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Beneath the Skin, Between the Machines


Duration: January 15-April 24, 2022
Artists: Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Simon Denny, fabric | ch, Harun Farocki, Geumhyung Jeong, Nicolás Lamas, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lu Yang, Lam Pok Yin, David OReilly, Pakui Hardware, Jon Rafman, Hito Steyerl, Shi Zheng
Curator: Fu Liaoliao
Organizer: HOW Art Museum, Shanghai
Lead Sponsor: APENFT Foundation
Swiss participation is supported by Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council.
(Swiss speakers and performers appearing in the educational events will be updated soon.)

“Man is only man at the surface. Remove the skin, dissect, and immediately you come to machinery.” When Paul Valéry wrote this down, 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 and computerized time and space. In a sense, it is just as what Marx predicted: a conscious connection of machine[1]. Today, machine is no longer confined to any material form; instead, it presents itself in the forms of data, coding and algorithm – virtually everything that is “operable”, “calculable” and “thinkable”. Ever since the idea of cyborg emerges, the man-machine relation 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 human beings 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”. Everything pertinent to our body and behavior can be captured and calculated as data. 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),”[2] and hence is predictable and calculable. Within such a system, differences tend to be obfuscated and erased, but meanwhile due to highly professional complexities embedded in different disciplines/fields, genuine interdisciplinary communication is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

As a result, technologies today are highly centralized, homogenized, sophisticated and commonized. They penetrate deeply into our skin, but beyond knowing, sensing and thinking. On the one hand, the exhibition probes into the reconfiguration of man by technologies through what’s “beneath the skin”; and on the other, encourages people to rethink the position and situation we’re in under this context through what’s “between the machines”. As an art institute located at Shanghai 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 the exhibition, 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 art and its practice in the face of the overwhelming presence of technology and the intricate technological reality?” Departing from these issues, the exhibition presents a selection of recent works of Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Simon Denny, Harun Farocki, Nicolás Lamas, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lu Yang, Lam Pok Yin, David OReilly, Pakui Hardware, Jon Rafman, Hito Steyerl, Shi Zheng and Geumhyung Jeong. In the meantime, it intends to set up a “panel installation”, specially created by fabric | ch for this exhibition, trying to offer a space and occasion for decentralized observation and participation in the above discussions. Conversations and actions are to be activated as well as captured, observed and archived at the same time.

[1] Karl Marx, “Fragment on Machines”, Foundations of a Critique of Political Economy

[2] Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems

Work by fabric | ch

HOW Art Museum has invited Lausanne-based artist group fabric | ch to set up a “panel installation” based on their former project “Public Platform of Future Past” and adapted to the museum space, fostering insightful communication among practitioners from different fields and the audiences.

“Platform of Future-Past” is a temporary environmental device that consists in a twenty meters long walkway, or rather an observation deck, almost archaeological: a platform that overlooks an exhibition space and that, paradoxically, directly links its entrance to its exit. It thus offers the possibility of crossing this space without really entering it and of becoming its observer, as from archaeological observation decks. The platform opens- up contrasting atmospheres and offers affordances or potential uses on the ground.

The peculiarity of the work consists thus in the fact that it generates a dual perception and a potential temporal disruption, which leads to the title of the work, Platform of Future-Past: if the present time of the exhibition space and its visitors is, in fact, the “archeology” to be observed from the platform, and hence a potential “past,” then the present time of the walkway could be understood as a possible “future” viewed from the ground…

“Platform of Future-Past” is equipped in three zones with environmental monitoring devices. The sensors record as much data as possible over time, generated by the continuously changing conditions, presences and uses in the exhibition space. The data is then stored on Platform Future-Past’s servers and replayed in a loop on its computers. It is a “recorded moment”, “frozen” on the data servers, that could potentially replay itself forever or is waiting for someone to reactivate it. A “data center” on the deck, with its set of interfaces and visualizations screens, lets the visitors-observers follow the ongoing process of recording.

The work could be seen as an architectural proposal built on the idea of massive data production from our environment. Every second, our world produces massive amounts of data, stored “forever” in remote data centers, like old gas bubbles trapped in millennial ice.

As such, the project is attempting to introduce doubt about its true nature: would it be possible, in fact, that what is observed from the platform is already a present recorded from the past? A phantom situation? A present regenerated from the data recorded during a scientific experiment that was left abandoned? Or perhaps replayed by the machine itself ? Could it already, in fact, be running on a loop for years?

(Banner image: fabric | ch, Platform of Future-Past, 2022, Scaffolding, projection screens, sensors, data storage, data flows, plywood panels, textile partitions, Dimensions variable.)


Organizers: HOW Art Museum, Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council
Date: March 19, 2022
Time : 15:00 -16:30 (CST) / 8:00 – 9:30 (CET)
Host: Iris Long
Guests: Zian Chen, Geocinema (Solveig Qu Suess, Asia Bazdyrieva), Marc R. Dusseiller
Language: Chinese, English (with Chinese translation)
Event on Zoom(500 audience limit)
Link: https://zoom.us/j/92512967837

“Beneath the Skin, Between the Machines” Series Panel

Investigating Sensoriums: Beyond Life/Machine Dichotomy

About the Panel

This round of discussion derived from the participating speakers’ responses toward to the title of the exhibition, Beneath the Skin, Between The Machines. What lies beneath the skin of the earth and between the machines may well be signals among sensors. Geocinema’s study on the One Belt One Road initiative and exploration of a “planetary” notion of cinema relate directly to the above concern. Marc R. Dusseiller as a transdisciplinary scholar draws our attention to the possible pathways that skin/machines may generate for understanding to go beyond life/machine dichotomy. Zian Chen’s recent research attempts to bring the mediatized explorations back to our real living conditions. He will resort to real news events as cases to show why these mediatized explorations are embodied experience.

HOW Art Museum in collaboration with Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, invite Zian Chen (writer and curator), Geocinema (art collective) and Marc R. Dusseiller (transdisciplinary scholar and artist) to have a panel discussion, probing into the topic of Beneath the Skin, Between The Machines from the perspectives of their own practice and experience. The panel will be moderated by curator and writer Iris Long.

* Due to pandemic restrictions, the panel will take place online. Video recording of the panel will be played on Platform of Future-Past (2022), an environmental installation conceived by fabric | ch, studio for architecture, interaction and research, for the exhibition.

About the Host

Iris Long

Iris Long is a writer and independent curator with a research focus on how art responses to ubiquitous computing, big data and AI. Her recent work has been focused on the psycho-geography of technologies and China’s techno-infrastructures.

She was shortlisted by the first M21-IAAC Award (International Awards for Art Criticism). Her translation work, Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media, received nomination from AAC Art China awards in 2016. In 2018, she was the recipient of Hyundai Blue Prize for curators. She has curated exhibitions around art and technology, such as “Lying Sophia and Mocking Alexa”(sophialexa.com) and “Blue Cables in Venetian Watercourse”(PSA Emerging Curator’s Program).  She is also the art jury of ISEA 2019, and art jury of SIGGRAPH ASIA 2020. In 2021, she initialized “Port”, a long-term research and curatorial project on the  infrastructures of science and technology in China.

Iris’s research has been presented in “Art and Artificial Intelligence”(Open Conference, ZKM), “Art Machines: International Symposium on Computational Media Art (ISCMA)”(Hong Kong) and so on.

About the Guests

Zian Chen

Zian Chen is a Shanghai-based writer and curator and co-editor of Heichi Magazine. He has recently edited Arrow Factory: The Last Five Years (2020), and Olympic Reveries (2021). His ongoing serial writing, Instant Retrospectives, was published by Heichi Magazine and LEAP.


Geocinema (Solveig Qu Suess, Asia Bazdyrieva) is a collective that explores the possibilities of a “planetary” notion of cinema. Their practice has been concerned with the understanding and sensing of the earth while being on the ground, enmeshed within vastly distributed processes of image and meaning making. Their work has been shown internationally, including the solo show Making of Earths (Kunsthall Trondheim, 2020), and group shows such as Critical Zones (ZKM Karlsruhe2020-21), and Re-thinking Collectivity (Guangzhou Image Triennale 2021). In 2020 they were nominated for the Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research, and for the Golden Key prize of Kassel Dokfest.

Marc R. Dusseiller

Dr. Marc R. Dusseiller is a transdisciplinary scholar, lecturer for micro- and nanotechnology, cultural facilitator and artist. He performs DIY (do-it-yourself) workshops in lo-fi electronics and synths, hardware hacking for citizen science and DIY microscopy. He also loves coconuts. He was co-organizing Dock18, Room for Mediacultures, diy* festival (Zürich, Switzerland), KIBLIX 2011 (Maribor, Slovenia), workshops for artists, schools and children as the former president (2008-12) of the Swiss Mechatronic Art Society, SGMK and co-founder of the new Hackerspace collective Bitwäscherei (2020) in Zürich. He has worked as guest faculty and mentor at various schools, Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IN), UCSB (USA) and in Switzerland, FHNW, HEAD, ETHZ. In collaboration with Kapelica Gallery, he has started the BioTehna Lab in Ljubljana (2012 – 2013), an open platform for interdisciplinary and artistic research on life sciences. Currently, he is developing means to perform bio- and nanotechnology research and dissemination, Hackteria | Open Source Biological Art, in a DIY / DIWO fashion in kitchens, ateliers and in the Majority World. He was the co-organizer of the different editions of HackteriaLab 2010 – 2020 Zürich, Romainmotier, Bangalore, Yogyakarta and Klöntal, Okinawa and collaborated on the organisation of the BioFabbing Convergence, 2017, in Geneva and the Gathering for Open Science Hardware, GOSH! 2016, Geneva & 2018, in Shenzhen.



Organizers: HOW Art Museum, Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, Conversazione (CVSZ)
Date: April 16, 2022
Time : 14:00-15:30(CST)/ 7:00 – 8:30 (CET)
Host: Cai Yixuan
Guests:Chloé Delarue, fabric | ch, Pedro Wirz, Chun Shao
Language: Chinese, English (with Chinese translation)
Event on Zoom(500 audience limit)
Link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85822263121

“Beneath the Skin, Between the Machines” Series Panel

“Breeding” Space: Material, Organ and Environments 


In the hotbed to breed new forms of life, the notion of “life” and digital intimacy are under constant construction and development. Unfolding the histories of nature and civilization, what kind of interactions could be perceived from the materials, which we constantly used in past narratives, and the environment? How have these interactive relationships, perceivable yet invisible, been evolving and entwined?

This Saturday from 14:00 to 15:30, HOW Art Museum in collaboration with Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council and Conversazione, research-based art and design collective based in China, invite Chloé Delarue, whose ongoing body of work centers on the notion of TAFAA – Towards A Fully Automated Appearance; fabric | ch, studio for architecture and research who present an environmental installation at HOW Art Museum where discussions and events could take place; Pedro Wirz whose practice seeks to merge the supernatural with scientific realities; and Shao Chun whose new media artistic practice is dedicated to combing traditional handicrafts and electronic programming to have a panel discussion. The event intends to probe into the topics covered in Beneath the Skin, Between The Machines and participants will share with audience their insights to materials and media from the perspectives of their own practices. The panel will be moderated by curator Cai Yixuan.

About the Host

Cai Yixuan

Curator, Designer, Creator. Graduated from Rhode Island School of Design Architecture Department, and now work as curator and design researcher for MAD Architects. Founder of research-based art and design organization, Conversazione(CVSZ), which has host around hundreds of exhibitions, workshops and forums in Beijing and New York. Her interdisciplinary research is dedicated to spatial politics, media technology and ecological design. She has curated exhibition “Vibrating Clouds” (Design Society, 2021) and “Qiwu: Natural Footprints in Technological Vicissitude” (OCAT, 2020). Her practice ranges from architectural design, gamified theater to experimental films. She has won Bronze plate in MEIHODO International Youth Visual Media Festival (2019), Curator Award in Design Curating Plan by Design Society (2021), and Design Trust Seed Grant (2022).

About the Guests

Chloé Delarue

Chloé Delarue constitutes what she calls environments under the influence of the TAFAA perception system, acronym for Toward A Fully Automated Appearance.

TAFAA is a conceptual organ that she builds as a cognitive outgrowth allowing her access to the reasoning that feeds her work. It is under this name, indexed by a subtitle, that each occurrence of her work has been presented since 2015.

From a reflection on the power to act of digital technologies on our bodies, our emotions, our perceptions transformed into exchange values – as rare and original data – she creates works reflecting this disturbing sensation of absorption, integrality, saturation in the image of the different ways in which the technique no longer interacts externally with the living but rather in an inseparable and intimate way acting on our capacities for attention, understanding and affection.

fabric | ch

fabric | ch combining experimentation, exhibition and production, fabric | ch formulates new architectural proposals and produces singular livable environments that bind localized and distributed landscapes, algorithmic behaviors, atmospheres and technologies.

Since the foundation of the studio, the architects and scientists of fabric | ch have investigated the field of contemporary space in its interaction with technologies. From network-based environments that blend physical and digital properties, to algorithmic recombinations of locations, temporalities and dimensions based on the objective sensing of their environmental data, it is the nature of our relationship to the environment and to contemporary space that is rephrased.

The work of fabric | ch therefore deals with issues related to the mediation of our relationship to place and distance, to automated climatic, informational and energy exchanges, post-mobility and globalization, embedded in a perspective of creolization, spatial interbreeding and sustainability.

Pedro Wirz

Pedro Wirz works in sculpture, mixed media and installation. To better understand the mysteries of the world, Wirz draws on traditional folklore of the Paraíba Valley region in Brazil, where he grew up. He often discusses his influences from the region’s massively changing ecologies, demographics, mythologies, and superstitions. Raised by an agronomist and a biologist who conducted research on the influence of polluted water on DNA alteration within the region, the artist attributes this upbringing in which, in his own words, “traverses these territories and seeks to merge the supernatural with scientific realities”. Similarly, his work embodies the Gaia principle; proposing that organisms collectively interact, adapt and perpetually evolve, depending on one another. The cocoons and eggs, born from this antagonistic cycle, present themselves as ‘interbeings’, rising from the Earth’s essence to fully embrace the unpredicted. The process of collaboration is also an important aspect of his process, where he draws on networks of communities and various types of popular and folkloric knowledge to inspire and influence his work.

Chun Shao

Chun Shao is a multimedia artist whose research interests encompass the field of multimedia installation, e-textiles, speculative design, and data-driven art. She studied Fine Arts at the Academy of Art in Hangzhou in China and graduated from the School of Art Institute of Chicago in the Performance Department. In 2019, she received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Washington at the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media. Her most recent research focuses on interactive textiles, exploring the poetics between touch and emotion. From 2014 to 2018, Shao taught at the University of Washington in Seattle, along with numerous exhibitions, awards, and residencies.


Artist: Jessica Huber, in collaboration with the performers Géraldine Chollet & Robert Steijn, video by Michelle Ettlin
Date: May 31, 2022, 21:00-June 4, 24:00, 2022
Organizer: HOW Art Museum
Performance Support: Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council
Technical Support: Centre for Experimental Film (CEF)
Online Screening: Link

“Beneath the Skin, Between the Machines” Online Performance

holding it together*: myself and the other by Jessica Huber

*Due to COVID-related prevention measures, this projection of the performance will take place online via CEF.

Performance projection will be played when the museum can reopen on Platform of Future-Past (2022), an environmental installation conceived by fabric | ch, studio for architecture, interaction and research, for the exhibition. 

HOW Art Museum (Shanghai) will also be temporarily closed during this period. 

About the artist

Jessica Huber works as an artist in the field of the performing arts and is also together with Karin Arnold a founding member of mercimax, a performance collective based in Zürich. After finishing her dance studies in London, she danced for various dance companies and most of her early pieces have been dance pieces too. Though her recent work and the forms and formats she chooses, have become more diverse during the past few years. Recently she has been collaborating with the British artist and activist James Leadbitter aka the vacuum cleaner on the hope & fear project.

Jessica works with curiosity and has a special interest in the texture of relationships and in how we function as individuals and as communities in society. She regularly gives workshops to professionals and non-professionals (different social groups) and teaches as a guest tutor at the Hyperwerk in Basel (Institut for studies for Post Industrial Design – or as they call it “the place where we think about how we want to live together in the future”) and is one of two artists who are part of the newly founded dramaturgy pool of Tanzhaus Zürich. She deeply enjoys diversity and is fascinated by the many possible aesthetics of exchange and sharing.

About the performance

Holding it together*: myself and the other is first of all an encounter between the two performers Géraldine Chollet and Robert Steijn – and the underlying questions of what binds us together and how we create intimacy, playfulness and trust by sharing rituals and treatments with each other.

Two very different and differently old bodies nestle together, doing silent rituals of gentle intimacy. They explain, apparently quite privately, how they met at a party and worked with each other – one with, one without a plan – and what this resulted in. The Dutch performer with a penchant for Shamanism and the dancer from Lausanne offer each other a song, a dance and neither shy away from deep feelings… 

Holding it together” is a series of collaborations, performances and researches Jessica Huber created in collaboration with different artists. The first idea for ‘Holding it together’ sparked during her studio residency in Berlin in 2013. This led to a collection of ideas, approaches to movement and formats under the thematic umbrella: ‘Holding it together’. Four thematic chapters or acts stem from this period: – The Thing; The Mass; Myself; Myself & the other(s).

“Holding it together” is not only a reference to the series’ overarching theme of cooperation and the question of how we perceive and create our world, but also an announcement of the working method: At the core of this series were reflections about the aesthetics and praxis of exchange and sharing, about rituals, as well as the longing for space and time for encounter.

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