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Portrait of Eyebeam alum artist 2022, Zhenzhen Qi and Yang Wang. Courtesy of the artists.

Date and place of birth
Founded in 2017
Current location
Brooklyn, New York
Year(s) of residency and/or fellowship
2022, VH Award Resident

How do you characterize the media you work in?

Other Spring (2023) is our first video work. Prior to that, we have always worked with software and game engines, and we are trained as software-based simulation artists. Because game engines have been in our wheelhouse for some time, we are familiar with worldbuilding concepts and tend to think spatially, which factored into Other Spring

How does your practice engage with technology?

The battle we’ve been fighting for our entire career is to find an intuitive language to convey the complex logic of technology to a more general audience. We started to zoom in on technologies that are ubiquitous in their effect but withdrawn in their presence, with a focus on how contemporary software embedded in our networked society has promoted the normalization and internalization of concepts of competition and efficiency while causing a strange illusion of agency, a phenomenon we think of as “looping.” At the same time, we want to try to turn technology around to see if there is a different way of thinking about and implementing it.

You were a finalist for the 5th VH Award. Can you tell me about the work that garnered you this honor?

Other Spring is inspired by the ancient Chinese fable Peach Blossom Spring. It’s a docufiction inspired by Alexander Galloway’s theory of heretic computing, and it makes a case for computational haze, drawing on our research paper on the topic. We essentially created two fictionalized worlds: one is an all-encompassing, algorithm-driven network called UNO, or Universal Network Observer, and it’s totally frictionless. And then there’s a world that, from a design philosophy perspective, is the complete opposite: nothing is entirely visible, and everyone’s data, before being tracked and aggregated, is fused with noise, so they can connect to UNO and take advantage of its cloud computing capabilities without quite relinquishing their privacy and interiority. 

Other Spring. Short film (color, sound), 12 minutes 34 seconds. Supported by the 5th VH Award, Hyundai ArtLab. © 2023 zzyw (Yang Wang and Zhenzhen Qi). Courtesy of the artists.

What was your focus during your time at Eyebeam? Was there a culminating project?

We were doing theoretical research on the role that algorithmic software plays in networked society today. We hadn’t yet started production on Other Spring because we were really deep in concept development. We wanted to logically and algorithmically use code to create haze that has the effect of using randomized data to protect and obfuscate the data that’s coming out of the daily lives of the villagers. That may have added some extra complications to the production schedule.

How has dialogue or collaboration with Eyebeam artists and alumni factored into your work?

There were a lot of references to fictional pieces with strong theoretical foundations being brought up by guest artists and Eyebeam faculty, like Kemi Sijuwade-Ukadike. Another mentor in the program recommended Byung-Chul Han’s book The Burnout Society, which talks about this sense of competition without closure in contemporary society, and some of his language came into our brainstorming. There was also a connection between our project and the work of another artist in our cohort, Zike He, who was also critically examining the effects of contemporary technological infrastructure but took a totally different, personal approach to the topic. 

How do you think about the role of the artist in society?

Art has become this all-encompassing space that welcomes work that doesn’t fit into other industries, and we use that space as a cross-disciplinary, experimental ground. Since the 1980s, Silicon Valley has been exporting, along with technological products, this design philosophy known as “Don’t Make Me Think.” This tendency not to think and not to ask questions has infiltrated so much of our world, and it turns out art is one field where we can afford to ask questions that everyone else takes for granted without being labeled crazy.

Eyebeam models a new approach to artist-led creation for the public good; we are a non-profit that provides significant professional support and money to exceptional artists for the realization of important ideas that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Nobody else is doing this.

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