[Lads] Shi Zheng: A Marcher at the Junction of "Non-existence" and "Hyper-reality"

Executive Editor | Pocono Zhao Yu

Translator | Hu Ye


 Planet Chronicle 2016

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and Last, the Beginning and the End.”

This is Shi Zheng's narration of his work Planet Chronicle (2016). In addition to having the identity of a creator, more precisely, he is a space surveyor: he anchors a space, an infinitely small and infinitely large space. This is a video in a long and narrow triangular space, like the tail of a comet that comes from deep underground. The video applies the meaning of the 24 Greek letters into a narrative structure, observing the movement of an unknown planet from a non-human perspective.


Planet Chronicle 2016

Shi Zheng's earlier exploration of space originated from his early creation of the digital series Xu Shi Mo Qu (2012). Similarly, Offset is another re-creation of audio-visual video based on program-generated images. As Shi Zheng mentioned, when he used computer program to create art, computer software and even the entire operating system were an interesting world that is between virtuality and reality. He is not only the creator of the virtual environment but also the photographer and that wanderer who travels alone in between.。

02 2014_Offset_展览现场_01
02 2014_Offset_展览现场_02

Offset 2014 Audio-Visual Installation

"Non-existence" and "hyper-reality" may be equivalent to the symbols "0" and "1" in the eyes of mathematician Gottfried Leibniz. He argued for the truth of God’s existence in the mysterious and beautiful binary system. He believes that, through a binary system, the unity of the highest existence will reveal all essence. After wandering around the edge of the virtual scene, Shi Zheng gradually moved towards the junction of "non-existence" and "hyper-reality". In 2019, he created a four-channel video installation Umwelt. The main visual presentation of the work was sampled in Dongping National Forest Park on Chongming Island. He used digital technology to reconstruct the natural landscape and presented this "hyper-real" landscape through the translation from "nature" to “technology."

04 Frosty_Morning_2019_展览现场_01

Frosty Morning 2019 Muti-channel Video Installation 10’00”

Frosty Morning, a multi-channel video installation, was also completed in 2019 and generated by a neural network, which is a computational model that mimics the biological brain and nervous system. After studying machine learning and neural network, Shi Zheng collected the covers of The New York Times in the past six years and trained the neural network to “read." Through iterative learning on a large number of data sets, the trained model began to generate the unreadable and fuzzy images that are close to reality, becoming a "newspaper generator" that continuously produces contents and predicts the future. Besides, these constantly changing chaotic images in the video are a mapping of the current world’s rationality and chaos.

05 模仿者在跳舞_2020_展览现场_02
05 模仿者在跳舞_2020_展览现场_03

The Imitator Will Dance 2020

In 2020, Shi Zheng created Free Fall, in which a white mask made by the computer is ceaselessly falling, and the vertically connected screens present the work in a top-down view. Another image of the work is composed of the visual recognition system, which is based on the monitoring and recognition of the image content. The system defines whether the falling mask in the picture matches the characteristics of the human face according to the facial recognition algorithm. In the blue display window, the values constantly changing within the range of "0-1" represent the approximate value of the "human" and "real human" distinguished by the machine. In the current world that is observed, researched, and analyzed by machines and algorithms, vision machines are everywhere, and visual images have gradually become computational products, affecting humans natural vision and the way human understands the world. The natural vision has to be mixed and controlled by the computer vision, while algorithms programmatically convert the complex facial information into data and oversimplify the diverse human faces. Therefore, the falling "mask" in this work is not only a physical manifestation of facial processing and digital filters but also a microcosm of "humans" in the torrent of data.

Audio Interview

We know that you have joined many collectives, such as OSC, People Bit, and RMBit. Can you talk about your collaborative creation and independent creation?


We can feel a kind of timeliness in your creation. From your perspective, do you prefer works that resonate with the present? And, how does 2020 affect your creation?


As you use the neural network to create works, from the current perspective and in the longer term, how do you think about the algorithm and the neural network?

Full version of audio, please log in wechat applet

Related Person

Shi Zheng

Project UNArt 2020 #3: Infrastructural Plays 2020.12.22-2021.01.31
Wechat Weibo Douban Wechat?v=20170411