Very Own Way.” Interview with Markus Scholl.