Dr Stephen Cornford

BA (Hons) Fine Art, MA Visual Performance, PhD Fine Art

Senior Lecturer in Fine Art

School of Arts


Stephen Cornford is course leader for BA Fine Art where he leads the 3rd year practice modules and organises and curates the annual Degree Show. His undergraduate degree was in the Sculpture department at the Slade School of Fine Art, after which he worked for Phyllida Barlow as an artist’s assistant before completing an MA at Dartington College of Arts. He joined Brookes as an Early Career Research Fellow in 2009 and completed his PhD affiliated with the Archaeologies of Media & Technology research group at Winchester School of Art in 2018.

Teaching and supervision


Modules taught

  • Research & Development
  • Critical Essay
  • Major Project

Specialising in video, sound, installation and digital art practices, Stephen teaches across the BA Fine Art course and contributes to the MFA in Fine Art. He is currently Subject Co-ordinator for Undergraduate Fine Art, leads the Year 3 practice modules and curates the degree show.


Stephen is available to supervise practice-based PhD projects in Fine Art. His expertise includes Media Art, Sound Art, Video, installation, performance, and digital practices. 

He was co-supervisor on the following PhD thesis:

  • Patrick Farmer Listening, a correspondence (with Professor Paul Whitty) 
  • and internal examiner for Shirley Pegna & Kesia Descote Rodrigues


Stephen is a media artist who works with consumer electronics, critiquing the ideologies they embody and the constitutive role they have come to play in our lives. His current research is concerned with the toxicity of media technologies, and the scarcity of some of the raw materials now ubiquitous in digital imaging devices. His work seek to problematise the technological solutionism often proposed to resolve the environmental impacts of rampant media consumption. In 2022 Stephen completed an Earth Art Fellowship at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences.

Research projects

Petrified Media (2020 – ongoing)
This project explores a speculative future of contemporary electronic waste as it becomes petrified into the stratigraphic record of the planet. Drawing on the contemporary geological debate around the Anthropocene, the work seeks to materialise a now probable scenario in which digital media technologies become interred as part of our geological trace, their high concentrations of rare metals combining to form new minerals that will evidence our technological civilisation long after its demise. 

RGB (Retinally Governed Behaviours) (2019)
Co-commissioned by Coventry Biennial and the University of Warwick’s AHRC funded Projection Project, this kinetic video installation applies the experimental traditions of experimental film to contemporary tools of digital projection. The project stems from research into the nineteenth century psychophysial experiments of James Clerk Maxwell and the technics of digital light processing (DLP) projection, both of which use an almost identical three colour wheel. The dissolution of biological sight into its component colours was diagnosed by an identical mechanism that now resolves those colours for us in the projected image. 

Dark Current Collages (2019-2022)
Noise in digital photography consists of stray electrons in the camera circuitry, random deviations of colour within a uniform area that are particularly visible in areas of low light. Our cameras treat them as dirt, smoothing out these discrepancies in the image processing stage. In these collages the background noise of the camera is equated with the background radiation of astronomical instruments.

Saturation Trails (2016-2018)
Saturation Trails consists of three experiments conceived to reveal the materiality of image sensors and the sub-representational architecture of the digital image. Image sensors were exposed with an infra-red laser, hydrofluoric acid and X-ray radiation. These experiments appropriate laboratory processes from the optoelectronics industry in which this microelectronic component was developed. The scientific methods used to manufacture and test this photosensitive microchip are turned against the resulting consumer product: eroding, etching, excavating, and fracturing its silicon substrate.

Research impact

Stephen has had solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Berlin, Brighton, Bergen, Ljubljana, Rennes & London and his work has been included in group exhibtions at the ZKM Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe; ICC, Tokyo; Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki; Haus der Electronische Kunst, Basel; and at Bienalles in Lodz and Poznan.


Further details