Director, Sensorium; Associate Professor, Computational Arts
Professor Joel Ong is a media artist whose works connect scientific and artistic approaches to the environment, particularly with respect to sound and physical space. Professor Ong’s work explores the way objects and spaces can function as repositories of ‘frozen sound’, and in elucidating these, he is interested in creating what systems theorist Jack Burnham (1968) refers to as “art (that) does not reside in material entities, but in relations between people and between people and the components of their environment”.
A serial collaborator, Professor Ong is invested in the broader scope of Art-Science collaborations and is engaged constantly in the discourses and processes that facilitate viewing these two polemical disciplines on similar ground. His graduate interdisciplinary work in nanotechnology and sound was conducted at SymbioticA, the Center of Excellence for Biological Arts at the University of Western Australia and supervised by BioArt pioneers and TCA (The Tissue Culture and Art Project) artists Dr Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts. In his doctoral studies, he was mentored by Dr Edward Shanken, author of the canonical “Art and Electronic Media” published by Phaidon Press in 2009, and was his Research Assistant in the “Systems” publication in the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series. Since 2014, Professor Ong has been a visiting artist at the UCLA ArtSci Center. His works have been shown at festivals and conferences around the world including Ars Electronica, Currents New Media Festival, the Ontario Science Centre, ISEA and Siggraph. Previously he has held residencies at locations such as the Coalesce Centre for Biological Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Toronto, and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Professor Ong’s research agenda includes multimodal expressions of Creative Data Aesthetics, focusing primarily on environmental sensing technologies to facilitate transactions of elements such as the wind through Ambisonic technologies of sound spatialization, mixed reality visualizations and physical computing. Working from the lens of media ecology, Professor Ong’s work aims to cast contemporary eco-media in a triptych of forms – in vivo, in vitro and in silico – symptomatic of the way computational creativity is becoming an indispensible resource for scientific visions of the environment. Specific lab based exploration in this stream have included transgenic manipulations of bacteria, physical manipulations of yeast, and computational augmentation of microfluidics done primarily through transdisciplinary collaborations with scientists.
Professor Ong is the PI for an AIF-funded pan-faculty Makerspace where he is working on incorporating cutting edge digital fabrication into faculty curriculum across AMPD. He is also working on incorporating DIYBio technologies into the workflow. Professor Ong is also working on several community-based projects in digital literacy and community music technologies (with the Regent Park School of Music) through grants funded by SSHRC, York University’s Catalyst program and the Helen Carswell Chair in Community Engaged Research in the Arts.
His creative work can be found at www.arkfrequencies.com