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Thursday, 16 November 2023

arebyte and Shanghai-based Chronus Art Center (CAC) present the online group exhibition For Data You Are, And To Data You Shall Return, which explores ideas surrounding digital death, renewal and reincarnation in the virtual domain.

Through generative, video, and gamified works, the exhibition challenges the traditional boundaries of the online and offline world, showing their interconnectedness through the mediation of the screen. Visitors contribute their data as they interact with the exhibition, leaving a digital footprint that influences their experience and leaves traces for others. This circular relationship between life and technology encompasses both the physical and spiritual dimensions, albeit with a unique twist - the exhibition itself is decaying.

The title, For Data You Are, And To Data You Shall Return, suggests a subtle shift from the  non-immortality implied in the original theological reference from the Judeo-Christian Book of Genesis which recounts the divine creation of the world. This concept aligns with Chinese Buddhist philosophy's notion of sheng-si-lun-hui, which ties in to karma's role as social currency in the afterlife. By infusing the interface with a uniquely generative backdrop, exposing the concealed layers of codified processes, and alluding to data as the "dust you shall return to," the exhibition embodies the perpetual cycle of existence.

Over time and across various cultures, the cyclical nature of life is inexorably linked with the process of collecting and transferring data. As visitors enter the exhibition, they unwittingly contribute their data, including interaction patterns and browser preferences. This data is ingeniously harnessed within the exhibition to evoke vibrant data visualisations, offering a unique glimpse into the spectral traces of previous visitors. When users exit the site, they leave behind a digital footprint, a subtle yet impactful legacy comprising information about their frequency of visits, location, and IP address. Gradually, additional data accumulates, forming heatmaps and revealing background code, influencing unique experiences in specific works. This turns the website into a virtual commemorative space for past visitors. At the end of their visit, users can download their personalised data pathway as a reminder of their digital interactions. The exhibition not only highlights how data is collected and manipulated without consent but also encourages contemplation on how the digital space can evolve into a sanctuary for renewal, healing, and the rediscovery of forgotten or suppressed narratives.

The works of XU Haomin and Iris Xiaoyu QU, explore the cyclical nature of data and its connection to the increasing fragility of our society and environment. Rebecca Allen's landscape/enter/life harks back to her 1990s AI system Emergence, creating interactive multi-participant virtual worlds. Crosslucid's Dwellers Between the Waters uses AI for nonlinear storytelling, digesting themes of melancholy, climate crisis, violence, displacement, and capitalism. 

Healing and grief simulation through data is seen in the work of Alice Yuan Zhang, Ruini Shi and April Lin. Zhang's Technological Grief Altar offers a space for those mourning the loss of technological entities, moving beyond Western norms and giving voice to unspoken inner dialogues. Similarly, Ruini Shi's FuneralPlay gamifies mourning, immersing visitors in gamified funeral spaces reminiscent of early 2000s web games; while April Lin's film Digital Traces delves into the role of social media and cyberspace in mourning and commemoration, alluding to our perpetual suspension in an endless loading process.

The exhibition also delves into the lifespan of technological objects and their complex relationship with time, decay, and renewal, questioning the cyclical nature of technology's birth and obsolescence driven by commercial pressures. The concept of media persistence and electronic waste is explored through the lens of Zombie Media theory, which emphasises the life and decay cycle of digital entities. This theory suggests that rather than dying, media persist in the form of electronic waste, leaving traces and remnants of disused gadgets and electronics. 

For Data You Are, And To Data You Shall Return is a decaying exhibition, gradually stripped down to its code, symbolising the cycle of existence inherent in all things. While it may one day cease to function, it will linger in the cloud, waiting for an inadvertent click and resurrection.

The project forms part of arebyte’s 2023/24 programme The Body, The Mind, The Soul, which questions the complex nature of humanity in the realm of technological progression. The online exhibition is curated by Rebecca Edwards, arebyte curator, and Milia Xin Bi, director of international programmes of Chronus Art Center. 

Artist ( Description ): 

Rebecca Allen is an internationally recognised artist inspired by the aesthetics of motion, the study of perception and behaviour and the potential of advanced technology. Her pioneering artwork, which spans over four decades, addresses the future of identity, nature, and what it means to be human as technology redefines our sense of reality.


CROSSLUCID is an artist collective founded in 2018 that  engages in highly collaborative cross-disciplinary projects  in co-evolution with technology.   Their work and research converges around the exploration  of the self as a network; intimacy and the potential for  pleasurable actualization through the digital sphere, and  the re-imagination of our alliances with technology seen  as part of a sympoietic biosphere and universal post material consciousness. Through filmmaking, poetic  Artificial Intelligence, multi-layered techniques of collage,  assemblage and experience-led interventions they create  scenarios and build experiential formats that instigate  prototyping and rehearsing potential futures and  progressing metamodern values.  Their work has been exhibited and showcased by iMAL,  Vellum LA, Epoch.Gallery, The Osaka Museum of Fine  Arts, SXSW, FC Carolinum, Expanded Art, Art Encounters  Biennial, Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art, AI Biennial  Germany, NOWNESS, Google Arts & Culture, wrong  biennial, LUX Moving Image, Garage Rotterdam, Art Basel  Miami, The Lobkowicz Palace and ARD Culture amongst  others. Crosslucid’s work has been published in international  books and magazines: ZEIT, Dazed & Confused, CLOT,  SO-FAR, Institute of Network Cultures, Modern Weekly,  Elephant, British Journal of Photography, Slanted, and  Kunstforum International amongst others. Currently, they are working on their first full length sci-fi documentary 'Translucid' and Osmotic AI, a tool for  practitioners for communal healing, both in co-creation  with AI.


April Lin 林森 (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist and independent curator

investigating image-making and world-building as sites for the construction, sustenance, and dissemination of co-existent yet conflicting truths.


Iris QU Xiaoyu is an artist and technologist based in Brooklyn, NY, working at the intersection of software engineering and new media art. Her work has been exhibited at RadialSystem and Silent Green Kulturquartier in Berlin, House of Electronic Arts Basel, and Chronus Art Center in Shanghai.

Ruini Shi is an animation director and crypto researcher based in London. She explores virtual intimacy and creates narratives that interrogate the compatibility between humanity and emerging technologies. Her animation work has received awards including the Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica and recognition at the Athens Digital Arts Festival and has been showcased worldwide, including at Animafest Zagreb, transmediale, M+ Museum, and the Lumen Prize. Her recent project, "FuneralPlay," received an Honorary Mention at Ars Electronica and was nominated for Best Web & Mobile Site at the 2023 Webby Awards. She is currently a PhD candidate, investigating the possibilities presented by the confluence of crypto and animation.


XU Haomin is an artist based in Beijing, he respectively received his B.A. and M.F.A. degrees from Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2017 and 2022. His works have been exhibited in institutions and art museums such as: BY ART MATTERS, Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning, Chronus Art Center, Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, among others.

Alice Yuan Zhang 张元 (she/her) is a first-generation Chinese-American media artist. She investigates interspecies infrastructures through XR, websites, talks, performances, gatherings, writing, and teaching. Alice teaches Solidarity Infrastructures at the School for Poetic Computation. She regularly exhibits work and devises pedagogical experiments across the U.S. and Europe, through institutions including Gray Area, Oyoun, CultureHub, Transmediale, Goethe-Institute, CalArts, Harvard, HFBK, Trust and NAVEL. Her research has been supported by Processing Foundation and 0x Salon, and her writing has been published by The Digital Review, Outland, and Eohippus Labs.

Other Info: 

Meeting the growing demand for immersive experiences and digital content creation, arebyte pioneers new forms of engagement with creative technologies, to critically explore the impact of technology in contemporary society. From digital environments, online exhibitions to live performances, arebyte’s art programme spans VR, AR, motion capture, CGI, AI, blockchain technology. arebyte is committed to further support London’s creatives by providing affordable workspaces to a  vibrant community of 330 artists, makers and designers in East and South London. 


Chronus Art Center (CAC) is China’s first nonprofit art organisation dedicated to the presentation, research / creation and scholarship of media art. CAC with its exhibitions, residency-oriented fellowships, lectures and workshop programs and through its archiving and publishing initiatives, creates a multifaceted and vibrant platform for the discourse, production and dissemination of media art in a global context. CAC is positioned to advance artistic innovation and cultural awareness by critically engaging with media technologies that are transforming and reshaping contemporary experiences.

Venue ( Address ): 

arebyte, Java House, 7 Botanic Square, London City Island E14 0LG

arebyte gallery , London

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