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.
Her personal identity; her body; is the space her work utilizes to restructure sonic 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. The appendage-like instruments and objects she makes, exemplify Shen’s ability to embody through sound her interest in the tension created by opposition: control and chaos, the unique and the mass produced, the practical and the absurd.
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. For example, the album art for her debut LP, Hair Birth, utilizes copper to transform the cover into a loudspeaker through which the record can be played. In 2021, Shen produced a series of cut-up records in cast resin embedded with found materials, functioning not only as playable music media but as unique art objects. For recent performances, she pioneered the use of Needle Nails, acrylic nails with embedded turntable styluses, which allow her to play up to 5 tracks of a record at once. Needle Nails, Levitating speaker, and her Noise Combs are some of the objects created by her as part of an extensive repertoire of innovations in the design of sound augmentation. These sculptural elements invite the viewer to unpack one’s relationship with the material possibilities for creating sound.
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.