Q&A with the TA: Angel Chia Ling Chen (ACT ‘17)

Class TAs are the unsung heroes of flow at ACT. Some, you gain as friends, partners in crime, and others you want to evacuate from your inbox forever as a student. Either way, there is no question that they have a “special” place in every student’s heart and every professor’s tasklist waiting to be delegated.

Q&A with the TA is  a series of conversations with the brave ones that stood relatively silent amidst intellectual, conceptual, abstract back-and-forths inside and outside class, and then successfully made it tangible. Angel Chen (ACT ‘17) was the TA for Bik Van der Pol’s Experimental Publishing and Archival Research class (Spring ‘16). She organized various field trips to cultural venues related to publishing, archiving and display around Cambridge such as the Bow and Arrow Printing Press and the Harvard Art Museum. Angel helped organize the class’s final exhibition event “Don’t Erase Till Monday” at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts’ Consumer Research Center (CRC/Bookshop).  


Angel is an artist from Taipei interested in social relations in the context of digital culture and urbanization. She holds a BA in Philosophy and Computer Science from McGill University, Canada (2009). This summer, Angel is traveling to Hong Kong and Singapore to research postwar Asian artists who have taken an interrogative position towards technology and trying to trace links between ideas of CAVS fellows and new media art in postwar East Asia. http://chenchialing.com/


Photo by Angel, Skyping with BVDP


inside ACT: Why did you choose to TA for this class?

Angel Chen: I have been involved with and interested in both publishing and archival research. Also, I found resonance in BVDP’s practice in that they seem to have traveled to a lot of different places, made contextual work, and built relationships with people wherever they go.



Photo by BVDP, During the final project reviews

iACT: How did this experience enrich your learning experience at ACT?

AC: I got to work more closely with staff members and had a glimpse into the inner-working of the program in multiple capacities beyond being a recipient of education. I think learning takes places in any encounter with each previously unfamiliar scenario.


iACT: What do you think is the take away from Bik Van der Pol’s teaching philosophy?

AC: I don’t want to claim to be able to state BVDP’s teaching philosophy. Though, what I admired the most in their roles as instructors of the class is a capacity to quickly respond to the changing dynamics of the class, both in terms of individual participants’ desires and in terms of the class as a whole. I guess you can say it’s a very intelligent flexibility, a flexibility towards some kind of best possible outcome in mind. I think this is enabled by them being very good listeners, having a breadth of experiences as artists and as humans, and also not taking things too serious, always keeping up a good vibe.


iACT: How did the class evolve from its initial offering to its final outcome?

AC: It happened fairly gradually and organically. Once we had an understanding of each others’ background and interest, things evolved pretty naturally, as far as I can remember. I think it really helped that we had a day long workshop—On the Record with NODE and Bengler—early on in the semester with people beyond the class. In retrospect, I think that was a very important bonding moment.


Photo by Angel Chen, 4/8/2016: Event planning in progress. 


Photo by Angel Chen, Making of Don’t Erase Till Monday poster, with assistance from Seth Avecilla at the MIT Mars Lab.


iACT: What do you think is the most memorable moment or turning point in this class?

AC: We decided pretty early on that the class was going to take the form of an editorial board, in the sense that we were going to publish something as a collective. We didn’t have in mind what form the publication would take, we knew then that it could be an event. That was certainly an important turning point. But, I think the most memorable one was when things became clear from being very confusing. What I mean by that was that for a while, around midterms’ time, it was really unclear what exactly was going to happen, as people had individual ideas about how they wanted to investigate CAVS. At some point, we decided that there was going to be an evening “of something” at the Carpenter Center, and we were gonna make a poster for it. From the perspective of the TA, that was the moment for me where it became clear how I could help bring the class to that point.



Introductory notes by Liesbeth at the Don’t Erase Till Monday event.

iACT: How do you think this class pitches into the overall ACT mission statement.

AC: The class brought together artist-researcher-thinkers from different disciplines (including art, architecture, planning, design, and supply chain management) to produce different ways to think about the legacy of CAVS. Even though people come to the class with different disciplinary backgrounds, we engaged one another without putting anyone in a box with presupposed skills or methodology. It’s not that people wore a different hat in the class, I would say that we all took any hats off and treated each other as thinkers and creators.

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