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Exploring the possibilities of Computational Arts: artist, coder and curator Edward Martin

installation of exhibition, multiple screens
installation of exhibition, multiple screens
Installation view of POWERPLAY at arebyte Gallery, 2020. Featuring works by Mr Color, Bolatito Aderemi Ibitola, Vincent Bezuidenhout, Scumboy, King Debs, Mbakisi Sibanda, Kumbirai Makumbe, and Isaac Kariuki. Image: Max Colson.
Written by
Grizelda Kitching
Published date
02 December 2020

This year the Fine Art Programme at Camberwell has welcomed a new course, BA Computational Arts.

The course will introduce its students to new technologies, exploring the changing interface between art and culture. The exploration of computer coding as a material that can be used in a fine art practice is central to the pedagogy of the course.

Students on the course will divide their time between the fine art studios and UAL’s Creative Computing Institute, which is situated on the top floor of the college. They will also have full access to Camberwell’s workshops, including printmaking, photography, film, moving image, digital, plastic, ceramics, wood and metalwork

Edward Martin is a BA Fine Art: Drawing student is in his fourth year at Camberwell. Last year he undertook an extra year of study, at UAL’s Creative Computing Institute for which he received a Creative Computing Diploma – an additional qualification to his Drawing degree.

For students who are interested in the new BA Computational Arts course, Edward is the perfect student to hear from: his practice is a clear example of how computational skills are shaping the future of the digital creative industries.

We caught up with him as he explained more about his practice and shared examples of his interactive and innovative work and specific projects.

image of Edward Martin, edited and distored
'Move Closer' Edward Martin

Can you please describe your practice:

My whole practice has an overarching narrative that explores the relationships between our humanity and computation, the fragility of life and the future of our evolution.

I often use storytelling to speculate exaggerated realities, and the effects of augmentation on our lives. These conversations are centered around an entity or form; often myself, so that I can use my own experiences to play on and critique our presence in our natural and virtual worlds.

I have a strong belief in open source software and I am pro-access to technology. So, in order to create my videos, sculptures, installations and performances, I mostly use software’s that anyone and everyone can download for free.

So far, my practice and research has enabled me to create artwork using CGI rendering software, 3D scanners, coding practices, machine learning and artificial intelligence, computer vision and even augmented reality in some of my performances.

installation piece, a screen featuring an abstract black and white digital image
Xeno-Morphe Installation. Edward Martin

How has creative coding changed and developed your artistic practice?

Creative coding has allowed me to work “under the hood” of computation and allows me to understand technology for its own beauty.

By continuing to learn the roots and processes of computation, I have started to appreciate technology as an art form in itself that I get to use and expand upon. The beauty of computation and digital practices lies in their fluidity.

The world of digital art is so freeing and a fairly new wave within computation, where the artists and practitioners are paving the way as we speak; this means there is so much potential and possibility for art making that isn’t restricted by historical art conventions.

The digital possibilities for Fine Art are such an interesting and exciting field, especially right now as the world has had to stop and go online. Galleries, curators and artists are all turning to the web for new ways of engagement, and for someone working within computation and coding practices there are so many possibilities; you can sit, conceptualise, code and execute a piece of art to the internet all from the comfort of your computer.

The world we are creating and living in right now has created new platforms that are reinventing how we interact, engage and access art.

black and white abstract digital image
Virtual Ecology, Edward Martin

How do you think computational creativity and artificial intelligence can be applied to arts?

In my opinion computational creativity and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the next revolutionary medium to impact, not only art but, our real world.

There’s a lot stigma and fear-mongering around AI and automation right now, which makes it such an important time for artists to be using these technologies in a creative landscape.

There is so much potential for AI as a tool to make art. However, as it’s still in its early stages of development, artists should be using AI to critique its own processes and ethical concerns.

This will ensure AI is developed correctly and will help to prevent some of the technological problems that have impacted our real world in the past from happening again. AI should not only impact art, but art should impact AI.

installation of exhibition, multiple screens
Installation view of POWERPLAY at arebyte Gallery, 2020. Featuring works by Mr Color, Bolatito Aderemi Ibitola, Vincent Bezuidenhout, Scumboy, King Debs, Mbakisi Sibanda, Kumbirai Makumbe, and Isaac Kariuki. Image: Max Colson.

You recently co-curated the exhibition POWERPLAY with arebyte Gallery and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. How did this opportunity to collaborate come about?

The opportunity to co-curate POWERPLAY with arebyte Gallery and the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo came about last summer. I was interning as a gallery assistant at arebyte Gallery, and when our application for the New Arts New Audience grant from the British Council got approved, they asked me to take on a lot more responsibilities as their curatorial assistant.

The group exhibition features 8 artists working in digital media, moving image and technology all from or based in Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the UK.

Discussing the use of technology in creating a sense of identity and place within a digitised world, the artists in the exhibition look at the relationships of power experienced in varying ways. I worked closely with all of the artists, as well as arebyte Gallery and The National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo to help curate and plan the installation.

The exhibition was supposed to be exhibited at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in March 2020 before traveling to Mutare and Harare, but unfortunately it got postponed due to the pandemic.

arebyte Gallery were unable to ship the artworks internationally so the gallery announced that in the meantime, while they had most of the artwork here in the UK, they would hold a version of the exhibition in their gallery in London.

As I had been working on the exhibition for almost a year and knew all the ins and outs of the show, arebyte Gallery asked me to co-curate the London version of POWERPLAY with them.

It was an amazing opportunity to work on a such a large-scale international exhibition. I feel so thankful for having so much responsibility as I’m an artist that is still studying. I learnt a lot about the professional world of curating in a gallery context. It has made me, not only think about curating as a potential career path, but it’s also made me think a lot about my own practice and how it relates to the real-world.

installation of exhibition, multiple screens
Installation view of POWERPLAY at arebyte Gallery, 2020. Featuring works by Mr Color, Bolatito Aderemi Ibitola, Vincent Bezuidenhout, Scumboy, King Debs, Mbakisi Sibanda, Kumbirai Makumbe, and Isaac Kariuki. Image: Max Colson.

Finally, do you have any advice for students considering studying at Camberwell Arts? 

The one thing I would say to students thinking about applying to Camberwell College of Arts this year is that there is such a humbling and kind community at Camberwell.

It’s obviously hard to make a judgement of the campus this year as open days and interviews will mostly be online, but the university feels like a great creative hub within South East London that has an amazing and diverse community around it.

The building itself has amazing access to so many workshops and events that you can make use of, and with student halls close by there’s a real sense of a student experience