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