Take a look back into a fiery past rife with family secrets, rich documentation, life and loss with ‘GENERATIVE SMOKE’ a generative art extension of ‘Where There’s Smoke’, an immersive storytelling project by Lance Weiler (aka culturehacker) that spans exhibitions, virtual experiences and live performances. In collaboration with LORDOF, a multitude of artistic mediums, data inputs, and deeply personal stories are amalgamated into this powerful and dynamic release.

Learn more about culture hacker, LORDOF and ‘GENERATIVE SMOKE’ in this Into the Code!


Lance Weiler, known as "culturehacker," is a multifaceted artist, filmmaker, and educator whose work spans across film, theatre, games, and emergent media technologies like AI, IoT, AR, VR, and blockchain. He has a profound interest in how storytelling intersects with digital technologies and is recognized for his pioneering contributions to this field. For over twenty years he’s been innovating at the forefront of entertainment – leading the industry into the digital age. In 1998, WIRED magazine named him “One of twenty-five people helping to re-invent entertainment” when he disrupted the industry with the first all-digital release of a motion picture to theaters via satellite.

The Last Broadcast which Weiler co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced was made for $900 dollars and went on to gross over 5 million dollars via self-distribution. The distribution methods that Weiler introduced in the late 90’s have since become the standard for digital cinema distribution today. A journeyman by trade, Weiler spent over 10,000 hours on film sets working his way through the ranks, training and collaborating with some of the top talent in the industry.

He trained as a camera assistant and operator until eventually co-creating and developing properties that mix film, TV and emergent technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things and Virtual Reality alongside industry greats. For over twenty years Weiler has been innovating at the forefront of entertainment – leading the industry into the digital age.

Weiler aka culturehacker’s artwork is known to harness much of these skills and themes, carrying with a deep sense of storytelling and inclination for emergent technologies. Weiler is also a founding member and director of the Columbia University School of the Arts' Digital Storytelling Lab (DSL). The DSL is dedicated to exploring new forms and functions of storytelling, with an emphasis on how story can innovate, educate, mobilize, communicate, and entertain. Under his leadership, the lab has become a hub for cross-disciplinary collaboration and innovation in storytelling​.

LORDOF is a generative artist living between Paris and Madrid. He is constantly learning and expanding his knowledge, and skills and is always curious to try different blends of techniques. His work is to be characterised by a unique perspective and a willingness to take risks, and openly be interpreted and connected to technology in a way that pushes the boundaries of what is possible in generative art. His current work is shaped by simple primitives, contrasted colors, and various distortions applied with shaders.


‘Where There’s Smoke’, is an immersive storytelling project by Lance Weiler (aka culturehacker) that spans exhibitions, virtual experiences and live performances. ‘Where There’s Smoke’ is a mystery about life, loss, and memory. “Instead of making a film or tv series I opted to create something that is defined by all the things that it is not.” Weiler continues, “It’s like a documentary but instead of being linear it is generative. It’s like immersive theatre but there are no actors. Finally it’s like an escape room but there is no escape.”

All families have secrets. Skeletons hidden in closets. Things left unsaid.

In Where There’s Smoke, project creator Lance Weiler unravels the secrets of his enigmatic father — a volunteer firefighter and amateur fire scene photographer — and two devastating fires that struck the Weiler family in the early 1980s. In the final months of his battle with colon cancer, his father invites Lance to interview him, and these conversations reignite 30 years of wondering… were those fires more than tragic accidents?

The immersive installation portion of the project had its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival before beginning an impressive tour, garnishing many appearances and accolades. In 2023, a new version of WTS emerged. From June through Oct the improved Where There’s Smoke ran at a 3,000sq ft installation that guests navigated with headphones and a flashlight to guide their way. 

The flashlight has a microcontroller in it which works with a geo-fence we built around the gallery - capturing data as guests move and interact. The flashlight triggers audio, lighting and experiences within the installation. The data was also captured and used to create more artwork in a multitude of ways. As ‘Where There’s Smoke’ has progressed and evolved from a technological standpoint, culturehacker continues to ensure that the emergent technologies are a springboard for the riveting story of his father and those tragic fires from so many years ago. 


GENERATIVE SMOKE is an algorithmic extension of ‘Where There’s Smoke,’ an immersive storytelling project by Lance Weiler (aka culturehacker) that spans exhibitions, virtual experiences, and live performances. GENERATIVE SMOKE is a collaboration between culturehacker and generative artist Lordof. Each output is created from 3 distinctive elements; “Where There’s Smoke” guest exhibition data collected at ArtYard from June 16th to October 1st, 2023. Data includes guest pathways, density of guests within the exhibition, time spent, and stories unlocked, 35mm fire slide photography taken by Robert D. Weiler between 1968 and 1988 in Philadelphia and surrounding areas, and glitch-based art and storytelling fragments created by culturehacker.

Robert Weiler (1939 - 2018), culturehackers father, served as a volunteer firefighter and pursued his passion as an amateur fire scene photographer. Following his passing, a hidden collection of over 60,000 35mm slides were discovered. Truly an outsider artist, Robert Weiler's photography is now being exhibited and appreciated for the first time in a touring version of Where There’s Smoke. GENERATIVE SMOKE weaves Robert’s photos into every piece that is minted on Code Canvas, a post mortem act of collaboration between father and son.

Over 3500+ user recorded paths from the “WTS” exhibition were curated down to the most usable and then repurposed via the help of LORDOF’s algorithm based magic. Both pathways and recorded events were processed to create a feeling of smoke created by the viewers' own interactions. As the path is drawn, ashes are added close to it with a custom generative agent system.

Each agent or path has a location, velocity, acceleration, rate of decay, and transparency. The agents mimic the process of smoke around a fire, connecting it to the main purpose of the work.The work has 13 graphic layers, 5 transformations with feedback, and 4 fragment shaders.

In the distinctive realm of glitch art, culturehacker stands out for his profound engagement with the genre, particularly through his project ‘Where There’s Smoke’. Utilising glitch-based techniques and pixel manipulation, he explores themes of life, loss, and memory with remarkable depth. Integrating his father's photography, culturehacker adds a personal dimension that bridges past and present, digital and analog, while delving into memory's malleability.

His work in ‘Where There’s Smoke’ serves as a metaphor for the fluid nature of memory, challenging viewers to question the reliability of their recollections in the digital age. culturehacker's contributions not only advance glitch art but also offer insightful commentary on the effects of digital mediums on our understanding of history and identity.


Learn more about GENERATIVE SMOKE and the artists involved here

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