Unknown Future: Interview with new media artist Zheng Da
Updated 19:43, 16-Mar-2021
By Yang Yan

New media art is making waves in China's modern art circles. We talked to one of China's top new media artists, Zheng Da, to hear about his profession and the inspiration for his art.

Zheng Da's area is trans-media art. His works focus on interactive installation in digital gaming, and new media art.

Low-tech Lab is a team he set up ten years ago. It blends different academic subjects. On their team, they have both hardware and software engineers, and vocal artists. They also coordinate with scientists in other areas, depending on different art programs.

For many people, gaming is just for entertainment. In his research area, Zheng Da considered this as a mass media platform. Like the internet, newspapers or movies and TV, it's no different. It's more like a platform of information exchange and social communication. His initial stage of creation started with interactive games.

Artwork "Function of Predator Machine." /Today Art Museum

Artwork "Function of Predator Machine." /Today Art Museum

"My artistic pieces have a sci-fi quality, with a sense of the future. Artificial Intelligence, as I see today, is far from Strong AI. If there is such a possibility, AI would not be an extension of human beings; it should have its own language and logic," said Zheng Da. 

"When the whole city was on lockdown in Wuhan, I thought a lot about these works, their themes, and their formations. The name of this exhibition is 'Unknown Unknowns,' reflecting the situation or mood at the time: losing control or uncontrollable," he said, adding "although most of my works are machines, what I want to express is the tender feelings of humans."

"The Unfettered Language of Machines" is a large Interactive Light Installation. The most interesting part is that it is closely connected with human touch. When people touch the installation, it receives the heartbeat and transmits it visually. When people stand in front of such a giant machine, except for feeling a sense of danger, you can digitally connect with each other. Zheng Da views this as a reflection of true life nowadays.

"For the long term, I will keep an interdisciplinary state, this is my interest and my advantage," he said.


A solo exhibit named "Unknown Unknowns" by Zheng Da recently opened in Beijing's Today Art Museum, and utilizes sound, performance and new media to push the boundaries of art and innovation. 

His installations focus on linking viewers and machines through unsophisticated technologies.

"'Unknown Unknowns,' the theme of the exhibition, predicts what we will be like in the future, and also includes a rethinking of environment and social development," said Zheng Da.

"On the other hand, this kind of exhibition, featuring artistic interaction and shaping of machine awareness, reflects another type of art form. In the future, what the art will be like? The cooperation across fields and the cooperation among artists, scientists and engineers are all interesting to expect," said Yan Yan, vice director of Today Art Museum.

The exhibition runs through April 5. 

(Cover: The Unfettered Language of Machines. /Today Art Museum)

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