aaajiao | 2020 URL is LOVE - A Digital Retrospective

DATE: 2020.8.1
ARTIST: aaajiao

Tabula Rasa Gallery is pleased to present artist aaajiao’s online retrospective “2020 URL is LOVE - A Digital Retrospective” from August 1st, 2020.

This exhibition marks the first solo exhibition collaboration between Tabula Rasa Gallery and aaajiao, as well as the second online exhibition launched by the gallery after its inaugural online exhibition Tabula Rasa Vista in May. The exhibition will present aaajiao’s most representative works that employed Internet as medium from 2008 to 2020. It can be seen as a history of the use of technology by a Chinese millennial artist/netizen. It is also the first-ever online retrospective in aaajiao’s artistic career.

We’ve seen an increase in online exhibition due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this exhibition is a response to this phenomenon. As Sammi Liu, the Executive Director of Tabula Rasa Gallery, stated, “in current online exhibitions, physical works are migrated online, the works featured in our exhibition were virtual works in the first place, and this exhibition will allow them to be viewed in their original state, which is meant to be experienced on phone or laptop.”

According to aaajiao, Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan once stated that “medium is the message”, and we are trying to add some new elements to this opinion, that virtual artworks as a medium can be seen as data streaming. Streaming is quite important in this case, as these URLs break the monopoly of platform economy, and emphasize the nature of the Internet, and these works flowing around the internet have more destructive power.”

The title of the exhibition “URL is LOVE” took inspiration from Tim Berners-Lee's utopian vision when he invented the World Wide Web in 1989. The web address (URL) behind each hyperlink made communication beyond physical space possible, and to a certain extent it opens the door to freedom, which symbolizes love. In 2020, the world is full of simulacra and twisted truth, and truth becomes indistinguishable from lies. It is reminiscent of the question raised by the Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom in his 2003 essay: “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” When we encounter these problems, aaajiao’s previous works are particularly farsighted.

In the past decade, aaajiao has been focusing on the evolution of identity in the Internet space and the possibilities it would generate. In the beginning, our identity is “User”, operating in a program set by the “Administrator” and we were passively isolated from the screen. As we are getting too dependent upon technology and cyberspace, which functions as a storage place of our memory, digital media blends with our cognitive world, our identity becomes more like an “Internet Bot”. In addition to these identities constrained by algorithm, perhaps we can try to experience the cyber world from the perspective of a “Player”. Only by wandering through worldviews set by different algorithms can we break through our perceptions on the objective reality, use the new perceptions we obtain to understand the human situation, and ultimately have an insight beyond language.

In the initial stage of creation, the works featured in the exhibition were created on aaajiao’s computer in the form of application, and then presented in different exhibitions using media such as video installations and videos as carriers. This time, they will be resurrected on the Internet through URL. Media content will continue to be upgraded and outdated, but URLs will never die. These works will be spread and experienced by “Players” around the world, flowing in an infinite virtual world. As the artist said: “Perhaps when everything can be quantified as a data stream, URL is the greatest right we can hold. URL is love, and freedom.”