I am Leila Johnston. I’m an artist and writer, among other things. I currently work at Sheffield’s Site Gallery as their first Digital Curator (from January 2017). For a summary of my recent artistic practice, see my artist CV.
I take a highly critical line on contemporary digital culture. I’m interested in putting people, tech and science out of context to highlight, and hopefully overcome, damaging assumptions and biases about what should be done, and who should be the one to do it.
I was the first ever digital artist-in-residence at leading contemporary dance company Rambert, October 2015-February 2016. I’ve written a small book about my experiences, calling for a ‘Contemporary Creative Technology’ – linked here, along with other media from the residency, and reviewed here, by Furtherfield.
From 2013-2017, I ran a regular experimental live show, podcast and magazine called Hack Circus which allowed me to explore ideas around speculative science, subversive tech, psychology etc with others in a fun and unique way. This episode of BBC Click from March 2015 explains Hack Circus very well. The podcast has its own website, here.
I have been a resident at Site Gallery in Sheffield (The Happenstance Project, 2012) and Lighthouse in Brighton (in 2014, I wrote about it). In February 2015, I was one of 10 innovators from around the world selected to take part in a development programme at Future Everything in Manchester. My exploration of life extension was commissioned for the Brighton Digital Festival and British Science Festival, both of which took place in September 2015. The same month, I accepted an invitation to be ‘In Conversation With’ Richard Dawkins, on stage at the Lowry theatre in Manchester. Most recently, I was the artist-in-residence at the theatre and photography museums, on the Creative Museums programme, in Helsinki.
I give talks on everything from boredom on the Starship Enterprise to creativity in the James Cameron Terminator films. I’ve spoken at two TEDx events, New Scientist Live, The Royal Institution, The Royal Academy of Arts, and loads of other places.
I have a First Class Honours degree in the History of Art from the University of York (2003), and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge in critical theory (‘Criticism & Culture’, English Faculty, 2006). Here’s my LinkedIn.
Home is Sheffield, but I travel a lot and I’m always looking for people to connect with for my various projects. So, if any of that sounds interesting, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.