Ongoing work for a highly-interactive technology-based installation.
Not Intent on Arriving builds upon my previous work, Take Off, completed and exhibited in 2017. Take Off is an installation of artifacts from an absurd, dysfunctional, and dystopic airport. It is rooted in the theory of "non-places" established by French anthropologist Marc Augé (1935-), referring to transient spaces where human actors pass through as anonymous individuals without any intimate association or identity. Examples of such public spaces include airports, hospitals, cinemas, and shopping malls, which are spiritually desolate yet perfectly suited for the control and security of ultra-modern lifestyles, characterized by impatience and time acceleration.
Not Intent on Arriving suggests that the concept of "non-places" continues to expand in the modern world, extending from public spaces to private spaces and engulfing our physical and psychological realms. It is an independent stand-alone project, but it could also be exhibited in tandem with Take Off.
The title is derived from a quote attributed to the Chinese philosopher Laozi: "A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." Laozi's "Tao Te Ching" is a classic that touches on philosophy, ethics, nature, and politics. However, this quote is entirely fabricated, like so many inaccurate machine-generated pieces of information. I chose this title because it hints at the way in which technological colonization occurs. The avowed goal of technology is to maximize the benefit to humanity, but the actual objective is to maximize the rights and wealth of its controllers. Technology has never truly fulfilled its promises; it remains in a state of "not intent on arriving."
The installation will be a visceral exposure of technology’s powers of misdirection and social control. By questioning these new colonialist tendencies, Not Intent on Arriving will explore how we can find meaning in our experiences within the global context of "non-places." This will be not only an invitation to introspection but also an intervention: how can we continue to exist and love?
I envision a spacious exhibition hall with a high ceiling, in which the audience can move and explore freely. The hall will be dimly lit by the glow from eight projection screens, creating a mysterious and captivating atmosphere. Each screen will show meticulously crafted animations, from dreamlike and enigmatic simulated landscapes to abstract, intricately interwoven spaces formed by points and lines. Other animations will depict the movements of characters transformed from hand-drawn line sketches, with programmed actions such as walking, jumping, leisure, and socializing.
Four of the eight high-resolution widescreen projections will be distributed around the perimeter of the exhibition hall. The other four will be semi-transparent screens arranged in parallel, spaced to allow viewers to move freely
or lie on the floor, creating an immersive environment. Strategically placed motion sensors will detect the audience's positions and movements. These inputs will modify the animations in real time, but as they do so, the animations will also modify each other in a cascade of changes, the output from each modifying the inputs to the next.
This will be a kind of Butterfly Effect – a storm of changes growing out of visitors’ actions, inviting them to experience a heightened and proactive sense of self. The movement of viewers within the space will also trigger a sound installation, generating natural sound effects such as rainfall, flowing water, whispered conversations, and occasionally soothing music.
Despite this appearance of responsiveness, however, the relationships and movements between screens will be pre-programmed. The viewers will not have changed anything; the intensity and scale of execution are beyond the control of the unwitting "butterflies." As a clue to this, each time the algorithm "corrects" the animations to reflect
the viewer's movements, the sound system will emit very brief error messages, such as "access denied" or "invalid input," creating a sense of uncertainty and challenging the viewer's immersive experience. The installation will be a symbolic environment filled with contradictions and complexity. While initially being entertained, visitors may gain unexpected insights and reconsider the meanings of intelligence, free will, and individuality, as well as the things that technology, algorithms, and misinformation truly signify – control, the confusion of choice, and information chaos.
Many details are still being explored and considered, but the direction is clear.
As someone from China, the new form of colonization by technology is my lived experience.
It does not concern physical territory but the extensive commercial and global manipulation of our thinking and activities. The new dictatorship is no longer opposed by an angry population but is warmly embraced by its subtly indoctrinated and happy followers. This new dictatorship requires no threats or coercion and quickly erases traces of history to standardize and deeply manipulate vulnerable populations. This is the reality we are facing today. It raises questions such as: What is freedom? How do rights shape our actions and beliefs? What is democracy? How is it related to technology? How can we harmonize the meaning of humanity with more humane technology, ensuring that humans, as the creators of our collective technological future, are not mere bystanders? Reflection, poetry, understanding, history, language, aesthetics, and imagination define what matters to us. In a world driven by innovation and competition, cultivating a culture of care, sharing perspectives and insights, and engaging in constructive dialogue are crucial.
Over the past 9 months I have hand-drawn approximately 130 sketches, generated over 60,000 images using AI tools, and embarked on the challenging journey of understanding computer programming. I have completed 45 animations, which represent over a thousand programming tests.
From initial text writing to painting, from sculpture to installation, from drama to cross-media experiments, I have made many attempts and experiments. This exploratory and iterative method of finding the most suitable approach has always been a crucial component of my creative process.
Importantly, I now understand what happens behind the scenes in programming and what deep learning entails. Programming is a highly detailed iterative process that involves constantly modifying flaws and testing until the code runs smoothly. Solving a programming problem is much like expressing an artistic idea: there are multiple approaches, and both programmers and artists strive to find the most appropriate and effective path. Today's computers can create their own instructions based on machine learning algorithms, a concept known as deep learning – they have become the program and the programmer, they are starting to offer their own simulacra of artistic processes.
Being able to read and understand the language of this era and having the capability to express oneself in that language is a good starting point for engaging in an effective dialogue.
I am learning and understanding the architecture and elements of technology, its logic
and control flow, its scalability, data structures, and how they create powerful and efficient algorithms.
Today's data structures, which are expanding infinitely, directly impact how human society operates, but we must be vigilant. Technology, which began with imagination, does not encourage imagination. Giant tech companies with monopolistic intentions are erasing independent thinking. Smartphones have become extensions of ourselves; we have outsourced decisions to algorithms and handed over our memories to servers. Not Intent on Arriving refuses to enter a vast choice system where only binary decisions are right or wrong. Instead, it reevaluates beliefs and cultures related to "non-places," explores our roles and responsibilities as interdependent beings in a shared environment, and questions how our work impacts contemporary and future cultures.
The experience of the installation will powerfully reveal and interpret the intricate relationship between individuals, society, power, and self, and why we need to avoid the acceleration or dominance of narrow, leading narratives and viewpoints – why we must resist anti-human technology and the spiritual loss it brings, reaffirming human imagination and inclusivity to collectively build a more humane future.