Zheng Da · Sensing Machine
Location:Fine Arts Literature Art Center
Curator:Feng Boyi

"Zheng Da · Sensing Machine" has been launched at the Fine Arts Literature Art Center on December 17, 2022, the exhibition is one of the parallel exhibition projects of the 2022 Wuhan Biennale, curated by Feng Boyi, is a refresh of Zheng Da's solo exhibition launched in September, featuring the latest digital installations created by artist Zheng Da, such as "The Shape of Time I.", "Sensing Games", "Polygon", "Organic Element II" and so on.

Exhibition Site



AI machine art 70×70×70cm

Organic Element I
AI data installation

Organic Element II
AI data installation

Data kinetic installation

Skin of the Machine
AI kinetic installation

Data Pool
Inter-media Installation 200×60×35cm

Form of time I
Visual interactive installation


Curator’ note

Feng Boyi

Never before has the "future" been so close to us, and once implausible predictions such as bio-engineering, genetic code, artificial intelligence, etc., have begun to come true so quickly. Social systems in high gear push and shove us, sometimes with one step, to a future that was once out of reach. The artist's sensitivity to and thinking about the degree of contemporary civilization leads to the continuous experiment and exploration in the concept, method and media of artistic creation.

Art always evolves with the renewal of media. In the era of net generation culture, it even depends more on the expression and transmission function of media. New media art has become a way of transcending previous visual experience, profoundly influencing human perception system everywhere.

Zheng Da's creation focuses on the cross-media art of art and science, blending and blurring the boundary of art in the middle zone between reality and virtual world. He provides a new tactile visual experience for our cognition of everything in the world and the interaction of embodied audio-visual senses in addition to the continuous transcendence and imagination through hyperlink transformation and integration of machines, algorithms and programming.

Perhaps, the world is not what you see, the vision beyond you do not see.

Feng Boyi (ask) Zheng Da (Answer)
The title of your solo exhibition is "Sub-sensing". Then what is "Chief-sensing"?
My understanding of "sub-sensing" is based on the concept of "copy", so I can first talk about the current "copy", just as I also want to express the concept of "intelligent machine is like a copy of human" in the 2018 Hubei Art Museum solo exhibition "Uploader -- Copy of Posthuman", including human vision and various external manifestations.
"Where do copies come from?" Psychologist Sigmund Freud said the root of copies was primary narcissism, the story of Narcissus in Greek mythology who fell in love with his own reflection in water. At a time when machines know us even better than we do ourselves, life may be a piece of code, and machines may become limbs. A computer can simulate any kind of machine. The modern reliance on copies is reflected in various social networking platforms. Through WeChat Moments, Weibo, Douyin or online games, people expand their original content, but produce all kinds of copies of themselves. We are able to reconstruct ourselves through our digital tracks (data), also known as "copies". The relationship between the original and the copy points to the question of "who is looking at whom". Instead, in computable electronic media, the original needs to be understood or disassembled through the copy -- that is, through the copy to generate self-observation, value judgments, etc. I want to use the machine to respond to the relationship between people and machine. In the exhibition works, the machine is the equipment in normal operation. The images, animations, mechanical dynamics and data in the exhibition are all integrated into the equipment similar to installation art. The functional equipment becomes the works of art. A lot of what the audience feels comes from the machine running, and the running drive comes from the data generated by AI and people. Such "original" subject data and "copy" object data blend together, forming continuity and discontinuity, so that the machine "sub-perception" becomes the copy of the body "chief perception".

You created the "low Tech Lab", which is supposed to be for "high tech". What is the relationship and difference between high and low?
Low Tech is not only a statement of artistic practice, but also a reality-oriented humor, and a way to understand the "landscape" of interdisciplinary creation. True "high technology" is usually exploratory technology in outer space, military and biological fields. Artists are faced with civil technology, which comes from the spirit of makers. The rational tools they use are controllable, DIY and modular. For low-tech art LABS, we also have the ability to develop many software control systems and hardware by ourselves. "Laboratory" provides me with a creation platform. I take the research process as the creation method. I turn the process of artistic creation in the laboratory into results and output them into documents and works. We live in a visual world constructed with high resolution, like 4K high-definition television displays, and in this modern disruptive technology, the screen can display more than 8 million pixels, and on the street, you can see a giant brand logo displayed by 2 million luminous leds. The number of sensors and computers on Earth already far exceeds the number of humans, to nearly 1.5 trillion. It sounds very technical in a sense. Stigler sees such technical tools as prosthetics, artificial organs moulded into new synthetic objects.

How have you changed the way humans understand the world by using machines as an extension of human perception? "The dynamic, sound and interactive behavior of "data" has been my main creation language. The biggest difference between machine art with built-in data and ready-made devices and dynamic art is man-machine collaboration in works. Artists do not only operate software and make hardware shapes, but let machines really participate in works and become part of the creation system. They take themselves as meta-artists and give machines an artist function to participate in creation together with machines. That's what I'm most interested in, and that's what I've been trying to build. Data and algorithms are already the infrastructure of the human world, but it is usually invisible to the visual, the presentation is immaterial. When such technological "black boxes" become invisible and inaccessible, it becomes more challenging to focus on the physicality behind them. So a lot of my work is about visual and material representations of data and algorithms.

"Embodiment" is one aspect of your creation. How do you use the means of new media art to expand our past cognition?"Embodied" is an important feature of the aesthetic cognition of new media art. Computable media can easily capture the audience's various data, including physiological data, posture and behavior data, and input them into the works, forming an interactive mechanism. Such feedback system highlights the process and real-time performance of artistic works, and situational participation of the body enhances the perception of synaesthesia and experience. This aspect has been documented in many interdisciplinary studies, and it is also analyzed in detail in my forthcoming translation, The Aesthetics of Interactive Art. However, if this "embodiment" is not handled properly, it will be on the wrong side, resulting in too little aesthetic distance and a Playful reinforcement. Many new media works of art will give the audience strong sensory stimulation. The problem of too much information, on the contrary, the "introspection" in art aesthetics is not enough, so many friends would discuss with me, how such art can produce the meaning made by the viewer? Or is it about something? Creation based on time media and interactive system is the basic grammar of my creation, for which I have exercised restraint. Before that, I did spend many years learning and practicing the basic skills of artistic creation in new media. For a period of time, I was depressed and felt that I had returned to the level of visual expression no matter what new media and coding tools I used. Therefore, in the "After Machine" series of works around 2014, a lot of subtraction was made in the creation, deliberately reducing the visual language of new media senses and returning to the construction of the system. Since 2014, the key words of creation have been constantly updated, from imitation behavior to machine reproduction; To imitation of nature, machine participation, and body computing, machine intelligence; I try to weaken the perspective of human as the subject, and explore how machines view people, how machines imitate people, how machines perceive, and the "autonomy" and "materiality" of the works are the focus of my current discussion.

How do you express the perception of natural ecology in the language of machines?
I was curious at first about how intelligent devices see the world, like how they hunt and kill people in drone warfare, very accurately reading people's vital signs, and then machines, to me, also have physical signs. Such works as "Physiological Response", "Function of Predator" and "The Language of the Machine" all express the sense of life of the machine. The language of the machine is random and order, control and loss of control. Machines operate with more "autonomy". These works have the naked sense of machines, circuits and electronic components are not encapsulated, just like body painting, showing the structural aesthetics of machinery itself. Then in the update of subsequent works, also imported a lot of data from nature, such as weather, wind sense, water flow, clouds, etc., at this time, the operation of the machine instead of a sense of randomness, also lost order, this process is not a simple visualization simulation, but a mixed algorithm into the driving force of the work running, this sense of strength can not be generated by the program.

How does your new media art construct an immersive interactive experience between the viewer, the machine, and the environment?
Sublime interaction replaces playful interaction, and interaction within the work system replaces human-computer interaction.

In the rapid development of the combination of art and technology, new media provides artists with a variety of options for innovation. How do you think the existing problem or dilemma?
In recent years, scientific and technological art or trans-media art has developed rapidly in the level of university education, which is a good thing. More knowledge systems have been added from the perspective of aesthetic education. But from the creation and research, there's still a lot of confusion. All art works have the potential to be misinterpreted. The reason we know so much about many classic art works is that there are so many researchers and popular books to help the audience get into the relevant knowledge field. New media art is a relatively new type, and the research work on this aspect is relatively few. For the general audience, it is difficult to understand this type of work and the logic and story behind it with the help of other professional information. Art is not a product, nor is it something that everyone can use, so it does not exist for everyone to understand at once. It will allow more people to enter the relevant knowledge field, to explore, to learn, which is also one of the important functions of art. Art galleries, art centers and research institutes are not ready in this field. Many excellent new media art works from a global perspective reflect the local media culture and science and technology ecology with attitude. There are many meaningful topics in China, but there is still a shortage of works in this field in China, and the concept and judgment are not clear. Interdisciplinary collaboration is more about the production business level, the output channel is single, and the construction of knowledge spectrum is missing in the cooperation mechanism. Fortunately, more and more young people are involved in the research and creation of this field.