James is an artist whose work focuses on themes of visibility, labour and surveillance capitalism, explored through installation, video, sculpture, public art and Internet-based projects.
James has been Head of Photography at the RCA since 2023. Prior to that he taught for eighteen years in the Digital Art and Experimental Media (DXARTS) department at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he helped establish their practice-based PhD programme. Educated in Sculpture, Art History and New Media Art, James received his PhD in 2009.
His work, which frequently engages with emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and synthetic media, has been shown in solo and group exhibitions around the world, alongside cohorts of leading contemporary artists.
Recent venues include the International Center of Photography, Kunstraum Kreuzberg Berlin, FACT Liverpool, Ars Electronica, Parsons/The New School, Henry Art Gallery, ZKM, and the Toronto International Film Festival. His work has received awards from, amongst others, Creative Capital, Ars Electronica, HeK Basel and the Surveillance Studies Network.
James’ current research is focused on Synthetic Media – a catch-all term for images, video and audio that are artificially produced, manipulated and modified by way of AI and machine learning algorithms. As a side-effect of the anxiety surrounding “fake news,” synthetic media tends to inspire moral and existential panic: when an algorithm authors a text or image without human intervention, it is viewed as a threat—not just to the notion of artistic creativity, but to the boundaries of anthropocentric culture more broadly. Rooted in art, visual language and experimental media practices, his research involves collaborations with data scientists, software engineers and machine learning experts, as well as thematic affiliations with scholars in Law, Human Rights, Ethics, Privacy, Journalism and Cultural Studies, amongst others.
His research has a particular focus on ‘Deepfakes’: algorithmically authored images, typically of people. His 2020 work Warriors was a landmark use of this technology within a mainstream art venue. Beyond the technical infrastructure and ML models he uses to create them, his interest cuts across disciplinary boundaries: ethics and best practices to deal with and detect fake media, artistic exploration of hoax, altered and para-fictional media and emerging opportunities in cinematography, algorithmic filmmaking and narrative.
He welcomes enquiries from potential research students in these areas.
James’ recent artworks involve real-time public surveillance systems, interactive deepfake installations, and collaborations with Amazon Mechanical Turk micro-laborers. Reflecting on the impact of Big Data, immaterial labor and AI, his works explore searches, queries, automation, classification systems, the use of algorithmic narratives, surplus value and human affect.
Notable works include “Sanctum” (2013), an interactive public artwork exhibited for two years on the facade of the Henry Art Gallery; his Creative Capital project, “Swarm” (2013), which was exhibited at both ZKM and The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art / Toronto International Film Festival, and received an Honorable Mention for Interactive Art at the Prix Ars Electronica; “General Intellect” (2015), exhibited at Aktionsart, and which received the HeK Award for net-based art; “Watchtower” (2017), exhibited at FACT, and recipient of the Surveillance Studies Network Arts Fund Award; and “Warriors”(2020), which was the inaugural solo exhibition at the new International Center of Photography (ICP) museum in New York City.