The Pavilion of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Shanghai opened its doors to the public with the exhibition "Mirror of Nature". See below for the translated insights from international media on the exhibition.
The exhibition, organized by Swissnex China in collaboration with the University of Zurich and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai (MoCA), aims to bring a cross-disciplinary scientific and artistic project to China. Curators from both China and Switzerland worked together to present an immersive experience for the domestic audience, extending discussions on biodiversity beyond the exhibition and creating a platform for dialogue among Chinese and Swiss ecologists, wildlife researchers, artists, and curators.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, titled "Mirror of Nature," was curated by Katharina Weikl, who leads the Art x Science Office at the University of Zurich. Collaborating with researchers from the University's Geography and Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies departments, the exhibit uses image data from 21 biodiversity hotspots worldwide, captured by infrared cameras. The carefully edited 20-minute film reproduces close-up observations of wildlife by ecologists, with day-and-night alternating scenes. The film also includes images of various extinct animals and plants, illustrated by invited artists through drawings and animations. These images appear like ghosts between the collected footage, silently reminding viewers of the urgent need to protect biodiversity.
The film also showcases the project's implementation in China, with a camera installation located in the Tianma Mountain Forest Park in Songjiang, Shanghai. With the support of Dr. Li Bicheng from the Shanghai Natural History Museum, the camera recorded the survival status of more than 20 species in the suburbs of Shanghai, contributing to local wildlife research and public awareness.
In addition to the film, the exhibition features an installation titled "Natural Images Massage," created in collaboration between Chinese curator Han Bo and researchers from the University of Zurich's Geography department. This installation offers viewers the experience of a "God's-eye view" while lying on a massage bed, using satellite images to inspire reflections on the impact of human behavior on the environment.
Artworks such as "Wiping Out" by Swiss artist Karoline Schreiber and "Fairy Mound" by Chinese designer Zhu Yunyan focus on endangered and extinct species, presenting these animals to the audience in unique, artistic ways.
The exhibition, named "Mirror of Nature," draws its inspiration from the expression "天地之鉴也，万物之镜也" (The mirror of heaven and earth, the mirror of all things) found in Zhuangzi's "Outer Chapters: The Way of Heaven." Curator Han Bo incorporates the dimension of Eastern philosophy into the exhibition, exploring diverse pathways for effectively conveying scientific research results to the public through artistic media.
The opening day featured discussions by the two curators and Dr. Li Bicheng, offering insights into the collaborative story behind the exhibition and the curatorial philosophy. Swissnex China will also collaborate with the Interdisciplinary Institute for Complexity Research to organize a hiking event at Tianma Mountain Forest Park in Shanghai, bringing together experts from various fields, such as visual arts, urban planning, media, and ecological infrastructure construction, for face-to-face discussions and providing opportunities for future interdisciplinary collaborations.
The exhibition runs until January 15, 2024.
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Art Exhibition Explores the Intersection of Technology, Art, and Biodiversity
On December 15, a groundbreaking immersive exhibition titled "Mirror of Nature: Biodiversity through the Lens of Technology and Art" opened at the Art Pavilion of Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MoCA), located along Nanjing West Road. The exhibition originated from the "Triggered by Motion" project led by the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Utilizing state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques, the project aims to showcase wildlife biodiversity to the public through artistic mediums, sparking discussions and raising awareness about biodiversity.
The exhibition, co-organized by Swissnex China, the University of Zurich, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MoCA), brought together curators from China and Switzerland. The Art Pavilion, resembling a mini-storefront along the bustling Nanjing West Road, allowed passersby to casually encounter art at the street corner, creating a space where pedestrians and visitors could discover a vast world within a small area.
The "Mirror of All Things" exhibition originated from the "Triggered by Motion" project, which employed infrared cameras across 21 locations in 14 countries to capture natural images of wildlife. Through artificial intelligence analysis, the project categorized and deeply analyzed vast image data to help researchers understand the survival status and habitat evolution of local wildlife species. Since 2022, the exhibition has been showcased in cities such as Zurich, Seoul and Bangalore.
This year, Swissnex China and the University of Zurich's Office for Art and Science collaborated to bring the interdisciplinary project to China. Chinese and Swiss curators joined forces to plan the exhibition, presenting a unique perspective from domestic and European artists. The goal was to provide the Chinese audience with an immersive experience and continue discussions on biodiversity beyond the exhibition, fostering a dialogue platform for ecologists, wildlife researchers, artists, and curators from China and Switzerland.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is the work titled "Mirror of Nature," curated by Katharina Weikl, the director of the Art and Science Office at the University of Zurich. The work is based on images captured in 21 biodiversity hotspots across 14 countries, showcasing a 20-minute edited film that reproduces ecologists' close observations of wildlife. The film, set against the backdrop of day and night, also features images of various extinct plants and animals, illustrated by invited artists through drawings and animations. These images appear as ghosts between the collected footage, silently reminding viewers of the urgency to protect biodiversity.
Katharina Weikl explained, "The initial purpose of the image data was for scientific research on the behavior and communication of wildlife. With cameras equipped with motion sensors, it is possible to monitor them without disturbing or influencing their behavior." She emphasized the omnipresent threats of climate change and habitat loss to wildlife and highlighted the surprising poetics revealed in the visual research materials, offering viewers an opportunity to encounter the most elusive species.
The exhibition also showcases the project's implementation in China. With the support of Dr. Li Bicheng from the Shanghai Natural History Museum, one infrared camera installation site is located in the Tianma Mountain Forest Park in Shanghai's Songjiang district. This site recorded the survival status of more than 20 species in the suburban area of Shanghai, contributing to local wildlife research and public education.
Dr. Li Bicheng explained, "Shanghai is actually a highly urbanized place, but there are also many wild animals around us." The data collected from this location, spanning from April 2020 to April 2021, documented everything that happened under the lens throughout the year. The recorded species include common birds in the Shanghai area, such as magpies and shrikes, as well as nationally protected second trophic level animals like raccoon dogs.
In addition to the film, the exhibition features an installation titled "Natural Images Massage," a collaboration between Chinese curator Han Bo and researchers from the University of Zurich's Geography Department. This installation invites viewers to experience the "God's-eye view" of natural evolution while lying on a massage bed, using satellite images to inspire reflection on the impact of human behavior on the ecological environment.
Han Bo stated, "Through this thought-provoking video installation, we have achieved the intersection of environmental awareness and art." The video, compiled entirely from free satellite data, allows viewers to immerse themselves in a captivating journey through time and space. The time-lapse video reveals dynamic changes happening on Earth, including the harsh reality of open-pit mining, the melancholy retreat of glaciers, and the staggering scale of deforestation and urbanization. "This engaging exploration serves as a powerful reminder, urging us to share a common responsibility, cherish and protect the beauty of the Earth, and prompt viewers to contemplate the impact of human behavior on the ecological environment."
The exhibition also features works by Swiss artist Karoline Schreiber, such as the video piece "Wiping Out" and Chinese designer Zhu Yunyan's felt artwork "Fairy Mound". Both works focus on endangered and extinct species, using different artistic approaches to present these animals to the audience, evoking emotions and reflecting on the adorable lives that once inhabited the Earth.
Karoline Schreiber's video piece "Wiping Out" is displayed on a wall facing Nanjing West Road, presenting continuous playback to the bustling street. In the video, the artist uses a broom to paint extinct animal species and then erases them, creating a sense of movement in the paintings, conveying the perpetual cycle of life and extinction. Pedestrians passing by frequently stop and contemplate, pondering the deeper meaning of the artwork.
Karoline Schreiber shared her motivation for the artwork, stating, "Many animals are on the brink of extinction, and many species no longer exist. They have been eradicated by humans. I am also a human, so, despite not wanting this, I unfortunately bear some responsibility through my actions. As an artist and a painter, I am interested in this silent disappearance."
Chinese designer Zhu Yunyan's felt artwork "Fairy Mound" consists of 16 pieces, each measuring 10 square centimeters, displaying fur patterns of 16 extinct animals. The soft and warm tactile structure serves as a gentle reminder that these creatures were once part of the Earth.
The curator Han Bo expressed, "Although this exhibition is small, it is very interesting and has a lot of tension. It is based on scientific research and the collaboration of scientists globally. After the scientific research produces results, these data are conveyed to the public through AI using artistic media."
The organizers stated that "Mirror of Nature: Biodiversity through the Lens of Technology and Art" is an exciting cross-disciplinary exploration of art and science, aiming to establish a more extensive and meaningful discussion and collaboration between art, science, and society.
The exhibition will run until January 15, 2024.
Edited by: Lu Linhan; Image Editing: Zhang Ying; Proofreading: Zhang Liangliang
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