ARTFORUM中文网 × 泰康空间
魏颖是一位策展人、研究者。现为中央美术学院科技艺术研究员, 也是“泛生物艺术工作室” （PBS）的创始人。她近期的研究及兴趣方向包括：生物艺术、后人类语境下的科技艺术、科技与社会研究（STS）、科学史与艺术的融合等。
杨北辰，当代艺术与电影研究者，策展人。先后毕业于法国巴黎第十大学与北京电影学院，以论文《作为档案的电影》（Film as Archive）获得电影历史与理论博士学位；并作为资深编辑在ARTFORUM中文网工作多年；现任教于中央戏剧学院，并担任新世纪当代艺术基金会特约研究员。他长期致力于当代艺术与电影研究之间的跨领域工作，曾发起并策划多项运动-影像的展览与放映活动，目前主要从事当代运动-影像理论、媒体考古学与新物质主义方面的研究。
Art, Technology, Popular Culture
Artforum X Taikang Space
Artforum.com.cn and Taikang Space are pleased to present “Theory Fever: Art, Technology, Popular Culture”, a one-day symposium starting out first from the widely popular writings of Liu Cixin to explore the technological “theory fever” of the past few years and its connections with recent artistic creation and curatorial practice in China.
In 2011 and 2012, the Chinese art world birthed its first instance of “theory fever” . At that time sweeping through the entire art world as topics of discussion were “ABRZ” — Agamben, Badiou, Rancière, and Žižek, and the platforms for online debate were still Weibo and forums. In the space of 6 or 7 years, WeChat has replaced Weibo as the overlord of social media, and another wave of theory fever is breaking against the shore, this time with technology as the protagonist. Since the beginning of the 21st century, the rapidly changing technological reality and its impact on a global scale have brought forth a new round of reflection on the (Western) modernity. The Anthropocene, Neo-Realism, Post-Humanism, Post-Nature, Accelerationism… regardless of the specific connotations and political aims of these terms in their respective philosophical and theoretical fields, they are starting to be frequently used and discussed by domestic artists, curators, and art critics, with translations into Chinese being completed faster than ever. However, we cannot ignore the unavoidable transformations within this process: after going through a typical “shock” of Westernization and being drawn into the modernization program, China has been embroiled in the upheaval of the 20th century, and turned into a key player in Neoliberalism’s global capitalist market— facing this reality, what exactly do the above-mentioned technologies and their speculations mean for artistic creation today? Is this just a trend of new buzzwords that people follow only in spirit, a new arsenal of themes and methodology, or new clues with great potential to inspire? If the crises of the global era require globalized plans in response, can viewing the “Anthropocene” and “Ancestral” through space and time on a grand planetary scale really help us open up a path out of modernity and all its problems? How does technology constitute a new field of struggle, or present us with a breakthrough to rewrite world history?
In a standard time machine story, rewriting history is tantamount with changing the future. And in the field dedicated to description of the future, in 2015 Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin won the Hugo Award for Best Novel with his book The Three-Body Problem. In a moment, science fiction changed from a niche literary genre to a hot topic in mainstream cultural discussions. At the end of last year, the domestically-made science fiction film The Wandering Earth, based on Liu’s novel of the same name, made more than 4 billion RMB at the box office, a phenomenal success. At the same time, it also ignited spectacular debate on the Internet. Though the story is set in the starry sea of the constellations, the vast universe, the serious commentary online was actually mostly about the Cold War, the Cultural Revolution, the Third World, and (Chinese) historical experience. Arguments online were between different groups — “Wolf Warriors” (militaristic nationalists), the “Industrial Party” (pro-technology and industry) and "Little Pinks” (nationalist youth). Liu Cixin's works have obviously gone past the inherent context of science fiction, and become a type of phenomenon in popular culture, which naturally has had many “ideological critiques” directed against it. But apart from using it as an object of cultural criticism, are there further intellectual resources we can gain from the phenomenon of Liu Cixin and his work? After all, from the beginning contemporary art has gained as much of its sustenance from popular culture as from avant-garde theory.
 LEAP Magazine, “Theory Fever” issue, April 2012.
April 27 2019
Morning Session: 11:00-12:30
Keynote Lecture: The Work of Art in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
Speaker: Li Guangyi
In his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Walter Benjamin put forward his belief that the usage of technologies of mechanical reproduction caused the disappearance of the feelings of distance and uniqueness present in classical art, leading to the vanishing of “aura.” At the moment when we are entering the age of Artificial Intelligence, will the mechanical reproduction brought by “Deep Learning” lead to the complete disappearance of “aura”, or a new form of silicon/carbon-silicon-based “aura”? In contemporary Chinese science fiction, we may be able to get a glimpse of the future of art.
Li Guangyi holds a Ph.D from UCLA, and is associate professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, Chongqing University. His research interests include modern and contemporary Chinese literature, Chinese intellectual history, science fiction literature and culture, and utopian literature and thought. He edited Chinese Science Fiction: A New Start (2016), Readings of The Three Body Problem (2017), and translated Ruth Levitas’ The Concept of Utopia (2018).
Lab as the Generator of Surprises
Speaker: Jo Wei
The laboratory is one of the most important products of modern technology, yet this space is seen as somewhere full of mysterious black boxes of unknown functions. In Laboratory Life, Bruno Latour attempted to use the methods of anthropology to research the construction of the laboratory, and the book has become foundational for Science and Technology Studies (STS). Is the laboratory not simply removing the magic from nature, leading to a major decrease in occultism and related realms, and becoming the opposite of the humanities, art and other creative fields? The reality is not so simple. The speaker's research project, “Lab as Generator of Surprises”, attempts to explain a new type of relationship between the laboratory and arts and humanities. This project is not only concerned with modern laboratories, but also looks back to the early definition of the laboratory in the history of science and art history. The first phase of the project will examine famous international laboratories with artist residency programs to illustrate another possible perspective on art history and the many other topics that may be derived from it, such as models for collaboration between artists and scientists, the formulation of “Big Science” policy, the position of science in popular culture, and more.
Jo Wei is a curator and researcher. She is currently a researcher on Art, Science and Technology(AST) at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, as well as the founder of the Pan Bio Art Studio (PBS). Her recent work and research interests include: bio art, AST in the post-human context, research on STS, the integration of the history of science and art, and more.
Ocean as Moving-Image and Network
Speaker: Yang Beichen
The ocean is a medium. It connects separated continents, and through different channels built on the surface or in the deep it delivers materials, energy, and information. The networks constructed through these channels are now an integral part of the world's functioning on a global scale. Shipping routes on the surface of the sea, deep sea oil pipelines and fiber optic cables, and oil rigs everywhere, these man-made artifacts and every conceivable type of original matter/life form from the ocean together create a new type of ecosystem. At the same time, images of conflict, disaster, and mystery still persist: through geopolitics, capitalist warfare, large-scale pollution, and refugee crises, the sea also denotes termination and uncontrollability. Here, the “Leviathan” has updated its own horror. Keller Easterling has talked about the “frictionless sea” in Neoliberal economic fantasies, imagining it as a smooth and frictionless entity, yet under the smooth surface it is rich in extremely strong friction and a complicated landscape of mediums. In this speech, I will explore the ocean’s multiple aspects today through the practice of the artists, and try to outline the state of the image of the ocean as network.
Yang Beichen is a curator/researcher of film and contemporary art. He received his M.A. from University Paris Nanterre and his Ph.D. from the Beijing Film Academy with a dissertation titled “Film as Archive”. He has worked as senior editor at artforum.com.cn. for many years and currently teaches film and media theory at the Central Academy of Drama (Beijing). He is also a guest researcher at the New Century Art Foundation (Beijing). Yang has devoted himself to the interdisciplinary research between contemporary art and cinema through curatorial practices. His current research focuses on the theory of the contemporary moving-image, media archaeology, and the new materialism.
April 27 2019
Afternoon Session: 14:30 – 17:30
Keynote Lecture: Art, Media, and Society in the Age of Technological Change: Pioneering Art and Instrumental Rationality
Speaker: Wu Jing
In Benjamin's explanation, owing to the intervention of mechanical reproduction technology, modern art’s avant-garde nature lies in its potential to promote social democraticization. In the history of industrial society of the 20th century, the development of electronic media, social science, and business culture also gave birth to the large-scale practice of applying science, technology, and art, to the fields of social management and control. These practices have been more deeply developed in the digital media era, and we can observe the social intent of these practices in many cases from electronic and digital science and technology, while reflecting on how society responds to and transforms according to these practices.
Wu Jing obtained her Master’s and Ph.D. in Communications Studies from the University of Iowa, and is a professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication. Her central field of research is critical media and theory studies, the social theory of communication and media technology, the social uses of new media technology and cultural analysis, visual culture, and more. Currently, Wu Jing's research places special emphasis on the social imaginary and social use of the culture of the spectacle and new media technology.
From “Ultimate Utopia” to “People in the Universe”: Globalization and the Utopian Nature of The Three-Body Problem
Speaker: Yang Chen
Although The Three Body Problem has already been drawn into various interpretative frameworks, not many people have noticed the utopian nature of the text, as a non-“Utopian novel.” Tracing in reverse the lineage of science fiction, Moore's Utopia constitutes a key “starting point,” and this literary form is linked to historical facts around new routes of opening up/globalization, suggesting a close correlation between Utopia, science fiction, and globalization. From this point of view, globalization can provide an important perspective for discussing the utopian nature of The Three-Body Problem as a science fiction text. From this angle, we can find out how Liu Cixin constructed his “ultimate utopia” in the text, and how to summon the “people in the universe” from this imaginary, as well as how these two constitute the “cosmo-human” device and how this leads to a homogeneous global imagination. This imaginary, under a Haraway-style “Chthulucene”, precisely shows “Chinese” style expectations and anxiety in the face of globalization.
Yang Chen is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature and World Literature at the Chinese Department of Peking University. His areas of focus are 1980s literature, science fiction, and film studies.
Technological Rationality Problems Inside and Outside of Plot
Speaker: Fu Zheng
Perhaps the judgment of technical rationality is science fiction's eternal topic. Since the film The Wandering Earth opened in cinemas, the roar of praise has been endless, but there has also been no lack of critics. One of the key issues of the debate is how the film thinks about technical rationality. What is the difference between the film and the original novel on this point? Besides, there are still people concerned: will the Chinese film industry blindly rush to catch up with the technical methods of America’s Hollywood, and forget fundamental thinking about human ethical values? It should be said that the discussion of technical rationality exists both inside and outside of the film’s plot. What is “inside of the plot,” that is to say, what is the attitude of the film and the original novel towards technical rationality? What is “outside of the plot”, that is to say, what does the Hollywood technological model mean for the future path of Chinese science fiction movies?
Fu Zheng holds a Ph.D. from Beijing Normal University, and is a postdoctoral fellow at Tsinghua University’s Institute of Humanities and Social Science. Key research interests include the history of modern Chinese thought, modern Chinese political history, and the history of Western political thought. He has published several professional papers in publications such as “Modern Chinese History Studies”, “Open Times”, and “Beijing Cultural Review”, and has written a monograph on “Ancient-modern Transformation——Sichuan School and the Chinese Revolution”.
Group Discussion and Q&A:
Respondents: Zian Chen (Curator, researcher at Long March Project)
Du Keke (Editor of artforum.com.cn.)
Li Jia (Senior curator of Taikang Space)