We now live in a place that is nei­ther com­pletely nat­u­ral nor com­pletely man-made. — artist Liu Chang

Pasatiempo - - CURRENTS - Clinic So­cial

“I have taught this work­shop at Queens Mu­seum in New York, and my au­di­ences are aged from seven­teen to sev­enty,” Chang said. “Most of them don’t have cod­ing back­grounds. Some of them are not even fa­mil­iar with a com­puter. My work­shop at Cur­rents will be for in­tro-level par­tic­i­pants; peo­ple don’t need to have a pro­gram­ming back­ground.”

At a work­shop Chang led last fall at the Queens Mu­seum, one of her stu­dents was a wo­man in her sev­en­ties who had only in­ter­mit­tently used com­put­ers. None­the­less, she took a lik­ing to Per­lin noise, an al­go­rithm cre­ated in the early 1980s to lend re­al­is­tic tex­tures to com­puter-gen­er­ated de­pic­tions of clouds, smoke, and fire. “It was her first-ever cod­ing piece,” Chang said. “She was very happy with it. She said it cre­ated a new win­dow for her to un­der­stand the world and see im­ages and pat­terns.”

Chang is in­spired as much by art as she is by code. She finds an ana­log an­tecedent for her artis­tic prac­tice in the Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ist can­vases of Jack­son Pol­lock. “I love Pol­lock’s work, es­pe­cially his drip­ping se­ries. The ges­tu­ral art that he cre­ated in­flu­ences me a lot. I feel there is a kind of mys­te­ri­ous en­ergy that came out from his hand, his ges­tures, but you can­not de­fine it ex­actly, can­not im­i­tate it. I love the ran­dom­ness that he cre­ates for his work . ... His work is half con­trolled by him and half of ran­dom­ness, from my per­spec­tive. This qual­ity is very sim­i­lar when I was learn­ing al­go­rith­mic arts, where I write the com­mands to my ma­chine and leave some space for ran­dom­ness; then the ma­chine [com­puter] gen­er­ates the piece.”

Born in Bei­jing in 1987, Chang was raised in China, where she orig­i­nally stud­ied tele­vi­sion and film pro­duc­tion. With fel­low artist Miao Jing, she founded Hibanana, a stu­dio that mixes art and tech­nol­ogy prac­tices. In 2013, she de­camped for New York, where her work blurred the lines be­tween hu­man needs and tech solutions. For in­stance, her in­stal­la­tion

(cre­ated with Ava I-Wen Huang and Oryan In­bar) sought to show how tech­nol­ogy in­flu­ences our daily be­hav­ior. Par­tic­i­pants in the piece had their face scanned, took an on­line sur­vey, and then re­ceived a printed prog­no­sis from a de­vice whose sur­face styling whim­si­cally re­called equip­ment found in mid­cen­tury Amer­i­can hos­pi­tals. “It di­ag­nosed peo­ple’s so­cial symp­toms and gave a pre­scrip­tion,” the artist ex­plained.

Per­haps be­fit­ting her gen­er­a­tion, Chang is rather san­guine about tech­nol­ogy. She feels artists should sim­ply em­brace its grow­ing in­flu­ence over our lives, minds, and imag­i­na­tion. “As a gen­er­a­tion that has grown up with tech­nol­ogy, code is om­nipresent in our daily life and work. We now live in a place which is nei­ther com­pletely nat­u­ral nor com­pletely man­made. Fol­low­ing this path of ex­treme or near-in­fi­nite progress, an up­graded AI may en­ter a run­away self­im­prove­ment loop, bring­ing a fu­ture where na­ture, hu­man, and AI co­ex­ist.” — Casey Sanchez

The Cre­ative Cod­ing for Artists work­shop, part of Cur­rents New Me­dia, takes place at 10 a.m. Satur­day, June 10, at Ware­house 21 (1614 Paseo de Per­alta, 505-989-4423). The cost is $45, stu­dents $35, lim­ited to 20 par­tic­i­pants; to check avail­abil­ity, see www.cur­rentsnew­me­dia.org/2017-work­shops.

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