• Date
      2016.06.18 - 2016.09.11
    • Artist
      aaajiao (Xu Wenkai)
    • Curator
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Remnants of an Electronic Past

aaajiao (Xu Wenkai) special commission

Many of aaajiao’s works reflect a new thinking around the phenomenon of the Internet, acknowledging all its inherent controversies and contradictions, with specific projects focusing on data processing, the blogsphere and China’s Great Fire Wall. Leading new media artist aaajiao (Xu Wenkai) returns to his hometown Xi’an this summer with a tribute to the significance embodied by the forest of steles at Beilin Museum, which offer unique examples of early texts; prototypes for fonts and a linguistic lexicon that is still referred to today. To the project, aaajiao brings his own inimical approach to contemporary technology and forms of technological media to muse, in his distinct expressive manner, what happens to outmoded versions of software as technology moves forward, becoming ever more sophisticated? Or, where does software go to die?
Hinting at the paradoxical nature of the new values attributed to technological advance vis-à-vis traditional knowledge, with the 2013 project The Weight of Data, aaajiao wanted to know if one could use a standard measurement of value, that of gold, to measure the value of data. “I found a writer on a website and he has been writing his blog for ten years. I collected all of his data, saved it onto a SD card, and put it on the scale. On the other side of the scale I placed some jewellery. We wanted to see how these data stacked up to the jewellery. The results were obvious that data are really light compared with the jewellery. But what I tried to express was that, right now, these blogs we create are worthless according to ancient views and measurements.”
Other projects serve to re-imagine the capacity and direction of technology in an attempt to picture the future of human living, a category into which, aaajiao’s project for OCAT Xi’an fits well. “Remnants of an Electronic Past” references the contemporary appetite for consumption that humans have acquired; evident in the constant upgrade of everything that can be evolved. How urgent the task seems to keep up with all the latest technological developments… As aaajiao has said; “Right now most of us are used to relying on the maps in our mobile phones, and I don’t know how people lived without this technology in the old days. It can already be seen that people in the future cannot live without technology, and they can’t be separated from it.”
There is no way to measure this phenomenon in terms of a value judgement, meaning if it is good or bad. For the time being, it simply “is”, engendering a seam of futility and melancholy that reverberates in this elegantly imagined project. “Remnants of an Electronic Past” has particular resonance in Xi’an and the region which is home to some of China’s most advanced technological innovation and thinking.

About the Artist

aaajiao is the alias of Xu Wenkai, born in Xi’an in 1984 – coinciding with George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece which, as he likes to say, explains the alignment between vivid Sci-tech-driven imagination and poetic sophistry in his work. Xu Wenkai studied computer science before moving to Shanghai.


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