Vanessa Chang is a writer, scholar, curator and educator who builds communities and conversations about our virtual and physical encounters with new media and technology. As the choreographer William Forsythe has insisted, “if dance only does what we assume it can do, it will expire.” Her work brings that belief into our embodied encounters with emerging media. She works with artists, dancers, scholars, technologists, coders and musicians to understand how we might live and move in a technologically mediated world with humor, grace, deliberation, responsibility, and a sense of play.
Working at the intersections of media, embodiment and technology, her interdisciplinary research ranges contemporary literature, music, and visual culture such as comics and animation. Her first book project, Tracing Electronic Gesture: A Poetics of Mediated Movement, focuses on the choreographic coupling of human bodies and new media art of the 21st century. Examining hybrid human-machine gestures in such digital art objects and practices as virtual dance, electronic poetry and musical controllerism, she maps the potential of these kinetic engagements to generate new forms of sensory experience and creative agency. Ultimately, she shows how our gestures invent our machines as well as ourselves. Her current research explores the emerging field of art and artificial intelligence. Bridging cultural representations of early automata and artificial intelligence in film, literature, and performance with the recent deployment of machine learning algorithms in art-making, this project considers how the erotic dimensions of this cultural past have shaped how we build our digital automata. This research is in dialogue with her current curatorial project, an exhibition on automation, robotics and artificial intelligence that explores how such digital entities shape our embodiment and our perceptions.
She also writes about circuses, street art, hip-hop, disability, and digital motion capture, and has published essays in Popular Music, Animation: an interdisciplinary journal, American Music and in media res. Vanessa holds a Ph.D. in Modern Thought & Literature from Stanford University, and is a Lecturer in Visual & Critical Studies at California College of the Arts. She is a Curator with CODAME ART + TECH. She was a Geballe fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, as well as the coordinator of the Graphic Narrative Project, a Stanford Humanities Center research workshop dedicated to comics, cartoons and other forms of graphic storytelling.