Arts Council England Project Grant for The Whole Earth Chanting

This project extends Libby’s recent artistic research into machine learning and identity into the realm of non-humans. It brings together elements examined in Top of the Bots & Britbot, including cross-class contact, expressions of solidarity, notions of identity and the power of collective singing. Libby will be working with academics at Loughborough University as part of the Radar Residency to come up with an expanded definition of chanting based on energy and  information exchange across ecosystems (without anthropomorphising). Using various mics and online databases, she will record/create a dataset of human and nonhuman chanting and will then train an AI on the dataset. Exploring the act of chanting across the biosphere, Libby will look at what it means to include nonhumans in the hope that alternative expressions of human Libby non-human collective identity will emerge.

The funding will enable collaboration with curator Laura Purseglove and sound artist Matt Lewis and also with musician Nabihah Iqbal who will perform in call & response event with the AI trained on ‘chanting’ in churches in Loughborough and London.

Two part blog ‘Imagining quantum computer art’ for the V&A

Over the last few months, Libby has been running a research project with the Systems Research Group for the Royal College of Art in collaboration with the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol and the V&A museum exploring what it might mean to make artworks with emerging quantum technologies.

What does it mean to make artworks using technologies from the edge of our understanding?

Alongside some of her RCA students, Libby set out to answer this question.  She presented the outcomes of this project at the V&A in May and exhibited the works last week at White City Place.  V&A digital art curator Melanie Lenz invited her to write an article for the V&A blog about the collaboration and the works, which you can read here and here.


Quantum photonics chip.  Photo: Joshua Silverstone

Image data as material for new work

Something like an explosion appropriated from Fiona Rae

Last night I spoke at the wonderful Creative Data Club about how I use data from digital images as source material for my own new work (like the piece above).  These new images, which I generate by analyzing other digital images with some (Processing) code are, in part a digital sketch book and in part stand alone works in their own right.


Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.35.26 PM

My digital print making started a year or so ago, when I was looking for a colour scheme for my installation Computation Cloud (above).  At that time, I took a screenshot of one of Franz Ackermann’s paintings from the internet.  Ackermann’s painting (above) is called City Planning 2: Home, Home Again and is made from oils on a 280 x 350cm canvas, but my computer doesn’t know it this way – it only recognizes the data…

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.54.10 PM

Here on my computer Ackermann’s work is now 394 x 315 pixel RGB image with a name including the time and date of the screenshot and it is this data that forms the raw material for my own work.   In the image below I used code to analyze the RGB data of the pixels and calculate the average colour of the original image in each of the triangular regions and then to replace each triangle with this average colour.

Untitled (Ackermann deconstruct)

I have written previously about other images that arose from this process of data analysis.  They formed a sketchbook that inspired Computation Cloud.  Furthermore, due to working with digital images I was able to make a short animations that anticipated the movement of the installation: see here Ackermann_destruct – that then played out in the real world piece (click on the image below to see the video):

First cut of Computation Cloud live

Besides the digital images informing larger installations, they also become works in their own right.  When translating these images from screen to the physical world it has been interesting to think about the scale of the prints and the paper they are printed on, since both of these choices really change the experience of looking at the pieces in physical space and give different meanings to the work.

Untitled (Ackermann quantise) at Christie's

For instance with my Untitled (Ackermann quantise) prints (above at Christie’s), I opted for a size that was similar to my computer screen and printed on gloss paper, since this most accurately reflects the vibrancy of the screen-based colours.  Similarly, the physical print of Time’s Tattarrattat (The Garden of Forking Paths) was printed on gloss paper to reference the reflective quality of the once entirely screen based image.

Time's Tattarrattat (The Garden of Forking Paths)

More recently, as in a lot of my projects, I was thinking again about ideas surrounding the slippage and blurring of reality – the smearing out of individually possessed properties of entities as you transition from the macroscopic to the microscopic.  So, to form a background ‘reality’ that I could then deconstruct, I once again turned to some more of my favourite painters, Dan Perfect and Fiona Rae, whose compositions and colours I was keen to play with.  In these paintings, I really like the way marks (or features if you like) trigger the parts of your brain that are looking for patterns, the works teases you, yet becomes slippery when too much focus is given to any fixed aspect.   With this in mind, the images below are firstly the paintings that I appropriated and then my pieces which were produced via an intuitive process that involved hundreds of iterations of testing different ways the original data from Perfect’s and Rae’s images could be analyzed and manipulated.

Perfect - Lacoon

Heaney - Perfect Lacoon


Something like an explosion

Close up detail

The last image is a close up of the previous one.  Along with the issues written about in this post, are also questions surrounding appropriation and authorship of digital works and also the authenticity of a digital screen based image as a work of art when compared to its physical print manifestation.

new print collection


Everything We Don’t See (2015).

It’s been a great few months: exhibiting my degree show piece at the Affordable Art Fair and my Untitled (Ackermann Quantise) series at Christie’s, finding new homes for my work and drawing attention from both here and abroad.  Going into next year, I am very excited to be exhibiting at the Blitz gallery in Malta in March having won funding from the Maltese Arts Council.  Stayed tuned for more updates on this one.

Following on from this recent success, I have put together my collection of recent prints in a new portfolio including some text detailing how they link to the rest of my practice.  While you can download a copy here Libby Heaney – print portfolio 2014-2015, here’s a few of the prints I speak about.


“The following two prints were therefore created by reading two of my favourite stories about time – The Garden of Forking Paths and The Immortal by Borges – to my computer and the triangles of the original drawing were made to spread out and disperse.”


The Immortal

Time’s Tattarrattat – The Immortal (2015).

Like the clouds continuously changing their form in the sky, for each text read into my code a previously unrealised art work was created. “

Time's Tattarrattat (The Garden of Forking Paths)

Time’s Tattarrattat – The Garden of Forking Paths (2015).


Rose (2015).

Time’s Tattarrattat

Looking Up

For the last month or so I’ve been thinking about time.  Not in the sense that I’ve been running late for meetings (although this happens frequently), or that I’ve been having another existential crisis, but rather I’ve been thinking about the nature of time while wearing my artist-scientist hat.  I’ve been chatting with a friend and scientist John Goold, who is fascinated by a famous law from physics called the second law of thermodynamics.  Basically, the second law explains why when I drop a wine glass on the floor it never spontaneously reforms itself, even if I continuously shake up the pieces for the rest of my life they will never at any point fit back together.   The second law leads to the arrow of time.

Piece on ceiling

In recent weeks, I’ve made an interactive digital installation responding to this.  It is called Time’s Tattarrattat and I will be presenting it later today at the Aboagora festival in Turku, Finland.  Tattarrattat is not only a brilliant sounding word, but it also happens to be the longest palindrome in the English language.  A palindrome is a reversible word – it reads the same both forwards and backwards.  Tattarrattat, which was coined by James Joyce in Ulysses means to ‘knock on the door’.  So this project, in some sense, is about knocking on time’s door.

So what is time?

There is still no consensus.  John explains that “it is very mysterious, I don’t know what it is.  It’s a very difficult question to answer.  Depending on the era you live in, it’s a very different thing – and it could be both subjective or objective depending on who you talk to.  I would say now, it is seen as (to some people at least) an emergent phenomenon resulting from the underlying microscopic complex world… maybe…”.

Later today, John is talking at length about these ideas and explaining the fascinating relationship between information and time: that if we could keep track of all the information about the movements and interactions of all the particles of our universe, we could in principle reverse time and instantly reform that broken wine glass.


While scientists and philosophers are still split about whether this is really the case, I took it as the initial inspiration for my projection, which takes the form of a digitized cloud, whose evolution is driven by the information in John’s words.  It works by analyzing the words for their ‘relative palindromicity’.  For instance, the word ‘Dad’ is reversible – it reads the same forward and backwards and the word ‘tad’ is pronounced in a similar way forwards and backwards, so it is close to reversible.  Whereas, on the other hand, ‘time’ reads ’emit’ backwards so it is irreversible.  The irreversibility of most words in the speech randomizes the artwork, we can never predict which direction the triangles will move.  For however long John talks, like the wine glass dropping on the floor, the pieces of my cloud will never move back to their original positions, no matter how long the installation is run.   Like the clouds continuously changing their form in the sky, for each different text read into my piece a previously unrealised art work will be created.

Setting up


information is physical – my workshop this Saturday at the Affordable Art Fair

Capsule Installation - II

These days while reading about  art, I often see information describes as immaterial or ephemeral.  However, being a physicist by background, I always think of information as something physical and tangible – text in books made from paper and ink or digital information comprised of different voltages inside the mini integrated circuitry of our computers.  Incidentally, these electronic states are known as bits, 0 or 1’s, and are the basic building block of modern computer science.  The physics of the system that holds the information guides the type of processing that can take place and unexpected things happen on the microscopic level where quantum physics dominates interactions.  The conventional notion of a bit is replaced by a quantum bit or qubit, which can be in both 0 and 1 states simultaneously.  This parallelism allows information to be processed much faster and in new ways compared to traditional computers.

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While these concepts can be tricky to intuitively understand as we never directly view the microscopic world or even the circuitry of our computer, the fact that information is physical has been known for hundreds of years and my workshop at the Affordable Art Fair is inspired by these ideas.  The Klikitat and Yakama people of the Columbia plateau used the knots of the “counting-the-days ball”, or ititamat, to register significant life events and were created and kept by women.  “Simple knots recorded individual days, while meaningful occasions, such as marriages, births, or deaths were highlighted with special markers, including glass beads, shells, human hair, and cloth fragments. As a woman grew older, her time ball contained the history of her family and the extended community, including days of bounty, hardship, or even conflict. Maintaining her time ball was so essential to a woman’s identity that she was buried with it.” More recently, there have been a bunch of interesting articles about the similarities of knitting and coding.

CLOUD closeup

My degree show piece CLOUD (above) consisted of a handcrafted mechanical screen made entirely from natural materials.  The octahedron pixels were suspended in the net made from linen, which is coded with a thousand of my thoughts from around January and February this year.  Essentially the net is made using a technique called macrame, which involves making knots on either side of a group of threads.  I decided to convert the famous dots and dashes of morse code to the knots used in macrame that would allow me to embed the net with personal information as the Klikitat and Yakama people had with their counting balls.  The mapping scheme between the dots and dashes and the knots are shown in the image below.

morse code as knots

The messages in CLOUD’s net are (hopefully!) quite tricky to decode, but in my workshop on Saturday at the Affordable Art Fair I will be asking the participants to write messages about their thoughts towards information and quantum superposition using the macrame morse code above. – what would they do if they could be in two places at the same time? I’ve got a bunch of colourful yarns and I’m super looking forward to hearing a variety of ideas all coded into balls of string.

Tickets to the fair and more details about Made in Arts London are available from here.  Furthermore, while you’re there, spend some time playing with and rebuilding my piece ‘is there love in a telematic embrace?’ (pictured at the top and written about previously in my blog).

My digital prints are part of the Made in Arts London Christmas Collection 2014


Some of my digital prints are part of the Made in Arts London Christmas Collection.  They’re quite different to my previous work, so I want to tell you the little story behind them.

In the build up to my solo show Computation Cloud (above, November 2014), I was experimenting with virtual versions of the installation.  This involved making animated interactive 3D models of the piece, and pixellating appropriated images to provide a colour scheme for the octahedrons.  Since I was bringing the digital world to a physical setting, I really wanted to use bright colours to attract viewers towards the piece and also to have a painterly handmade quality to the elements.  In the end, my intuition led me to the following image as a basis for the elements in Computation Cloud.

Untitled (Ackerman deconstruct)

It is based upon a painting by Franz Ackermann – one of my favourite  painters – whose work has been described before by Daniel Birnbaum as “as random as those phantom particles whose position or speed may perhaps be known, but never both at once”.  The image was pixellated using one of my original programs to give a digital aesthetic to the installation.  I see this pixellating process as quantising the work – in doing so, I’m deleting information about the state of the original art work, literally lowering its entropy.  And I love the result: blurry digital fragments of an already hyper reality lurk in amongst the triangles.  The image above was printed in an edition of just three and there is still one available (email me if you are interested!).

My prints available via Made in Arts London are an extension of this work.  I wanted to see how Computation Cloud would look when people were interacting with it.  So I programmed my app to randomly change some of these triangular pixels to white (as happened in the installation itself).  These are a few of the outcomes.  Each print is unique as the computer ensures no two are the same.

Untitled 4

Untitled 2

Untitled 3

Untitled 1

I also have a few lovely animations of these images deconstructing over time and a time lapse of Computation Cloud itself, which I’ll try to post very soon.

Happy Christmas folks x

november exhibitions

it’s been a busy few months playing with motors and working with painted polyhedrons and this week i’m happy that my installation Computation Cloud is finished and ready to go.

the private view is on friday and the show will run for a week at the UAL High Holborn site.

computation cloud

if you can’t make it down to Holborn for this, i have digital prints from the preparation of computation cloud in a group studio show at Elthorne studios in Archway this Wednesday running until Sunday and also in the post-graduate auction at Central St. Martin’s Lethaby Gallery Tues- Thurs this week.  i’m lot number #43 and the auction takes place on Thursday evening.

black box

ackermann deconstruct

common keys to the creative process in art and science

Earlier this year The Journal of Wild Culture asked if I could write a piece about navigating the edge between art and science and after playing with a few ideas here are some new words thinking about a possible bridge between subject and some ruminations about how the link may also help to extend the New Aesthetic.  Follow the link to the article here.

One of the art works I talk about is this floor sculpture, below, by Tauba Auerbach.


Book tickets for September’s Ideas Matter Sphere talk about quantum physics and art

Prof. Vlatko Vedral and I have previously worked together in academia, but we now pursue very different aspects of quantum physics.  We are both now exploring the possibilities in new territories forming between different areas of our practice – for Vlatko it is new territory is between quantum and classical  physics (the classical systems can even be biological ones),  for me it is the new territory between quantum physics and art.

In September, we will both be talking about our respective practices at an Ideas Matter Sphere event.  For more information and to book tickets, please follow this link.