Nancy Lee is a curator of interactions. Her crafted spaces stimulate behavioural dynamics, inviting their release into a broth of intangibles. In setting the stage for these action experiments, she is as much an observer as an artist. The notion of staging is a constant in Nancy’s work and underpins her projects from early days as a more traditional filmmaker, through her conception and planning of live events, and into the realms of VR, new media performance and installation, where her art practices continue to coalesce and evolve.
An award-winning filmmaker, Nancy has worked as a documentarian and advocacy journalist with different global health initiatives as well as with Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian community, among others. The considerable responsibility she bears as not only the capturer but also a co-author of events while behind the camera has never been lost on her. Her dance films Let It Go and Faux Solo has been selected to screen in multiple international and Canadian film festivals.
Her persistent fascination with subjects’ negotiations of space in particular would germinate in her early film career and further actualize with her work in event coordination. Freed from having to stage interactions within a frame, Nancy is able - through her DIY and pop-up events held with the Chapel Sound art collective - to conceptualize space and test social relationships therein from the vantage point of an arranger. In 2016, Nancy directed Chapel Sound Festival with over 50 local artists performing and leading events, workshops and panels. The festival has been credited with addressing issues surrounding gender parity in the industry.
It was at one of these Chapel Sound events where Nancy first met Kiran Bhumber - now her partner in Pendula and co-founder of their burgeoning collective, Modalmix. Kiran’s unique predilection for creating interactive sonic and visual environments for performers matched uncannily with Nancy’s vision of an audience-driven apparatus, in the form of a swing, that would allow participants to manipulate their audiovisual surroundings in real time. Within a month, they were collaborating on their first installation and launching what would later become Pendula.
In 2017, Nancy completed a DanceLab Residency at The Dance Centre with dance artist Emmalena Fredriksson in supporting her research for directing the virtual reality dance film Tidal Traces which was produced by the National Film Board. Supported by Coastal Jazz, VIVO Media Arts Centre, BC Arts Council and Canada Council of the Arts, Nancy has performed and presented her work at the Cannes Film Festival, MUTEK (Japan), SXSW, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, New Forms Festival, International Symposium for Electronic Art (Vancouver), International Electroacoustic Music Festival (Vancouver), the conference New Interfaces for Musical Expression (Brisbane), and The International Conference on Live Coding (Hamilton). Nancy is co-founder of Chapel Sound Art Foundation and organizer for the inaugural Current: Feminist Electronic Art Symposium. She is a 2018 YWCA Women of Distinction Nominee for Art, Cultural & Design and is named one of BC’s Most Influential Women in STEM for 2018.
Throughout her ostensibly different endeavours, Nancy has consistently challenged binaries: between artist and observer, individual and environment, audience and participant, psychology and art, to name just a few. Her work stimulates and enlivens space, making a provocative statement about how inescapably interconnected we are with our surroundings.