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Known for intervening in the social systems underlying the everyday, Liu Chuang’s practice unravels the hidden mechanisms that construct our global reality, from labor migration and urban infrastructure to mass manufacturing. Through grim humor and poetic language, his early work often took the form of installations with readymades. In recent years, Liu has undertaken long-term field research trips to investigate the deep historical connections within contemporary phenomena and the results are presented through film, installation, photography, and archival materials.
In the three-channel video, Liu weaves various threads together across historical periods and different places in a dazzling visual essay. Contemplating the exchange between energy and information, the story centers on connections between the hydraulic projects and the Bitcoin mines in southwest China. He speculates on ruptures in historical moments, such as the completion of the telegraph network built on top of the foundations of the ancient postal stops during the last years of the Qing Dynasty. This final legacy was able to connect vast regions of the empire, but also accelerated the internal collapse of the dynasty amidst the uproar of many different ethnic groups at the turn of the 20th century. Liu juxtaposes the technology of culture—such as modern recording, photography, and museums—as a means of constructing knowledge systems, with virtual currency technology as a way out of China’s centralized national currency system. But as the drone-facilitated camera scans through the bitcoin mines, surrounded by the vast landscape, and as the voices of the folk singers are devoured by the roar of the machines, a sense of unsettling emerges from the tensions between planetary infrastructure and indigenous traditions, between digital economy and earth’s material memory. Is transformation between the different cosmos possible?