Doreen Wing Yan Chan investigates personal perception, materiality and ‘daily details that are often overlooked.’ Her VH AWARD proposal is Half Dream (2021), a participatory art project that connects participants via their subconscious and common dreams conducted on a dedicated artificial intelligence platform.

What your response was to being shortlisted?

I was very excited as it was an approval by a jury of curators and directors from different important worldwide intuitions. Moreover, I just graduated from my master degree of art education in School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This is the best timing to continue developing my on-going participatory art project with the support from the VH Award and Eyebeam residency.

May we ask you to tell us how your training in visual communication and photography informs your art practice?

My training in visual communication and photography has developed the aesthetic style of my art practice. Images, the most widely used media among the public, have inspired me to transform and integrate them with other media as I reexamine how to create new audience experiences.

At the same time, my habit of taking photographs has been a process of developing my visual diary and sustaining my interest in personal memory. Most of the time, I photograph without reason and don’t care about the outcomes. They are raw materials for my art practice.

Would you tell us about your interests in dreams and the subconscious?

I believe dreams are a subconscious connection between people given the shared visual images in our waking lives. As a visual artist and artist educator in a time when people all over the world are facing similar but differing turbulent experiences, I look at dreams as a medium to connect people.

Differences separate us. Political polarization reinforced social cleavage both in Hong Kong where I am from and the U.S. in 2020. People with close relationships didn’t communicate anymore because of their different political views. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing made connection among people even harder. The rise of mental disorders and overstimulated emotions shared by people globally has affected their dream patterns during the pandemic.

Because of these changes in emotions and mental disorders, I’m very interested in forming intimate connections between strangers using their dreams as the connective tissue and fiber.

Can you tell us about the comment you made that you “are not a data scientist, but I love the idea of helping people find their dream soulmates.”

I want to create a project centered around common images and themes in dreams as shared phenomena, which could build bridges between people from different backgrounds. In this research, I collaborate with participants to examine the shared territories between dreams and realities.

To extend the cross-regional scale, I created an online platform titled HalfDream with a design team to collect dreams of people in different regions and match common dreams.

The goal isn’t about collecting dreams as data, but instead the intimate connections that this data can help construct. strangers using their dreams as the connective tissue and fiber.

May we ask you to tell us about your use of Artificial Intelligence in your art practice?

HalfDream is an intimate platform beyond systems of class, race and nationality—classifications that are often applied by society. After participants share dreams on HalfDream, artificial intelligence matches the common dreams, creating an artistic and intimate event with its participants. We only collect and display users’ dream content and preferred names. This lets participants focus on their dreams more deeply, particularly how the dream reflects their real lives. Apart from typing or voice recording their dream content, they are invited to draw something from their dreams, browse their cell phones and upload photos, sounds, or videos that are relevant to their dreams.

The form of the AI is still being finalized by myself and my team as we collect more data and dreams. We’re looking at analyzing the emotional content of the dreams based on the sentiment value of the dream content, along with some other factors.

Doreen Chan, Half Dream_Matched dreams © 2021 halfdream

Doreen Wing Yan Chan (b. 1987, Hong Kong, China) is an artist with training in visual communication and photography who was raised in Hong Kong and currently lives and works in Chicago, IL, USA. Chan has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Lianzhou Foto Festival 2013 in Lianzhou, China (2013); Kigoja: Independent Arts Space Initiative, Seoul, South Korea (2017); Charbon art space, Hong Kong (2018); and HB Station Contemporary Art Research Centre, Guangzhou, China (2019). She has also exhibited her work in Beijing, China; Gwangju, South Korea; Macau; Hong Kong; New York; and several cities in the UK. Chan was a finalist for the Three Shadows Photography Award 2015, a recipient of the 2019 Art Sanya Huayu Youth Award and a Cultured Magazine Young Artist 2021. She is currently earning her M.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.