New York, NY – :iidrr Gallery is pleased to present the duo exhibition, “We May Be in This Together,” curated by Chiarina Chen, featuring artists Chloe Gao and Tong Wu & Yuguang Zhang. The exhibition will be on view from November 2nd to 12th, 2023.
We don’t need another exhibition marveling at the advancement of AI, how it will learn from you and equip you or replace and outrace you. The swings between techno-optimism and pessimism have, in fact, echoed a long history of the arrow-like, linear, progressive role of technology. There’s the man and his tool. Then there’s always a hero and a villain. Featuring artists Chloe Gao and duo Tong Wu & Yuguang Zhang, ‘We May Be in This Together’ counterpoints such a dominant narrative that places AI developments as grand breakthroughs or singular moments and beckons a non-linear, symbiotic path. From generative AI, VR, multimedia installations, sculpted objects and prints, they present two disparate worlds that reveal ways of ‘gathering,’ knitting our intricate connections to machine learning as an ongoing collective narrative.
The idea of gathering, raised by Le Guin, contests the dualistic conflict-driven views of technology. She posits the first technological tool as the ‘basket’ to gather, not the spear. Hence, the narrative of technology is reframed from the individualistic, singular ‘he’ to a plural collective ‘we’. Rather than seeing technology as a tool of domination or a linear progression, artists in the show explore how we could work along with AI to evoke stories, memories, and experiences. As our entanglements with technologies become more intimate than ever, we invite you to look around, instead of look ahead.
Tong Wu & Yuguang Zhang showcases the Bureau of Cloud Management (BCM), a fictional bureau that collects, stores, and manages clouds observed worldwide through human and generative AI’s co-creating patterns. Using an open-sourced Stable Diffusion text-to-image model, which has been trained exclusively for the project, the user’s input gets seamlessly translated into cloud images. Onsite, audiences will be invited to be the ‘staff’ at BCM and write descriptions of the clouds they observe in text forms.
The corporate setting feels like an associate’s mundane Tuesday afternoon. By humorously staging props and documents from the Bureau, they subtly mock the modern corporative culture of efficiency, in which AI is often used as an external tool that helps maximize profits and functionality. Here, the generative model is trained with the sole ‘mission’ of better learning and restoring clouds, gravitating towards a massive ‘unpurposed’ gathering of collective wondering and imagination. Standing before the screen, one can watch 3D-shaped generated clouds lining up, drifting through with no beginning or end, and any goal-oriented plot is forsaken in a blurring state of impermanence.
While Wu & Zhang’s BCM integrates one’s input into an expansive web entangled with human, machine, and moving clouds, Chloe Gao takes a more personal, intimate direction. The show premieres her AI-generated avatar, NANA, and MARFA, the metaverse where NANA came from, a place in which memories only last for six months. On the surface, they appear as amiable digital avatars and dreamy landscapes, making one wonder if it’s another user-centered gaming narrative with a progressive scaling up and mission-complete ending. Yet it won’t take you long to realize the fleeting and ephemeral nature embedded in the world setting. Marfabeing are not designated robots but avatars, such as NANA, generated by stories. In MARFA, nothing is permanent. Lives and memories are transient and fading sands. Whenever each ‘lifetime’ ends, the user will encounter a phase of erasure. Their data will be capsulated into a customized sphere that only emits opaque emotive signs.
In reality, we hardly have a chance to experience the breakdown of time or multiple streams of self, while MARFA grants a place that celebrates the temporal, non-linear approach to life. The traditional sense of a singular, unified ‘self’ is shattered and constantly dissolves into fragmented stories and sentiments. In the VR piece ‘Journey into Self’, audiences are invited to a four-layered circular space; each unravels a dimension that guides them to revisit various moments from the past three years, conversing and recollecting vulnerable pieces of ourselves in discursive modes. On the wall, NANA’S varied phases of ‘life,’ juxtaposed to the diagrams of MARFA, further denote how fractured and nomadic one could be while subtly connecting with MARFA land on a holistic level.
This, as Rosi Braidotti once stressed in her essay on critical posthumanism, refers both to the complex techno-eco-socio predicament we navigate today and an interconnected web that binds us to each other, reminding us that we are never purely the individual external to others. In the sci-fi-imbued exhibition, this might as well be our collaborative ‘basket,’ positioning AI as a part of our collective tale to gather and care. Whether it’s collecting the ever-changing patterns of clouds or weaving the fragmented moments of mortal life, we may all be in this, the shared saga of existence and expression, together.
November 2 – November 12, 2023
Thursday, November 2, 2023 | 6-9 PM
Chloe Gao, Tong Wu & Yuguang Zhang
162 Allen Street
New York, NY, 10002
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CHIARINA CHEN is a New York-based independent curator and writer. From a psychology and art history background, her curatorial praxis explores diasporic conditions and posthuman subjectivity. She has produced international projects merging art and emotional technology, ranging from mixed media, sound installations, cyborg performances, and experimental theater. Her notable series include Poetics of Inquiry: How to Stay with Trouble (MIT), The Tale of Errantry (The Chain Theater), Collecting Anxiety (Multi Venues in New York City and Worldwide), Is This Intimacy? (University of Applied Arts Vienna and Krinzinger Projekte), Magic Back to Town (Connelly Theater, Cyborg Foundation), and The Wasteland of the Future (Shanghai Himalayas Museum, Art and Philosophy Center, Fudan University). Earlier at New York FLAG Art Foundation, she participated landing exhibitions of Jeff Koons, Cecily Brown, Charles Ray, and Betty Tompkins.
Chen holds a master’s in Contemporary Art Management and Criticism from Sotheby’s Institute of Art and a bachelor’s in psychology, specializing in cognitive and criminal psychology, from Syracuse University. She is the annual reviewer and curator at the American Society of Media Photography (ASMP) New York Chapter and founding member of the New York Posthuman Research Group.
CHLOE GAO is a Mixed-Reality Artist based in New York, she uses various mediums to explore spaces between nonlinear storytelling and cultural identity. With a background in storytelling and theater, Chloe won awards for directing and playwriting in Beijing. Later, she majored in Visual Art and Film at UC Berkeley. She focused on photography at UC Berkeley; her works were exhibited in Worth Ryder gallery, including “Blend In,” a series reflecting the experiences of the Asian female community.
Afterward, Chloe moved to New York, where she used cinemagraphs (photograph and GIF combos) to create innovative visual content, gaining attention on social media. Chloe then attended NYU’s ITP program to study interactive art. There, she explored emerging technologies and created a wide range of works. She’s passionate about combining spatial computing and storytelling with Mixed Reality. Her work in 2018, MUSE, an immersive interactive short film about self-discovery, was exhibited in NY Media Center by IFP, selected for the Lumen Prize 2018 (AR/VR category), and shown at ICMC 2018 in Daegu, Korea.
During the pandemic, Chloe used virtual human characters as her creative medium to continue her exploration of identity issues with a focus on digital identity and social media phenomenons. She used Metahuman and motion capture to create live interactive avatars, and she tried to expand the boundary of storytelling by envisioning a future world with advanced AR/VR technology and creating stories as contemporary fables. In 2022, Chloe’s focus shifted from crafting a singular virtual character to constructing the metaverse itself, known as MARFA. She ventured into combining LLM (large language model) with non-linear storytelling within MARFA’s world-building system, ultimately creating a more fragmented, decentralized world by reimagining the concept of time, deconstructing self-awareness from a completely new perspective.
TONG WU & YUGUANG ZHANG are a new media artist duo raised on the Internet. They now co-exist with their digital doubles in Brooklyn, New York, and Chrome browser. Their joint artistic practice, which incorporates interactive installation, AI models, webpage, creative design and workshops, explores the subtle yet dynamic connections we make with ubiquitous AI systems embedded around us and the societal or cultural shifts that come along.
Wu & Zhang’s collaborative work has been showcased at the Code:ART Festival 2023 in Palo Alto, California, U.S., and the INDEX Biennale 2022 in Braga, Portugal. They also have been invited to lead creative workshops about generative AI at CultureHub Art Center, New York, and the School of Visual Arts, New York.
Wu holds a master’s degree in New Media Art from the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the New York University, and a bachelor’s degree in Documentary Journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park. As an independent artist, she had her solo exhibition “Daily Dividuals” in LATITUDE Gallery New York in 2021, and has exhibited her work internationally, including Koganechō Art Management Center in Yokohama, Japan, CURRENTS New Media Festival in New Mexico, U.S., International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) DocLab Session in Amsterdam, Netherlands, U.S., SandBox Immersive Festival Acceleration Program in Hangzhou, China.
Zhang is a lead machine learning technologist at DE-YAN design studio, a member of the multidisciplinary artist collective NUUM, and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). He’s a recipient of the S+T+ARTS S2S award and the Re:Humanism Art Prize. His works have been showcased at MAXXI, Le Centquatre, Beijing Times Art Museum, New Inc., New York Live Arts, and more.
About :iidrr Gallery
:iidrr is an artist-run gallery and platform focusing on new media art and trendy cultures. Founded by Shuwan Chen and Annie Chen Ziyao in 2020, :iidrr is now based in New York. With a mission to support artists who are critically engaged in new technologies and cultures, :iidrr collaborates with both established contemporary artists and up-and-coming creatives. Our exhibition space gives the public year-round access to expansive, new media-focused art experiences, performances, and artist talks, which offers an illuminating glimpse into a vibrant visual culture. Together with our artists, we seek to bridge the gap between established media art forms and trendsetting cultural expressions.
(text & photo courtesy of :iidrr Gallery)