Liu Xiaodong debuts his new installation Weight of Insomnia as part of the exhibition 'Datumsoria: An Exhibition of Liu Xiaodong, Carsten Nicolai, and Nam June Paik' at the Chronus Art Center in Shanghai, China from 17 September – 30 December 2016.
Working closely with a group of technologists over a period of one and a half years, the work is Liu Xiaodong’s latest daredevil endeavour venturing into an unfamiliar zone of telematics and computer vision-engendered automation systems. Pushing boundaries of his documentary style of live painting, the artist completely reinvents himself by penetrating into the digital now. Three locations were carefully identified and equipped with video cameras: one near the iconic Bund in Shanghai where humans, cars, buses and bicycles vie with each other to cross street, another monitors the Apple Store in Beijing’s fashionable Sanlitun district where urban sophisticates rub shoulders with novices from the provinces, and a final camera watches a public plaza in the artist’s home town.
The installation features three large-scale canvases mounted on crude construction scaffolds. A robotically controlled paintbrush translates the three discrete, incoming datum captured by the video cameras into contours of buildings, silhouettes of trees, outlines of vehicles and shadows of human figures. If the canon of live painting is to arrest a fleeing second, to fixate a bygone moment for a rumination on signification, then what LIU Xiaodong’s canvases depict are a multiplicity of instants that are forever fluctuating, generating at each moment a new sediment of emotional residue, overlapped, juxtaposed, concatenated and truncated. It is as if the artist, reincarnated in a robotic consciousness, wrestles through an endless, restless insomnia to piece together an ever-evolving jigsaw of amorphous desires and anxieties, fleeting nightmares and ruptures. Liu Xiaodong thus constructs a new awareness of contemporaneity. In so doing, the artist not only re-assesses painting in the age of internet and algorithm but also makes apparent a new reality that situates itself in the materiality of media informed by data fluxes.
Exhibited in conjunction with Rehabilitation of Genghis-Khan (1993), a robot sculpture by Nam June Paik, and Unitape (2015), a large-scale, real-time projection by Carsten Nicolai, Datumsoria brings three highly idiosyncratic works together, shedding new light upon relations that bespeak the logic of the Real in the information age, a reality predicated on binary instructions of the generic, of the uniformity of Ones and Zeros, from whose generality comes forth of a hardening of shapes and forms. Precipitating sentient residues and invoking emotive potentials, there emerges a consciousness of technical autopoiesis that is capable of a subjectivity of another order as intuited by the media theorist Friedrich Kittler: “The arts (to employ an old word for an old institution) entertain only symbolic relation with the sensory fields they take for granted. On the contrary, media relate to the materiality with – and on – which they operate in the Real itself.“
Datumsoria is the first edition of a series of exhibitions under the auspices of the Art & Technology @ project conceived and curated by ZHANG Ga. Co-presented by Chronus Art Center, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, and the Nam June Paik Art Center, the exhibition will travel to ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany in 2017 and other destinations.art historian Caroline A. Jones will deliver a lecture titled “Energy / Entropy -- Art, Autonomy, Information” on Sunday, September 18th.