Joel Ong

Joel Ong

BSc. Biol/Ecol (USP) (National University of Singapore)
MSc. Biol. Arts (SymbioticA, University of Western Australia)
PhD. Digital Arts and Experimental Media (University of Washington) [forthcoming]

Assistant Professor
Department of 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. His works have been presented in multiple venues and festivals internationally.  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”.

What constitutes this exploration is varied, and Professor Ong has been invested in projects involving bodies and stethoscopes, nanotechnology, site-specific sound installations, collective (multi-media) improvisations, physical computing, environmental sensing, and data systems.   He is most recently interested in the creative use of environmental databases to create aesthetic, mediated, experiences of natural phenomenon, stemming from a long interest in the history and poetics of Aeolian devices.  As well as creating aesthetic experiences, Professor Ong is also working on experiments that explore the way memory, nostalgia, intimacy and distance can be reinterpreted through a combination of physical and digital/networked geographies.

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 and is currently working on a large interdisciplinary project on bird communication, where both scientists and artists collectively explore the poetics of interspecies communication and interaction through site-specific installations.