Ecologies of Practices Symposium – Keynote Biography

Sha Xin Wei is professor and director of the School of Arts, Media + Engineering (AME) at Arizona State University. He directs the Synthesis Center for responsive environments and improvisation with colleagues in AME and affiliate research centers.

(Sha Xin Wei)

From 2005 until 2013, Sha was the Canada Research chair in media arts and sciences, and associate professor of fine arts at Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. From 2001 to 2013, he directed the Topological Media Lab (TML), an atelier-laboratory for the study of gesture and materiality from computational and phenomenological perspectives. He established the TML at Georgia Institute of Technology in 2001, and moved the lab to Montréal in 2005 with the support of the Canada Fund for Innovation and the CRC.

Sha’s research concerns ethico-aesthetic improvisation, and a topological approach to morphogenesis and process philosophy. His particular areas of study include the realtime, continuous mapping of features extracted from gestural instruments (such as woven or non-woven fabrics) into parameters modulating the continuous synthesis of video, sound, and physical or software control systems. This technical work supports the expressive improvisation of gesture in dense, palpable fields of sound, video and structured light, and animated materials.

Sha’s art research includes the TGarden responsive environments (Ars Electronica, Dutch Electronic Art Festival, MediaTerra Athens, SIGGRAPH), Hubbub speech-sensitive urban surfaces, Membrane calligraphic video, Softwear gestural sound instruments, the WYSIWYG gesture-sensitive sounding weaving, Ouija performance-installations, Cosmicomics Elektra, eSea Shanghai and the IL Y A video membrane, and Einstein’s Dream time-conditioning instruments. Sha collaborated with choreographer Michael Montanaro and the Blue Riders ensemble to create a stage work inspired by Shelley’s Frankenstein, with experimental musicians, dancers and responsive media.

Sha co-founded the Sponge art group in San Francisco to build public experiments in phenomenology of performance. With Sponge and other artists, Sha has directed event/installations in prominent experimental art venues including Ars Electronica Austria, DEAF / V2 The Netherlands, MediaTerra Greece, Banff Canada, Future Physical United Kingdom, Elektra Montréal, and eArts Shanghai. He has also exhibited media installations at Postmasters Gallery New York and Suntrust Gallery Atlanta. These works have been recognized by awards from major cultural foundations such as the Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology; the LEF Foundation; the Canada Fund for Innovation; the Creative Work Fund in New York; Future Physical UK; and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Sha was trained in mathematics at Harvard and Stanford Universities, and worked more than 12 years in the fields of scientific computation, mathematical modeling and the visualization of scientific data and geometric structures.

In 1995, he extended his work to network media authoring systems and media theory coordinating a three-year-long workshop on interaction and computational media at Stanford. In 1997, he co-founded Pliant Research with colleagues from Xerox PARC and Apple Research Labs, dedicated to designing technologies that people and organizations can robustly reshape to meet evolving socio-economic needs.

Sha’s book, Poiesis and Enchantment in Topological Matter, was published by the MIT Press in 2013. The first chapter can be downloaded here.