Image description: A Chinese-American woman with short dark hair standing in front of device sculptures. Photo by Gabriel Noguez.
Lauren Lee McCarthy (she/they) is an artist having social relationships in the midst of automation, surveillance, and algorithmic living. She has received grants and residencies from Creative Capital, United States Artists, LACMA, Sundance, Eyebeam, Pioneer Works, Autodesk, and Ars Electronica. 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, Seoul Museum of Art, Chronus Art Center, SIGGRAPH, Onassis Cultural Center, IDFA DocLab, Science Gallery Dublin, 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 10 million users. She expanded on this work in her role from 2015–21 on the Board of Directors for 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 a Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts. She holds an MFA from UCLA and a BS Computer Science and BS Art and Design from MIT.
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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?
Six Reflections on Algorithms During a Pandemic︎
Feeling At Home: Between Human and AI︎
Muted on Pioneer Works Broadcast︎