Cohen was born in London and studied at the Slade School of Art. In the 1950s and 1960s he held various teaching posts and had a number of successful exhibitions in London and New York. In 1966 he was one of five artists selected to represent Great Britain in the Venice Biennale.
Since 1968 Cohen has been working with computers to create his experimental works of art. He wrote ‘from my very first contact, I found myself fascinated, almost to the exclusion of everything else, by the decision-making power of programmes’.