| Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University

Brian Reffin Smith

United Kingdom
Focus area: Art History, Computer Science, Engineering, Sound, Acoustics

Brian Reffin Smith is a British (and since 2020 also German) artist, writer and musician with degrees and backgrounds in both science and art. He lives in Berlin. The first-ever winner of the Prix Art Electronica in Linz, Austria, in 1987, he used computers in art since the late 1960s. He also works in areas of Zombie theory, cybernetics and ‘Pataphysics, all applied to art, performance, writing and music. He has taught at the Royal College of Art, many UK and French art institutions including the École nationale supérieure d’art, Bourges, France where as Professeur, Art & Info, he was for 25 years a French civil servant. He is a book and peer reviewer for Leonardo. His 1983 book “Soft Computing: Art and Design” has become a cult text, and his earlier books for children such as an “Introduction to Computers” became world-wide best sellers, some being translated into well over 20 languages including Welsh, Icelandic, Finnish and Urdu. They attempted to reorient the idea of a computer towards creativity. A frequent invitee to conferences, he is often the “cabaret turn”, being known for unusual, funny (though finally serious) performance lectures, which start off traditionally academic but rapidly expand. He often ‘Zombifies’ participants, asserting that this frees them of any preconceptions. His online text “43 Dodgy Statements on Computer Art” was described by Wired as “Timeless”. He is interested in the “Détournement” or “hijacking” of ideas, theories, practices and systems from other disciplines, to make art. Smith advocates the retrieval of ideas from the past of computer based arts, arguing that these have not been fully explored and can still be revolutionary, and contribute to contemporary, especially conceptual, art. His artworks are shown internationally. He became a Zombie in 1998.

Journal Articles:
Leonardo Reviews

Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982

October 2023
Leonardo Reviews

’Pataphysics Unrolled

April 2023
Leonardo Reviews

Lead in Modern and Contemporary Art

February 2022
Leonardo Reviews

Retracing Political Dimensions: Strategies in Contemporary New Media Art

October 2021
Leonardo Reviews

Six Concepts for the End of the World and Being Material

October 2020
Leonardo Reviews

Alien Phenomenology: Or, What It's Like to Be a Thing by Ian Bogost. University Of Minnesota Press, Minneappolis, MN, U.S.A., 2012. 168 pp., illus. Trade; paper. ISBN: 978- 0-8166-7897-6; 978-0-8166-7898-3

April 2013
Leonardo Reviews

Computing: A Concise History by Paul E. Ceruzzi. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A., 2012. 175 pp., illus. e-Book. ISBN-10: 0-262-51767-1; ISBN-13: 978-0-262-51767-6

October 2013

Triple Entendre: Furniture Music, Muzak, Muzak-Plus

February 2015

Science and Art: The Painted Surface

October 2015
Leonardo Reviews

Do Zombies Dream of Undead Sheep? A Neuroscientific View of the Zombie Brain

April 2016
Leonardo Reviews

Atlas of Knowledge: Anyone Can Map

June 2016
Leonardo Reviews

Simple Thoughts

October 2016
Leonardo Reviews

Zombie Theory: A Reader

February 2019

Quantum Art and Uncertainty

June 2019
Leonardo Reviews

Worldmaking as Techné: Participatory Art, Music, and Architecture

October 2019
Leonardo Reviews

AUDINT—Unsound: Undead

June 2020
Leonardo Reviews

A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computer's Arrival in Art: New Tendencies and Bit International, 1961–1973 edited by Margit Rosen. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2011, U.S.A.

June 2012
Leonardo Reviews

Trade of the Tricks: Inside the Magician's Craft by Graham M. Jones. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, U.S.A., 2011. 308 pp. Hardcover, Paper. ISBN: 978-0-5202-7046-6; ISBN: 978-0-5202-7047-3

February 2013



EPISODE NOTES (click through for transcript and more)

We talk Ars Electronica, an annual festival for art, technology and society in Linz, Austria. In a collaboration with Ars Leonardocast, Kenneth Azurin and Dawn Faelnar interview Dutch fashion and textile designer Hellen van Rees about her projects at Ars 2018. Leonardo’s Vanessa Chang introduces [Anti]disciplinary Topographies for Ars 2021. The first winner of the Prix Ars Electronica, Brian Reffin Smith, reviews Lead in Modern and Contemporary Art edited by Sharon Hecker and Silvia Bottinelli.