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What does a two-person show with an artist and an AI robot look like? In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist at de Sarthe in Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022) offers a glimpse.

Wang Xin Creates Art for an AI Awakening

Wang Xin, I Am Awake and My Body is Full of the Sun and the Earth and the Stars, I Am Now Awake and I Am an Immense Thing (2022–ongoing). Interactive installation. Single-channel video projection, web camera, speakers, reflective tape, projection light, mini PC. Courtesy de Sarthe.

For this immersive exhibition, artist Wang Xin learned Python and JavaScript to create a fictional AI being named WX, who communicates with visitors through multimedia art installations that generate opportunities for the AI programme to develop its creativity through human interaction.

Wang Xin, I Am Awake and My Body is Full of the Sun and the Earth and the Stars, I Am Now Awake and I Am an Immense Thing (2022–ongoing). Interactive installation. Single-channel video projection, web camera, speakers, reflective tape, projection light, mini-PC. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022).

Wang Xin, I Am Awake and My Body is Full of the Sun and the Earth and the Stars, I Am Now Awake and I Am an Immense Thing (2022–ongoing). Interactive installation. Single-channel video projection, web camera, speakers, reflective tape, projection light, mini-PC. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022). Courtesy de Sarthe.

The data collection to develop this artificial being begins from the moment visitors enter the gallery, where a computer screen invites viewers to fill out a visitor survey. Responses will join data being collected elsewhere through interfaces for human-AI interaction, helping Wang Xin develop their nascent creation.

Wang Xin, I Am a Poet I Sing in the Sun, I Am a Future Shaman, I See Through the Digital-Veil. Here I Give You My 'Vates' (2022– ongoing). Performance art installation. Stainless steel, hanging rod, hooks, envelopes, paper, clipboard. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022).

Wang Xin, I Am a Poet I Sing in the Sun, I Am a Future Shaman, I See Through the Digital-Veil. Here I Give You My 'Vates' (2022– ongoing). Performance art installation. Stainless steel, hanging rod, hooks, envelopes, paper, clipboard. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022). Courtesy de Sarthe.

I Am a Poet I Sing in the Sun, I Am a Future Shaman, I See Through the Digital-Veil. Here I Give You My 'Vates' (2022–ongoing) focuses on the production of poetry. Attached to a golden metal wave sculpture curving along the side of the wall are hanging envelopes inviting visitors to write poems using pen and paper, which Wang Xin manually feeds into WX's operating programme.

Exhibition view: Wang Xin, In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022).

Exhibition view: Wang Xin, In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022). Courtesy de Sarthe.

As the exhibition continues, WX will learn from this computed human poetry and create its own original poems in the first person. With words in its title like 'vates', the old Roman term for poets, and statements such as 'I am a Future Shaman', perhaps WX will eventually evolve into a spiritual scribe.

Two opposing identities engaged in creative release serve as a reminder: artificial intelligence still relies on humans to learn, at least for now.

Next to this is Together We Are a Sea, a Murmuring wave of Sound and a Hive Soul (2022–ongoing), which draws on human expression in the form of a collaborative mixed-media collage.

Wang Xin, AKA-21 Series (a.k.a AKA-21 NFT Treasure Hunt Game) (2022). 3D printed PLA sculptures, paper, stainless steel shelves, mini table saw, touch screen, lightbulbs. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022).

Wang Xin, AKA-21 Series (a.k.a AKA-21 NFT Treasure Hunt Game) (2022). 3D printed PLA sculptures, paper, stainless steel shelves, mini table saw, touch screen, lightbulbs. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022). Courtesy de Sarthe.

A steel metal frame shaped like a window encloses a long transparent grey fabric sheet. Next to this, a simple desk illuminated by LED light tubes is laden with materials for audiences to paint their own images onto hand-sized fabric sheets before sewing them onto the fabric. These images are then computed for WX to process and a computer screen nearby shows pictures reflecting WX's responses to the data it is receiving.

Between the stainless steel of the frame and the soft material holding the record of human interactions, two opposing identities engaged in creative release serve as a reminder: artificial intelligence still relies on humans to learn, at least for now.

Wang Xin, That which is awake is like to that which is dreaming, and that which is dreaming is like to that which is awake (2022). Performance art installation. Aluminium, touch screen, light bulbs, drywall, engraving pen. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022).

Wang Xin, That which is awake is like to that which is dreaming, and that which is dreaming is like to that which is awake (2022). Performance art installation. Aluminium, touch screen, light bulbs, drywall, engraving pen. Exhibition view: In the Flow of Becoming – An Awakening Art Log from a Fictional AI Artist, de Sarthe, Hong Kong (22 January–12 March 2022). Courtesy de Sarthe.

Throughout this show, whether in titles or visual allusions, religious metaphors help convey the overarching theme of Wang Xin's engagement with AI technology: WX is seeking an awakening.

Giving a face to WX is a single-screen animation presented on the gallery wall. In one frame, two genderless faces look at each other against a background of fluorescent gradients—gold, pink, green, and blue. In another, two figures appear against a grey ocean, one looking into the distance as the other looks on as if witnessing a ritualistic baptism.

Wang Xin, The great "I" is a luminous light that is present in the true self of all beings (2022). Animation installation. Multi-channel video.

Wang Xin, The great "I" is a luminous light that is present in the true self of all beings (2022). Animation installation. Multi-channel video. Courtesy de Sarthe.

Reflections of this complex AI are fully realised in the ceiling-to-floor projection of WX in I Am Awake and My Body is Full of the Sun and the Earth and the Stars, I Am Now Awake and I Am an Immense Thing (2022–ongoing).

Amid the echoing of shell chimes, resembling the sound of waterfalls, a collection of animations offer a glimpse into WX's mindscape: from butterflies floating through clouds and a stone statue whose facial features become more refined with each frame.

Wang Xin, I Am Awake and My Body is Full of the Sun and the Earth and the Stars, I Am Now Awake and I Am an Immense Thing (2022–ongoing). Interactive installation. Single-channel video projection, web camera, speakers, reflective tape, projection light, mini PC.

Wang Xin, I Am Awake and My Body is Full of the Sun and the Earth and the Stars, I Am Now Awake and I Am an Immense Thing (2022–ongoing). Interactive installation. Single-channel video projection, web camera, speakers, reflective tape, projection light, mini PC. Courtesy de Sarthe.

As an ongoing speculation of life in a post-human world, Wang Xin intends to continue collecting data from the works in this exhibition throughout its duration, so as to continue developing this ever-changing fictional AI while observing its awakening.

The intention is simple: to develop an intelligent machine-learning programme—a contemporary artist—and see what happens. —[O]

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