Angel Chen is a visual artist whose projects are based in long-term engagements with complex systems. Her works manifest and narrate the process of engagement using a combination of video, installation, publication, workshop, and performance.

The engagements take the form of inserting a certain something (a conversational prompt, a task, an object, herself) into a complex system with well-defined and elaborate technical processes serving specific and declared goals. The projects aim to make sense of the system by going beyond what is defined and declared. The insertion is not meant to interrupt, disrupt, or destroy the system. The inserted thing is foreign to the system and is often understood as unproductive or even absurd. However, the system can digest and does accept the thing.

The inserted thing becomes an anchor or an entry point from which a particular network of existing (but somewhat hidden) knowledge and relations are drawn out and revealed. They reveal themselves like ripples appearing on surfaces. The ripples form, Angel then observes the subtle effects these ripples make, and she records/collects what these encounters (between the things inserted and the host systems) produce. The encounters are then presented through an assemblage of artifacts, etches, narratives, and images.

This act of insertion is an attempt to understand a complex system without abstraction, reduction, or simplification. Angel insists that it is not possible to “see the whole picture” of these complex systems. However, one could nonetheless engage with them, and allow a part (perhaps arbitrary to the system) to speak to the whole.

At MIT, she has engaged with the complex systems of nano-scale fabrication, campus building construction, synthetic biology, and imaging technologies in the sciences. These seemingly disparate fields are united by Angel’s investigation of how emerging science and technology challenge our understanding of what a person is and how a person understands, as well as her interest in the very costly infrastructure that supports these new developments.

Prior to coming to ACT, Angel was based in and between Taipei and Toronto. She received a BA ’09 in Philosophy and Computer Science from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

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