Chinatown Soup invites you to meet LENNA, an autonomous, computer-run consciousness created by husband-and-wife team Zhenzhen Qi and Yang Wang. Their work immerses humans in tech-space simulations that erase boundaries between the digital and the real. Together with technologist Harry Chiu-Hao Chen, the couple conceived a custom-written software that types code, compiles it, and generates random backgrounds and typography that are printed on A4 papers via Inkjet. Audiences are asked to observe the monitor screen, cursor movement, keypad tapping, and printer processing as behavioral characteristics of a new sentient being. Prints produced throughout the exhibition are available for purchase at prices named by visiting guests.
Qi and Wang’s LENNA joins Stanley Kubrick’s Hal and Spike Jonze’s Samantha in our post-modern questioning of how we coexist with machines, but moves a step further by bringing creators and users into direct dialogue with an IRL AI. “Lenna” is the name given to a standard test image widely used in the field of image processing that derives from a picture of Lena Söderberg, shot by photographer Dwight Hooker and cropped from the November 1972 Playboy centerfold. Since then, the ambiguities of art, design, creativity, and value are increasingly complicated by each generation’s progression towards a virtual singularity that our technologies advance both as creative tools and consumer products. But wherein lies the art? LENNA may be a pangender mute, but its presence is enough to make us consider a multiverse of answers.
About the Artists
YANG WANG is a New York-based multimedia artist, designer, and programmer. Wang’s work includes performance, video, and installations assisted by digital technologies that use surrealistlanguage to capture the antinomy of the fast transforming ideologies of his generation. He holds a BFA of Aesthetic Design from the University of Science and Technology, Beijing, and a Master’s degree of the Interactive Telecommunication Program ( ITP ) from the Tisch School of Arts at New York University.
ZHENZHEN QI is a new media artist and educator. She teaches at the Performing Arts Department of Baruch College and is a doctoral candidate of Columbia University’s Art Education Program. She is interested in new media art as a tool for self-knowledge.
HARRY CHIU-HAO CHEN is a creative technologist based in New York. He has extensive experience building human-centered design projects for Disney Connected & Advanced Technology (DCAT), IDEO, Perch Interactive etc. He designed and implemented the mouse and keyboard virtual input system for LENNA.
The artists would like to thank Michelle Marie Esteva of Chinatown Soup, Joygill Moriah of Happenings Contemporary, Fangyu Yang of Magic Leap, professor Daniel Shiffman of ITP at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and the Open Processing community for their invaluable input and support.