Nye Thompson (b. 1966) is an artist turned software designer turned artist. She is known for her experimental software architectures exploring network-embedded power dynamics and machinic visions of the world.
Following a Fine Art degree at YBA-era Goldsmiths, Thompson took a sideways step to immerse herself in the newly-created World Wide Web. She spent the next two decades designing software, focused on the human-machine interface and big data analytics. In 2012 she returned to art college to do an MA, subsequently quitting her corporate software career to become an artist. Thompson is based in the UK and operates between London and mid-Wales.
She initially came to public attention in 2016 with her first solo show Backdoored.io, an exploration of the secret life of security cameras and the global phenomenon of self-surveillance. The exhibition – described by C4 News as “too shocking to broadcast” – became global clickbait and triggered an international government complaint.
Since then, Thompson has exhibited around the UK, Europe and the Far East, including Tate Modern, The Barbican, The Louvre, The V&A, ZKM Karlsruhe, Ars Electronica and The Lowry. Her work has been featured on BBC, C4, CNN Hong Kong, the Guardian and Wired, and she was guest presenter on BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Art of Now: Surveillance’. She was the recipient of an Arts Council England G4A award in 2017, a British Council/ACE travel award in 2018, and an Arts Council England Projects Grant award in 2019. She was a Lumen Prize finalist in 2018 and 2019, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Rapoport Award for Women in Art and Technology. Her work was recently acquired for the V&A Museum’s permanent collection.
“Nye Thompson attempts to reveal to us the visual nature of the physical and virtual internet. In this journey she shows us beautiful things. I see her as rather like a contemporary Jacques Cousteau, the 1970’s TV marine biologist. She is showing us glimpses of quite extraordinary networks, structures, debris and possibilities that somehow we know exist but ordinarily we have no access to. Thompson is an important member of a new generation of artists who are opening up ideas and concepts, which are transforming our society. The role of the artist in issues affecting free speech connected with the digital age is quite daunting. Institutions want to harvest our data but when we want access to that data, artists and activists start going to prison from Ai Wei Wei to Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. Thompson reminds us that the past and the future is about controlling imagery. The artist’s role in the mediation of that imagery is now more than ever contested. ”
“Nye Thompson is the new Big Brother”