Leila Johnston AKA Digital Curator @ Site Gallery
‘One of the first things I learned growing up is that life isn’t fair. I learnt this both through experiencing things that happened to me as a child and I also learned it literally through my Dad saying it all the time.’
Leila Johnston AKA Digital Curator at Site Gallery, is an artist and writer working across science, digital, tech and humour. A contributor to the Guardian, New Scientist and WIRED, Leila also presents films about data for BBC’s Tomorrow’s World.
The work she produces today is largely similar to that of 30 years ago, when she lived in a caravan on a campsite with her family. With little more than a dartboard and some comics for entertainment, Leila began creating her own comics. She had imaginary audiences and ran competitions for fictitious readerships. The comic series became an audio project when Leila recorded her stories to cassette.
Today the caravan has gone and Leila now calls Sheffield home but her work has taken her across the UK. Her digital/performance work has been shown at The Lowry, The British Science Festival and the Brighton Digital Festival and she has created live ‘geek cabaret’ shows at art spaces and basement bars around the country since 2011.
‘My projects are silly, strange and often quite uncomfortable because they’re designed to be levellers.’
From 2013-2017 Leila ran Hack Circus, a series of live shows, podcasts and magazines which became increasingly weird and immersive for those taking part, both audience and speaker alike. Designed to push the boundaries of science events and those who attend them, Leila aims to shun the rules of normal events and create a playful atmosphere open to those who might not normally attend.
‘I want to get away from the culture of science events being a certain way or for certain kinds of people.’
Through her work Leila wants to give people fresh context and the chance to see themselves in new ways. Whether that be through comic books, audio books, art, writing or whichever weird and wonderful project she turns to next.
We imagine a world where we’re seen and heard, respected and valued, not for our appearance and privilege, but for our work and character. A world where anyone, anywhere, has equal access to opportunities and resources to become the person they dream about. The formula for equality is a work in progress, and this work is not done from the few with power but rather through the power of community.
The pursuit of equality is a long-term game, an unravelling of outdated processes that no longer serves the future we imagine or deserve.