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Leila Johnston

Writer and artist

Leila Johnston is a writer, performer and cultural commentator. She works with art and technology, and the fantastical ideas that emerge from them. Her journalism credits include WIRED UK, Creative Review and The Guardian, and she has spoken at TEDx, Ada Lovelace Day Live, the Royal Academy of Arts and many more.

She is the Ringmaster of Hack Circus, an live show and magazine which has been described as 'Make magazine meets The Fortean Times'. Each issue is launched with an immersive show where scientists and hackers perform original work in collaboration with artists and musicians, experimenting with speculative science, technology and philosophy to playfully challenge the audience and themselves.

She has been a resident at the Site Gallery in Sheffield and Lighthouse Arts in Brighton and was one of 10 innovators from around the world selected to take part in the British Council/Future Everything ‘Global Futr Labs’ in Manchester in February 2015. She has written several humour books, radio, and a column for BBC Comedy.

Why Our Creative Plans Can't Be Personal

You'll see, if you look at those questions again, that they are shared by the audience member. In fact, every time you make something even just partly for someone else, you let them ask the same questions you're asking of your actions; you make them shareholders in the action.
23/01/2017 14:44 GMT

How To Shield Your Work From Doubt Damage

Belief gets a bad rap. It's a very unpopular concept in these secular times, but the (obvious) thing is: we believe things whether we want want to or not. If we can at least accept that's true, we can start to take control of our beliefs, and make them work for us. But accepting they exist is the big first step.
11/01/2017 16:14 GMT

How To Keep Up momentum On Your Projects

Experiencing explosive creativity in every direction is one of the great things about living in these connected times. But just because we can, doesn't mean we should. Indeed, the trend with some creative projects now seems to be heading towards 'anthologies', and there's a 'quality over quantity' vibe starting to emerge.
04/01/2017 11:02 GMT

Freelance Creatives: Give Yourself A Promotion In 2017

As we look forward to another brand new year, here's an idea I had while listening to some experts talk about how to get promotions in conventional workplaces. If, as I've suggested in some of these posts, you might think of your freelance or creative work as within the framework of a sort of imaginary office, why not give yourself a promotion every now and then?
23/12/2016 10:58 GMT

How To Assess The Value Of Your Creative Work

We'd all like to get paid more for what we do. But we have a habit of feeling our stuff is impossible to value because we develop an emotional, personal relationship with it. Doing business with our creative outputs can feel like selling off a section of our very soul.
12/12/2016 13:40 GMT

Can Technology Be Sublime?

There's a funny thing going on, here. The more mysterious and abstract computing becomes, the more we revere it and, not coincidentally, the more power it has. And the more power it has, the more power we afford to the people who take on the role as its gatekeepers.
12/10/2016 11:47 BST

What does Digital R&D Mean in the Arts? What's The Value in the Arts Economy?

But there's another economy which does reward work which is exploratory in and of itself. "R&D in the arts" seems to be quite a new thing, inspired by the digital model, but not motivated by financial revenue. I worry about the arts taking on the mantle, because R&D and innovation are terms with such an overwhelming direction built in to them
20/07/2016 14:16 BST

How Can Creative Technologies Develop as a 'Contemporary' Artform? Four Lessons From Dance

But 'art' means something quite different to digital culture than to the established performance arts. In digital, everything is still very new and being worked out. Claims to artistry in digital work on the whole go unchallenged - we are desperate to embrace anything, so long as it has sufficient fans, and this desperation and speedy ranking in the social stakes impacts terribly on quality and thoughtfulness.
01/07/2016 14:12 BST

Why Technology Needs to Listen to Dance

I am the first digital artist-in-residence at the leading contemporary dance company, Rambert. I had my induction week earlier this month, and have been spending so a lot of time watching and thinking about the dance world in relation to tech culture.
24/10/2015 20:29 BST

Why We Should All Be Embracing Fantasy Technology

There is a strong case that artists, proponents of the emotional, fantastical, connective and not immediately economically useful, are being squeezed out by the overwhelming corporate pressures governing everything technological.
17/07/2015 16:24 BST