Issue 1: Research Festival

The possibility of Software as life in Capitalist Ruins

Myths in digital practice: the art of self-presentation under digitalized society and the possibility of software as a kind of memory of human symbiosis.

1. The fundamental role of social communication in my work

The logical basis of my works is greatly influenced by the theory of dramatization. If traditional social relationships represent a drama (an actor plays a role), then the emergence of technology forces a generation to face the collapse and overlap of contexts, and actors in complex dramas What new order will they create?

In my impression, Goffman did not detail the reasons why people perform spontaneously in “Self-presentation in Daily Life”, but only emphasized that people are constantly performing in daily life, and the form and connotation of this performance can be borrowed from drama. The knowledge learned is explained, so there is a front and a backstage, so there is a theory of drama.

People’s interactions depend on a specific, mixed rational and irrational character judgment, which depends on people’s performances—people’s performances that construct their roles. What’s interesting is that there is a discrepancy between the characters in people’s minds and the character judgments others make after watching the performance. This discrepancy is always noticed by the performers, which in turn promotes new performances.

a). Self-Presentation in Psychotherapy and
Daily Life – Erving Goffman

The study pointed out that in different situations of daily life, people will perform different theatrical performance-like behaviors based on cultural values, social etiquette, and people’s expectations of each other.
My understanding is that this tendency to perform can be understood from the perspective of social psychology, and it can be considered that either true or false performance is the basic way and means of constructing social roles or images required by people’s social attributes.On online social media platforms, people are not only separated by screens, but the threshold for performance is greatly lowered. On the one hand, some performance skills require time accumulation. The convenience of this social media allows people to ignore expressions. The lack of control ability in aspects such as , action, tone, etc.; on the other hand, the operability of performance affects people’s true or false desire to perform, such as the same bragging thing, I can say it more easily on the Internet than in reality more exaggerated.
Erving Goffman – dramaturgical theory

b). The Second Self – Sherry Turkle

Originally published in 1984, Turkle writes about how computers are not tools as much as they are a part of our social and psychological lives. “‘Technology,’ she writes, ‘catalyzes changes not only in what we do but in how we think.’”
We were more connected to each other, but, oddly enough, lonelier as well. In this intimacy, a new type of loneliness emerges. It’s like hugging each other for warmth. We are connected through the Internet as if we were hugged together, as if we were getting warm, but we didn’t. And our bodies are getting cold, but we think it’s because of the climate, it’s too cold. Well, we’ve been hugging each other, but it’s not warming up yet, that’s a no-brainer. We hold a group on the Internet, but each is cold. The networked living environment destroys the environment for the growth of the self. It is impossible to talk deeply with others, talk with oneself deeply, and discover the self. Some people just pursue the instinct of comfort. And people without self are the loneliest, people are ever-changing, and they have not cultivated themselves through time alone, so I don’t know what I am, and become a black hole of self-consciousness, no one understands me, and I don’t know Where are you going. We have no self, how can anyone in the world understand us? This is the greatest loneliness.

c). Ulysses – James Joyce

The irregular layout of the way writer tell the story give me inspiration for just not thinking too much about the narrative side of moving images work. It’s kind feels like my work is not her for pleasure audiences but layout my thoughts.

Joyce is good at using simple materials and expressing complex emotions with it. However, the content about the mother actually comes from Joyce’s life experience. Real talent, real learning, real feelings. This kind of text, we might call it prose poetry. But because of the brevity of the poem, even in the more than 200,000 words of Ulysses, rhythm and metaphor echo each other and are scattered beneath the surface. In order to find Joyce’s amazing technique, we have to read and read it many times. As Joyce himself said: “I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.”

Work 1 :

After conducting a series of researches on social communication, I also tried to create a ulysses-style creation method, selecting a one-time memory carrier-ticket in the social context, and displaying it in the form of a library, so that its Follow the “emotional” timeline, trying to challenge the gap between subjective memory and objective cognition.

Ulysses Book 
Print and Video, Variable size  2021

2. Technology-Based Reflections on Information During the Pandemic

The practical significance of reading Stigler’s “Technology and Time” is to strengthen the understanding of the nature of technological revolution. The same phenomenon occurs repeatedly in history: 20 to 50 years after the technological revolution, people are already very familiar with the details and applications of new technologies, but they still understand the essence of technology as the essence before the revolution. For example, industrial technology is called Agriculture 4.0, or information technology is called Industry 4.0. It is characterized by the inversion of body and use, the old learning is the body, and the new learning is the use. Stigler’s “Technology and Time” can help us to systematically establish a mental framework for how to identify the “body” of technology. This helps us to transcend the contemporary historical limitations, stand on a future standpoint, and understand the revolutionary nature of the current information technology revolution in advance.

截屏2022-01-17 下午1.24.43.png
Technique and temps Bernard Stiegler

a). La Technique Et Le Temps – Stigler

For my own work , this book could be a main logical idea of how I position “tech” with “art”. When I talk about art and explain my topic, I am talked about the medium of my work.

Stigler’s philosophical research aims to restore the philosophical position that technology should have. Technology and Time fulfills this mission, hoping to establish a new relationship between technology, time and human nature. Stigler believes that humans are the product of double faults—forgetting and stealing. When Ebimetheus, who was in charge of distribution, distributed performance to the animals that were about to see the sun for the first time, he forgot about human beings, resulting in human beings with nothing; and Prometheus, who was in charge of inspection, stole fire in order to implement rescue, so that human beings could continue their lives. Therefore, human beings are inherently flawed and must rely on the fire, which means creating functions for technology, to survive. From the beginning, Stiegler placed technology in human existence and nature. So, what is the relationship between people and technology, that is, “who” and “what”? Stigler elaborated as: Without technology, people can’t be called people; without people, technology can’t be talked about. The technology here generally refers to all the external things that human beings rely on for survival, including not only labor tools, but also carriers with personal experience marks such as writing and photography. He collectively calls human’s dependence on technology “substitute”, and correspondingly, technology has the instrumentality that reflects human’s substantiation.

b). Paul Levinson

In the early days of the invention of the film, people thought it was a fun new thing, watching actors sing, laugh, and sneeze in the film, and they were full of praise for the experience brought by this new technology, it was like a new toy Attracting everyone; then, the film gradually developed in the direction of “documentary”, and the shooting material became people’s daily life, reflecting social phenomena like a mirror; after the advent of editing technology, the film has the ability to abstract and abstract reality. The ability to reconstruct has become a kind of popular art, reaching the highest stage of media evolution.

That’s also another theory about media and technology that influence my work a lot.
It is even more interesting if combined with Freud’s psychodynamic theory. In the “id” stage of the medium, people are full of desires, pay attention to pleasure, see “form”, and be aware of “outside”.

Work 2 :

Based on my reflection on technology and philosophy during the epidemic, I studied Stigler’s theory on technology, and reflected it in people’s psychological state in the face of information excess and information monopoly. I used the combination of primitive jungle and virtual website to shape an uncontrollable information travel

The Oculus 
Videos , installation and mapping projectors 
Variable size 2021
3. Dramatic Theater Scenes and Aesthetic Investigations

In the process of research on dramatism, the narrative and visual style of my works have also been influenced by many experimental films, such as Godard, etc. The technique of montage and silent films without dubbing are reflected in many of my video works. I hope that the images will return to simplicity, throw away superfluous embellishments, and proceed on the timeline of emotional changes.
In my creative process, I mostly use moving image as a carrier, photography and 3D modeling as a means. Because of my experience in graphic design and painting, I pay more attention to the impact of visual experience on the audience, and hoping that in the future process can try more multi-cultural and multi-media ways of expressions.

When new technology first appeared, people often regarded technology itself as “content” for entertainment, and obtained personal, subjective and superficial perception experience.
With the development of technology and the emergence of application devices, the realization form of technology itself has become surprising. At this time, content suitable for this new technology is gradually created and widely disseminated, and people begin to have social and objective opinions. , the public perception experience.

When the potential for reconstructing reality contained in this technology is released, the form and depth of content are further sublimated and dominant.
At the same time, the penetration of this technology and the content it displays has gradually increased among the general public, making it popular culture, or so-called “pop art.”

a). Machine in the middleRod dinkinson

That’s the main reference work of my work THE STAGE, the idea of how people interact with EEG device and the inner logic of the technology system is the reflection of the topic of the work itself.

machine_in_the_middle reworks a Man (or Machine) in the Middle cyber attack, using EEG brainwave sensing, emotion recognition and facial muscle stimulation, made with World Snooker Champion Steve Davis.
A 3D printed Brain Computer Interface headset streams Davis’ EEG (brainwaves) to a Machine Learning model that detects his emotional state, and uses Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) to animate his facial expression.
Machine in the middleRod dinkinson

b). Michael Sedbon

Michael Sedbon’s idea of how the plants deal with programs is really interesting, that’s a new inspiration for me to create digital plants by AI. The work explores digital networked technologies and systems through their convergence with non-human intelligence (plants, unicellular organisms, insects, bacterias etc…) in regards to the Infocene problematics, seen as, our current cultural era where Information is the force having the greatest impact on human societies and environments. 
Artificial intelligence is quickly getting embedded in every field, sometimes solving problems with ‘brute force mechanism’, potentially strengthening systems that are biased at there core with a huge amount of data. This increases the unequal distribution of powers. In the same time, readily available/open source algorithms are used in fields such as government surveillance and military processes from grassroots terrorist guerrilla to institutionalized armies and this is definitely something that scares me. The people in The Future of Life Institute are doing a great job at documenting and reflecting these risks.


Through performance, video, 3D animation, installation, and sculpture, Jacolby Satterwhite explores themes of memory, desire, and ritual. He is interested in process as a metanarrative: the narrative between past, present, and future, and how that process relates a broad, shared experience. Often using his mother’s drawings as a resource (she created thousands of schematics and inventions centered on consumer culture, medicine, sex, astrology, and philosophy), he propagates her two-dimensional gestures and contextualizes related themes. 
I love the way the artist composes the scene, he tries to assemble the fragmented information into a complete world view

Work 3 :

Inspiration comes from the confusion about self-awareness when using social media, that is, the difference between self-expression and real needs.Through research, EEG technology is used to connect the audience and the virtual characters. The more the audience pays attention to the actor, the more restless his behavior will be and his body will change rapidly; otherwise the actor will become peaceful until he stares at the audienceCreators can look at the creation of the scene from a third perspective. At this time, the audience will reflect on themselves as actors in the virtual social and think about whether the emotions they generate in this process are real self-needs or passive performances.

The stage sample and installation 

4. Discussion on Self-cognition and Belonging in the Modern Context

On the basis of the above theoretical and practical experience, I began to find more conflict points between my personal space and myself. What strikes me deeply is the cognitive error of people in foreign land about self and others. Who are we? What does “I” consist of? Is it a memory that has been lost or the present moment that is happening?

So I went back to where I came from. I went through countless home videos and diaries, trying to find the meaning of myself in the collision of the past and the future, and I also wanted to use this personal work to inspire more people’s innermost feelings. memory.

Home Sweet Home
part1 2022​

The natural environment and artificial neon are the elements that get me the most inspiration. This seemingly inadvertent collision actually expresses the artistic conception of the work.

a). Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol’s theory and the image styles of his work influenced all the details if my work, from color match to the character’s preferences. the humour and modern style actually is how I want to make the serious  topic and simply aesthetic more controversial.

Being famous. Think about Andy Warhol’s famous quote, ‘everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes’ in relation to today’s society.

After the middle and late Warhol, he began to try various art forms, became a photographer and a film director, and did a lot of work that we thought artists would not do. Among them, the “audit” series was his very A long-term project carried out in the famous studio – Silver Factory. Within two years, hundreds of New York literati and celebrities of all kinds came to his “factory” to visit and take pictures. Warhol would take a 16mm Polex camera and shoot the guest with a strong light. During the filming, he would not talk to the guest, as if nothing happened, and then the guest would be extremely embarrassed. , sit there unnaturally. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced such a process of being continuously photographed by a very indifferent camera and viewing the object as an object like torture. In the process of creating this series, Andy Warhol performed another processing after the filming, slowing down the original very short time to 4 minutes, and finally a complete film. In this circle, in fact, he left a lot of very valuable video materials. For example, he will bring together some artists, scholars, movie stars, music stars, and some underground stars in Andy Warhol’s own circle to participate in the project. Some of them were well-known names, Marcel Duchamp, who in his later years actually lived in seclusion in New York and had few public events, but was eventually invited to Warhol’s studio for an “audit.”

b). Wayne McGregor

That’s another AI work shows me another possibility of performance and data analysis. By analyzing thousands of hours of his videos, the tool learned McGregor’s style - from subtle nuances to intricate progressions. And his dancers are now collaborating with it in real-time to generate new movement.

What this tool allows us to do is say: I’m starting with this phrase, and I’d like the AI to invent the next phrase – but in the style of Jordan, or in the style of Jess. And then you can get combinations of those. It’s learning all the time and feeding back, so this iterative version gives you all of these new possibilities you couldn’t have imagined.

c). SougWen

A backdrop of digital flora is linked to the artist’s brainwave data, each flux in alpha-state seeding of new formations of sepals, petals, and leaves. The way she combined nature elements and Digital technology inspired me for trying more deeper connections with all the elements of my whole work.

The performance is an initial introduction to the physical construction of F.R.A.N., a networked robotic system to be built in 2021.
Revolutions often appear after the collapse of unbalanced opposites. The author uses viral image logic to make people re-examine the philosophical meaning of existence and perception.

d). Tega Brain

The idea of how the creature live in a environment that technology involved in  is really exciting, that’s a new inspiration for me to create digital plants by AI. That makes me thinking, If new “wilderness” is the absence of explicit human intervention, what would it mean to have autonomous computational systems sustain wild places?

As territories flood and melt, dehydrate and erode, paradigms of environmental protection and conservation give way to those of management, engineering and strategic intervention. In this sense, as landscape architects Bradley Cantrell, Laura Martin and Erle Ellis argue, conserving wilderness has become more about maintaining autonomous ecological processes rather than the preservation of historic conditions. 

Practices of environmental engineering, whether by machine or human intelligence, raise thorny questions of optimization. Optimization is the problem of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource. It is the attempt to find the best solution from all feasible solutions. However what is considered “best” or “most effective” is a question of best for who? As ecological calamity is met with environmental engineering, what should environments be optimized for?

Work 4 :

In the process of thinking about the presentation form of the works, I put into practice the theories of drama, media studies and social communication that I have researched before, trying to explore the nostalgia of “home”, the relationship between private space and public stage from the perspective of installation.

So I experimented with different materials and made objects in the 3D world into physical sculptures, extracted virtual creatures into life, and created a more immersive space with mapping technology.

Home Sweet Home
part2 2022​

5. Expanding the possibility of “life” in digital Ruins

In the public part of the unit3 , I extended the width of the work horizontally. In the critical investigation of material existence and the digital revolution, I began to explore the similarity between the rules and digitalization in natural organisms and their ecosystems. Interested, and try to discuss the possibility of life in digital ruins, and the social issues reflected behind the semi-subjective logic formed by artificial intelligence and code as an extension of life.

a). Mushrooms at the End of the World

Mushrooms at the End of the World tells a story of diversity in our damaged landscape, following one of the strangest commodity chains of our time and exploring unexpected corners of capitalism. In all its contradictions, the author asks the question: what is there to survive in the ruins we have made? ?inspiring by it, I have also had to rethink liberal radicalization, commercialization, and marginalization in a digital culture to better understand the hope of cohabitation in an age of mass destruction.

b). Programmed Visions

Programmed Visions analyzes from a unique perspective that software, as a product of subjective consciousness, is full of shadows of human society in its underlying logic. The combination of what can be seen and not seen, known (knowable) and not known—its separation of interface from algorithm and software from hardware—makes it a powerful metaphor for everything we believe is invisible yet generates visible, logical effects, from genetics to the invisible hand of the “market”, from ideology to culture.

c). In Defense of the Poor Image – Hito Steyerl

The poor image embodies the afterlife of many former masterpieces of cinema and video art. It has been expelled from the sheltered paradise that cinema seems to have once been.After being kicked out of the protected and often protectionist arena of national culture, discarded from commercial circulation, these works have become travelers in a digital no-man’s land, constantly shifting their resolution and format, speed and media, sometimes even losing names and credits along the way.
Now many of these works are back—as poor images, I admit. One could of course argue that this is not the real thing, but then—please, anybody—show me this real thing.
The poor image is no longer about the real thing—the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation.
In short: it is about reality.
Memo Akten
Scott Eaton

The horizontal research has made me think about the themes of the project more broadly, from the lost homeland and self-cognition in the digital world, I want to further explore the possibility of software/artificial intelligence as a kind of memory and human symbiosis.

I choose “mushroom”, the carrier that runs through my works, and create disordered instructions through the AI of dream field. The logic is to input a piece of text to generate a digital model. Under the system of digital capitalism, we have the right to create “life”, which is more real to us, these lives or real mushrooms?

d). Bill Viola

One of the distinguishing features of a Bill Viola video is that, although it may be edited or the direction of time reversed (so that water runs upwards rather than downwards, for example), the images are not manipulated with any kind of post production ‘trickery’. They aim to be an authentic record of the event. This is the case even with very dramatic scenarios, such as Fire Woman (2005) in which the performer, a stunt-woman, was so close to the wall of flames that she had to wear flame-retardant clothing treated with fire-proof gel

In Viola’s voluminous work, the power and complexity of human emotion are themes of his ongoing exploration. His video installation works focus on the fate, death, birth and rebirth of human beings, interpreting the state, take-off and landing, movement and stillness of the body under extreme stress. Through the perfect control of technology and color, Viola endows the works with a visually striking beauty, making the viewers have the most direct emotional resonance.

Work 5 :

In the presentation test of the work, I tried many different mediums: video, projection, sculpture and neon light. By collecting waste newspapers, cement, wire, cardboard and other capitalist ruins, I shaped them into the shape of gorgeous AI creatures and created an audio that combines sampled forest ambient sounds with trumpet marches, contradictions and perfectionism The collision of is the theme of this work. Human imperfect perfection appears so real relative to algorithms,
let’s say it out proudly: we are suck of it !

Videos , installation ,sculpture and mapping
2’26 min; variable size

Artist Statement:

My art practice revolves around the topic of self-recognition and identity belonging, especially from contradiction of z generation. Deeply influenced by technology, it seems to become an extension of natural body. Just like Erving Goffman’s theory of pseudo-drama, the “drama” of this era is forced to be decentralized, facing the observation of audiences from unknown time and space. With that collapse of the context, technology empowers audiences and communication power sinks, the boundary between private and public is blurring.

Even though the openness of social situations provides many outlets for desires, problems like the individualism, fetishism, emotional commodification and obsessive self-performativity in intimate relationships are also magnified. Between physical existence, nature body, and memory.Perhaps in the next era, everything can be uploaded and downloaded, turned into a combination of number 0 and 1, reality become a memory. What should we do to fill and repair the lack of emotion, loneliness and ‘cold intimacies’? Will we ever realize who we are?

Through creating dramatic scenes and characters, I try to connect the illusory stage with ordinary life, add narrative and philosophical plays, as to awaken the thinking about the meaning of ‘self’. My work mostly use the contrast between joyful scenes and strong emotional theme; digitally simulated world and it’s fake richness (the attempted beauty of the artificial nature). With immersive installation, interactive website and moving images, I hope my work can blurring the distinction between audience and author.

By imagining the lalaland of future generations, to reflecting our own with historical perspective. Combine digital creation with physical body. Here is the theme that runs through my work: neoliberal policies for nature in meta era.


Memo Akten , Deep Meditations:

Scott Eaton, Contemplating Mass Unemployment II:

Bill Viola:


Rest of images from Rui Tian’s work:


[1] Macionis, John J., and Linda M. Gerber. 2010. Sociology (7th Canadian ed.). Pearson Canada Inc. p. 11.

[2]Smith, Greg (2006). Erving Goffman ([Online-Ausg.] ed.). Hoboken: Routledge. pp. 33, 34. ISBN 978-0-203-00234-6.

[3]Ritzer, George. 2008. Sociological Theory. McGraw-Hill Higher Education. p. 372.

[4]Lecture about Alone Together (MP3) London School of Economics, 2 June 2011

[5]Sherry Turkle on Being Alone Together, Moyers & Company, October 18, 2013

[6]Attridge, Derek (1997). “Reading Joyce”. In Attridge, Derek (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to James Joyce. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–30. ISBN 0521376734OCLC 1148222842.

[7]Hayden, Deborah (2003). Pox: Genius, Madness and the Mysteries of Syphilis. Basic Books. ISBN 0465028810OCLC 472849913

[8]Litz, Walton A. (1964). The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. Oxford University Press. OCLC 1147728131

[9]Benoît Dillet, Robert Porter, Iain Mackenzie (eds.), The Edinburgh Companion to Poststructuralism, Edinburgh University Press, 2013, ch. 23

[10]Jeffries, Stuart (18 August 2020). “Bernard Stiegler obituary”The GuardianISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 9 October 2020.

[11]Levinson, Paul (February 1979). Human Replay: A Theory of the Evolution of Media. #79 18,852. Vol. 40/3. University Microfilms, Int.

[12]Levinson, Paul (October 12, 2003). “Op-Ed: Schwarzenegger and the fame game”. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. pp. C1.

[13]Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt (2015). The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press. p. 152. ISBN 9781400873548.

[14]See Alex Alberro, Conceptual Art and the Politics of Publicity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003).

[15]See Félix Guattari, “Capital as the Integral of Power Formations,” in Soft Subversions (New York: Semiotext(e), 1996), 202.

[16]O’Hagan, Sean (10 February 2002). “It’s simply shocking”The Observer. Retrieved 19 March 2009.

[17]“Beginnings – Journal #59 November 2014 – e-flux” Retrieved 2018-07-22.

[18]Milliard, Coline (December 1, 2013). “13th Istanbul Biennial”. Modern Painters.

[19]Knegt, Peter. “Thinking Outside the Doc Box”, Indiewire, Retrieved 10 August 2014.

[20]Seb Franklin, “Digital Media,” The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory, 21 The English Association (2013) 219-220.

[21]See also Alan Sekula, “Reading an Archive: Photography between Labour and Capital,” in Visual Culture: The Reader, ed. Stuart Hall and Jessica Evans (London/New York: Routledge 1999), 181–192.

About the author

Rei Tian (b. 1999) graduated from Camberwell MA Fine Art: Computational Arts in 2022, and lives and works in London and Beijing.  Rei’s works are based on painting experience, also influenced by dramaturgical theory. By creating immersing and interactive scenes, she try to break the physical distance between the artistic criticism and the social phenomenon. Most of her works are in the form of interactive installations, 3D sculptures/animations, photography, paintings, prints and so on.

Rei is co-founder of the London-based online artist group TADO ART CENTRE, which jointly conducts offline exhibitions with artists from the United States, the United Kingdom and China.

Follow Rei’s work at