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Beneath the Skin, Between the Machines
Group Exhibition How Art Museum, Shanghai, No.1, Lane 2277 Zuchongzhi Road
Date: 01.15, 2022 - 04.24, 2022

Artists: Lynn Hershman Leeson 林恩·赫舍曼·利森 | 

“Man is only man at the surface. Remove the skin, dissect, and immediately you come to machinery.” When Paul Valéry wrote this down a century ago, he might not foresee that human beings – a biological organism – would indeed be incorporated into machinery at such a profound level in a highly informationized time and space. In a sense, it is just as what Marx predicted: a conscious connection of machine[ Karl Marx, “Fragment on Machines”, Foundations of a Critique of Political Economy]. Today, machine exists not only as a material form but also in the forms of data, algorithm and coding – virtually everything that is operable, calculable and thinkable. Ever since the idea of cyborg emerges, the relation between man and machine has always been intertwined with our imagination, vision and fear of the past, present and future.

In a sense, machine represents a projection of human beings. We transfer ideas of slavery and freedom to other beings, namely a machine that could replace human beings as technical entities or tools. Opposite (and similar, in a sense,) to the “embodiment” of machine, organic beings such as human beings are hurrying to move towards “disembodiment”. In the meantime, the social system that human beings have created never stops absorbing new technologies. During the process of trial and error, the difference and fortuity accompanying the “new” are taken in and internalized by the system. “Every accident, every impulse, every error is productive (of the social system),”[ Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems] and hence is predictable and calculable. Within such a system, differences are obfuscated and erased, but meanwhile all the different disciplines/fields are becoming increasingly isolated, and interdisciplinary communication, almost impossible.

As a result, technologies today are highly centralized and highly sophisticated. They penetrate deeply into our skin, but beyond knowing, sensing and thinking. Under such a context, as an art institute located at Shanhgai Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone, one of the most important hi-tech parks in China, HOW Art Museum intends to carve out an open rather than enclosed field through Beneath the Skin, Between the Machines, inviting the public to immerse themselves and ponder upon the questions such as “How people touch machines?”, “What the machines think of us?” and “Where to position ourselves in the relation with the machines?” Departing from these issues, the exhibition presents the works of Forensic Architecture, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Simon Denny, Harun Farocki, Pakui Hardware, Geumhyung Jeong, Nicolás Lamas, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lu Yang, Lam Pok Yin, David OReilly, Jon Rafman, Hito Steyerl and Shi Zheng. In the meantime, it intends to set up a “panel installation”, created by Fabric | ch, fostering in-depth and insightful communication to build connections among practitioners from different fields and the audiences, inspiring more dialogues and reflection on the topic of difference.

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