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Media Arts and Technology

Graduate Program

University of California Santa Barbara



Performance studies scholars have had many debates over the definition of "liveness" in digitally-mediated performances. Many scholars have characterized liveness as a unique fundamental quality of performances that has distinguished performing arts from different art forms influenced by mediation and mediatization. Some have argued about the necessity of having a new ontology for liveness, based on the new configuration of the body and its extension through technology.

Is Any-Body There? (Re)envisioning Liveness through Digital Performance (Re)visit is a practice-based dissertation, which probes the new meanings and manifestations of liveness in our emerging cultural context highly influenced by the advent of digital technologies. It is the first research study to consider creating "digital performance revisits" as a research methodology in performance/media arts and studies. To this end, I have developed and exhibited three interactive multimedia performances, inspired by three historical performance art masterpieces, which I have referred to as "revisiting performances". Each artwork through its specific interaction design and application of ‘techno-actors’ (digitally mediated or synthesized performing bodies) has problematized and provoked questions about the notions of techno-liveness and tele-presence on stage. This research methodology has enabled a meaningful analytical comparison between my three performative experiments and the former artworks in order to explore these concepts in the contexts of digitally-mediated interactions with "techno-bodies" (the artificial bodies of techno-actors), as opposed to unmediated interactions with the live performers’ corporeal bodies on stage.

Considering these performance scenarios as "Theatrical Turing Tests", the performance participants are considered as human evaluators who interact with various types of videated, tele-present, and robotic bodies and determine whether they can recognize the live presence of a human (or its believable simulation) on the other side of the digital medium or not. By using digital media/performance theory and praxis, this research analytically and practically examines the potential of digital technology as a medium for the transmission and synthesis of live presence and affect.



Audio-visual performances and installations by the MAT community in downtown Santa Barbara, on the first Thursday of every month.



Borrowed Scenery is a virtual reality experience that constructs an autobiographical spatial narrative that points to the deconstruction and reconstruction of cultural identity through experimental visualization of image data.

Being exposed to diverse cultures enables us to continuously portray our own cultural identities through collaging our collective memories cross cultural boundaries. In this project, I utilized autobiographical threads to evoke the universal experience of alienation and displacement. Photographs of eastern and western motifs, symbols and landscapes, which are collected as raw source image data, are captured volumetrically mostly in two places - my hometown Suzhou (China) and my current living place Los Angeles (US). Visualizing those two groups of image data in the VR world change the way we percept the scalability of intersections, as we could navigate the space to play with different points of view. A non-linear narrative is created when the intelligent agents ( generated by image data) crossed over dynamically in the virtual world.

The visualization methodology includes photogrammetry, shader programming, and intelligent system development. The pixel coordinates from those sets of image data are reconstructed as 3d coordinates of points on structures through automatic calibration. A customized shader is designed for the textures of those data-driven structures, which displaces and animates processed image pixels on vertices with layers of customized algorithms and 3d Voronoi Tessellation, collectively generates fragmental geometrical forms and fluid chaos. Those forms are programmed as intelligent agents to seek and wander in the environment, collide with others, die and get reborn. The system simulates how our cultural identities are evolved and how the ‘border’ is dynamically disturbed and reformed in the aesthetic and subject matter.


Lavin is a conceptual response to Ground Truth in the modern AI age. From a neural network (NN) trained to recognize thousands of objects to a NN can only generate binary outputs, each NN, like human beings, has its own understanding of the real world, even the inputs are the same. LAVIN provides an immersive responsive experience to visually explore one understanding of a NN in which the real world is mapping to 50 daily objects. LAVIN constantly analyzes the real world via a camera and outputs semantic interpretations, which navigate the audience in a virtual world consisting of all the fluid abstract structures that designed and animated based on the photogrammetry of daily objects that the NN can recognize.

Weidi and Jieliang will also speak at the event.



Exhibition Poster

"Cacophonic Choir" is an interactive sound installation composed of nine individual voices. Altogether, from a distance, they form an unintelligible choir. Within this choir, each voice has a unique story to tell. These narratives are not static, however; they transform as a visitor approaches. Fragmented and distorted at first, the voices respond to the visitor’s bodily presence, and their narratives become clearer and more coherent as one gets closer. The full narrative is revealed only when one is in very close proximity to the given voice. These recitations are based on the anonymous accounts of more than five hundred sexual assault survivors that were shared on The When You're Ready Project, a website where survivors of sexual violence can share their stories and have their voices heard. #MeToo.


The work we exhibited was based on our paper "Spatiotemporal Haptic Effects from a Single Actuator via Spectral Control of Cutaneous Wave Propagation", authored by B. Dandu, Y. Shao, A. Stanley, and Y. Visell. This year’s World Haptics Conference was the largest yet, with over 700 attendees.


Photos: George Legrady. James Bay Cree, Fort George, James Bay, 1973, Quebec, Canada.

The award is for an upcoming publication titled "James Bay Cree Culture & Architecture", a monograph of documentary photographs created in four coastal Cree First Nation villages in sub-arctic James Bay in 1973. The publication is to consist of introductory texts, approximately 180 black and white photographs of everyday scenes in the Cree communities just prior to their legal negotiations over infrastructure autonomy and land rights in response to the construction of the James Bay Hydro-electric project on traditional hunting lands.


"System 319" at the Venice Biennale.

Marko Peljhan’s work revolves around two fundamental aspects of the world today: the technological developments in communication, transport, and surveillance; and the highly complex systems of political, economic, and military power driving such developments and employing them in administration, control, production or military applications. The potentials of technology are introduced into art as a way of confronting the systems of governance and their strategies. Peljhan’s art has thus evolved into a process involving a cartography of "signal territories," an analysis of the role of technology in society, particularly as it relates to power structures, a reflection on the possibilities of a different, creative and resistant use of technological means, and, ultimately, the creation of socially useful models of resistant behaviors in the contemporary social system. The theatrical dimension of Peljhan’s art plays a crucial role in this; his best-known project Makrolab can in this sense be interpreted as a technological laboratory and a social stage based on the concept of micro-performance.

At the Venice Biennale, Peljhan will present a work from his Resolution series. This series, which has evolved over some 20 years, proposes some specific material and applicable solutions to certain problems in society. It is the artist’s response to the state in which the world finds itself today, calling for a rediscovery of space and a utopian response to the rapid changes in the environment. In this sense, the autonomous vessel produced as part of the "Here we go again… SYSTEM 317" project is a colonizing, apocalyptic and pirating tool of sorts. In it, Peljhan brings together his vision, the potential for and the impossibility of a final exit from our rapidly deteriorating planetary conditions in a process he calls “reverse conversion.” He first employed this methodology in his "TRUST-SYSTEM" series, which focused on the conversion of cruise missile technology and later, unmanned systems for civil counter-reconnaissance. The artist proposes the construction of a counter-privateering machine intended for the days when the world’s great empires find themselves, once again, in confrontation—and one characterized by a grave lack of responsibility together with great destructive potential.


The X-43A Hypersonic Experimental (Hyper-X) Vehicle in Benefield Aenechoic Facility at Edwards Air Force Base radio January 2000. Photo: Tom Tschida. Image courtesy of NASA.

Past News  


Exhibition Catalogs

End of Year Show

About MAT

Media Arts and Technology (MAT) at UCSB is a transdisciplinary graduate program that fuses emergent media, computer science, engineering, electronic music and digital art research, practice, production, and theory. Created by faculty in both the College of Engineering and the College of Letters and Science, MAT offers an unparalleled opportunity for working at the frontiers of art, science, and technology, where new art forms are born and new expressive media are invented.

In MAT, we seek to define and to create the future of media art and media technology. Our research explores the limits of what is possible in technologically sophisticated art and media, both from an artistic and an engineering viewpoint. Combining art, science, engineering, and theory, MAT graduate studies provide students with a combination of critical and technical tools that prepare them for leadership roles in artistic, engineering, production/direction, educational, and research contexts.

The program offers Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Media Arts and Technology. MAT students may focus on an area of emphasis (multimedia engineering, electronic music and sound design, or visual and spatial arts), but all students should strive to transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and work with other students and faculty in collaborative, multidisciplinary research projects and courses.

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