aaajiao: Remnants of an Electronic Past
June 18th through September 11th, 2016
Beichitou 1st Road, Yanta District
“Remnants of an Electronic Past” is the first museum exhibition of Shanghai-based artist aaajiao. Curated by Karen Smith at OCAT in Xi’an, the show features a body of new works commissioned for the show. Opening June 18 and running through September 11th, 2016, “Remnants of an Electronic Past” also marks the first in a series of institutional solo exhibitions of aaajiao and museum group shows where the works will be featured in various forms throughout the year.
Leading new media artist aaajiao (Xu Wenkai) returns to his native 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?
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. Hinting at the paradoxical nature of the new values attributed to technological advance vis-à-vis traditional knowledge, with the 2013 project “BlogArchaeological”, 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’s 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 jewelery. We wanted to see how this data stacked up to the jewelry. The results were obvious: data is really light compared with the jewelry, 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 cell phone, and I don’t 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 judgment, 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.