Victoria Shen performing in a crowd

Asian Arts Initiative is pleased to present a solo exhibition of Victoria Shen, featuring Sigh. 1. against the wind, a mercurial instrumental intervention combining objects, movements, and sounds into poetry. Shen takes references to Yoko Ono’s Voice Piece for Soprano (1961), a revolutionary music performance, which comprises a microphone and speaker with instructions to scream against the wind, the wall, and the sky. Following Ono’s confrontational and antagonistic relationship to musical expression, Shen experiments with the physicality of sound, shifting its relationship with the space through which it propagates.

The spontaneous elements of the work reflect Shen’s interest in spatial contingency. She devises a four-channel composition in which the kites act like speakers as they create sounds moving in the air. At every moment, each of these four flying kites stipulates certain movements of sound adding different lines, shapes, and contours to the space. The presence of the viewers here is another pivotal part of the work that constantly rearranges the spatial dynamics. The direction of the wind changes as the viewers move through the space, which immediately affects the movements of the kites. Taking into account various situational unpredictability, Shen invites the viewers to activate the space and establish an agency for their engagements with the work.

Additionally, the artist’s examination of the potential of these sounds unveils their poetic resonances. Shen plays a tape loop of a sound collage including Revolution 9 by The Beatles, Two Virgins and Kiss Kiss Kiss by Yoko Ono and John Lennon, as a testament to the 1960s radial potential and possibilities. In its similarity to a white flag that often signifies surrender and resignation, the work also evokes a sense of nostalgia and sobriety. Through both the intellectual and emotional projections of the sounds onto space, audiences are allowed to give the rhythms of everyday life political significance and potency.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of public programs including an artist talk on March 22. Victoria Shen will also be the inaugural performer in AAI's SOUND TYPE Music Festival, staging a concert on March 23.

The exhibition is supported by William Penn Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and Samuel S. Fels Fund.

About the Artist

Victoria Shen is a sound artist, experimental music performer, and instrument-maker based in San Francisco.

Shen's sound practice is concerned with the spatiality/physicality of sound and its relationship to the human body. Her music features analog modular synthesizers, vinyl/resin records, and self-built electronics. Eschewing conventions in harmony and rhythm in favor of extreme textures and gestural tones, Shen uses what she calls "chaotic sound" to oppose signal and information, eluding traditionally embedded meaning.

In her live performances, she proposes an exploration between meaning and non-meaning through the physical activation of noise tropes. Her probing into these melodic voids interrogate the ways we perceive value within aural experiences.

Shen’s multimedia practice extends beyond musical composition and performance to include installation and non-traditional methods of distribution. Her DIY approach to deconstructing the concepts of “materiality, value and mass production” both integrate and re-contextualize the formats of the readymade and assemblage techniques.

Shen has performed solo across North America, Japan, Mexico, and Europe, and in Europe as a member of a turntable trio with Mariam Rezaei and Maria Chavez, as a member of hip hop group 1 Above Minus Underground, and as a collaborator with the Kronos Quartet. Some notable venues in which she has performed include Boston City Hall, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, ISSUE Project Room NY, DOMMUNE Tokyo, Petreon Sculpture Park Cyprus, MUNCH Museum Oslo, and Museo d'Arte Orientale Turin. Shen has also been an artist in residence at Elektronmusikstudion EMS Stockholm SE, WORM Rotterdam NL, Kurimanzutto New York US, The Royal Danish Academy Copenhagen DK, and AUDIUM San Francisco, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Omaha, and Headlands Center for the Arts.

Shen currently works at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics Stanford and School of Visual Arts NY.

photo by HBK!

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