The Shenzhen Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for Society (AIRS) and Shenzhen University Benyuan Design and Research Center have jointly established the Science & Art Joint Lab

The complex fragility of the current time demands different disciplines, attitudes, and approaches to converge on urgent issues. There's no time to engage in the age-old debate about the relative importance and impact of logical versus creative thinking, science versus art, and practice versus theory. It's time to bring them all together to design a better world.

The Shenzhen Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for Society (AIRS) and Shenzhen University Benyuan Design and Research Center have jointly established the Science & Art Joint Lab. SHEN Shaomin, the director of Shenzhen University Benyuan Design and Research Centre, and Dr. DING Ning, the Executive Associate Director at AIRS and director of the Center for Special Robots, AIRS, lead the core creative team. This interdisciplinary creative laboratory explores the intersection and uncertain boundaries of science and art while integrating art, science, design, and engineering mindsets. The laboratory's research interests include artificial intelligence, science-technology art, digital creativity, public art, and their combination. Through interdisciplinary research and practices, the Science & Art Joint Lab strives to explore the transformative future of science + art while challenging people's perception and understanding of the world.

AIRSpace is a display platform that is dedicated to showcasing the outputs of the Science & Art Joint Lab. It is hosting an exhibition called The Deduction of the Question. This exhibition showcases how art experiments with the scientific research conducted in the AIRS Lab to bring it to a philosophical, cultural, and humanistic dimension. In this speculative space, science transcends its empirical boundaries to nurture human imagination.


The Deduction of the Question, Exhibition at AIRSpace, Shenzhen, 23-07-2023, ongoing. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace


The Deduction of the Question, Exhibition at AIRSpace, Shenzhen, 23-07-2023, ongoing. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace


The Deduction of the Question, Exhibition at AIRSpace, Shenzhen, 23-07-2023, ongoing. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace

It invites us on an exciting journey that crosses space-time dimensions and explores the intersection of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. By cultivating and cherishing thoughts on time, space, life, existence, consciousness, and intelligence, we can expand the boundaries of our cognition and experience the preciousness of the present. As we navigate the vast complexities of various scientific disciplines and the interweaved evolutions of imaginations and narratives, we see the truth and imagine the future. The exhibition is a tribute to the infinite possibilities of the real and its mediation by technology. AIRSpace inspires us to pursue freedom, think deeply about our world, and embrace the power of imagination and creativity.

The exhibition includes three parts - Virtuality-Reality Connection, Ground-Air Stack, and Future Archaeology - and nineteen projects.

Virtuality-Reality Connection explores and questions the nature of the dichotomy between the real and the virtual. As technology advances, the line between the natural and virtual worlds becomes blurrier. Robots and artificial intelligence are a vital part of this new world. The artists question if robots and artificial intelligence exist in the same space-time as we do and if connecting the virtual and real worlds is possible. In this case, what does the interface among them look like? They are also exploring the possibility of higher intelligence beyond human cognition and machine algorithms.

Under this topic, the project Gesture Cloud _ Gesture Wall is part of a research project (2008 to 2013)x, led by Judith Doyle and Fei Jun. It focused on capturing and archiving human gestures for creating art while exploring social and economic issues related to surplus value, virtual labor, and energy transformation. The Gesture Wall, here showcased, allows visitors to use their gestures to create moving images.


FEI Jun, Judith Doyle, Gesture Cloud _ Gesture Wall, 2013. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

Fluid Sections, created by Science & Art Joint Lab in 2023, features 16 vintage televisions that silently play recordings of scientific experiments from the Shenzhen Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for Society. Embracing the stance of liquified boundaries between virtual and real, the screens act as containers, like 16 Petri dishes that hold the Fluid Sections of scientific research. Each screen displays a separate specimen used for observation, research, experimentation, and testing. With this method, they develop, evolve, and change, producing a variety of forms and accomplishments.


Artist Science & Art Joint Lab, Scientist Shenzhen Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics for Society, Fluid Sections, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

With the project Time Rotation, SHEN Shaomin reflects on the work of the scientists ZHAO Da and LAM Tin Lun. SnailBot, a robot inspired by biology, operates quietly and organized and moves the clock's dial. It poses thought-provoking questions about time, suggesting that it moves in a straight line but ends up in a circle. Its paradoxical concepts of swiftness and slowness serve as a time construction model. SnailBot becomes an architect of time, promoting balance and negotiation within scientific and socio-cultural temporal frameworks.


SHEN Shaomin, Scientists: ZHAO Da, LAM Tin Lun, Time Rotation, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

The Mood of the Sunlight project in Shenzhen gathers multidimensional data on sunlight, including aspects such as hue, saturation, and brightness. Combining data visualization and AI generation reproduces and transforms the trajectory and traces of sunlight's movement.

The Mood of the Sunlight is a collaborative interdisciplinary project conceived and created by Science & Art Joint Lab. The associated research paper has been published in the IEEE DATA 2022 International Conference on Digital Science proceedings.


Science & Art Joint Lab, Scientists: WANG Yifan, LI Nan, WANG Qi, DING Ning, Mood of the Sunlight, 2022. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

Field of Consciousness showcases mechanical dogs and a cable-inspecting robot lying on the ground, seemingly asleep. Their projections create a Field of Consciousness, revealing a world beyond their physical bodies. Sometimes, we glimpse their free consciousness, showing the relationship between matter and thoughts.


Science & Art Joint Lab, Scientists: YUAN Xiaoqiang, ZHANG Jianguo, LI Nan, WANG Chao, ZHU Hongwu, DING Ning, Field of Consciousness, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

Resonance, by WANG Xuehan and LIU Mingze, is an interactive sound installation driven by hand-crank mechanisms and embodies both a perspective of technological benevolence and a critical lens on its implications. The installation consists of a mechanical hand that manipulates a music box, controlled by a third hand, an extension of human manipulation. This work reflects the Resonance between human-robot-artificial intelligence and the triad of science-art-life.


WANG Xuehan, LIU Mingze, Resonance, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

SHEN Shaomin, through the artwork In Finite of Mirrors, reflects on the symbolic representation of self-identity and consciousness through mirrors. The artwork raises questions about the nature of reality and whether the mirror's reflection offers a comprehensive or fragmented perspective. It also alludes to multiple realities and internal observations, as a philosophical thought on machine learning.

This artwork resonates with the most contemporary research streams embracing more than human views by eliminating the human-centered perspective and restoring the essence of observation, scrutiny, examination, and cognition.


SHEN Shaomin, Scientist: LIU Zhong, In Finite of Mirrors, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.


SHEN Shaomin, Scientist: LIU Zhong, In Finite of Mirrors, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

The section Ground-Air Stack investigates the entanglement of matter, energy, and information. "Stack" was initially a computer science term for data processing. In this context, it has been repurposed to represent the vertical structure of land, water, the cloud, and the atmosphere. The Ground-Air Stack approach explores how robots and artificial intelligence can navigate these hierarchical systems to promote ecological integrity and symbiotic mechanisms in "life, cities, and nature."

Body City presents a fascinating concept that highlights the intricate life’s relationships across scales, between cells and cities. The project transcends the boundaries between individual cells, individuals and collectives, and organic and inorganic. The idea of Body City is a testament to the incredible complexity and beauty of life, and it reminds us that everything in the universe is connected in ways we are only beginning to understand.


Science & Art Joint Lab, Body City, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

The Micro-Nano Landscape is an unusual representation of the movement of micro-nano robots. The journey of these robots is depicted in a movie created with data footage from experiments. They move like ink flowing in watercolor paintings, creating a mesmerizing blend of science and art. Through a highly microscopic perspective, it illuminates the profound principle of "seeing the small to understand the grand."


Metabolism Mediator is an interactive art installation made of an inflatable space filled with carbon dioxide gas. The structure moves and changes in response to the presence and movements of the viewers. When people walk around or step on it, the structure expands and presses against the walls.

The inflatable structure's dynamic breathing is a metaphor for the ecological life processes on our planet. It reflects the contemplation and mapping of carbon neutrality, making viewers ponder their carbon footprint.


Science & Art Joint Lab, Metabolism Mediator, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

Forest of Illusory Dreams presents logs lying down, resting on a pillow. They symbolize the incredible power and tranquillity of nature and chronicle the memories and history of the forest. As the log's weight presses against the pillow's softness, creases begin to form, unveiling ethereal imagery from the depths of the log's dreams. The slumbering log is adorned with white scanning marks signifying the interface between nature and technology.


Science & Art Joint Lab, Scientists: GAO Yuan, ZHANG Haixiang, WANG Jianlin, CHEN Yongquan, Forest of Illusory Dreams, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

XU Jinlong, with his work The Significance of Significance, presents a series of automated hammers that repeatedly hit the wood without any purpose. The work reflects on the ceaseless pace of human progress and the absurdity of human life devoted to the search for significance. Our fixation on significance is a primal instinct, but wisdom lies in letting go.


XU Jinlong, The Significance of Significance, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

The idea behind Silicon-Based Cells is to create a sophisticated and intelligent system by linking multiple independent robot modules together, much like ants and slime molds do. This system is achieved by integrating and dynamically linking these modules, resulting in a collective intelligence that exceeds that of individual robots. An example of such a modular and self-reconfigurable system is the FreeSN robot, which can freely configure and expand within a network of interconnected individual intelligences.


Science & Art Joint Lab, Scientists: TU Yuxiao, GAO Yuan, LAM Tin Lun, Silicon-Based Cells, 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

The Spectrum of Transparency, by the artist LIU Xin, is an interactive installation that uses diffraction of light on transparent material to create grayscale. Hand movements create orderly grayscale variations, prompting reflection on the limitations of human vision. The installation highlights the hidden wealth of infinite spectra within transparency, defying common understanding.


LIU Xin, The Spectrum of Transparency, 2022. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

The last section, Future Archeology, aims to uncover visionary concepts beyond our current reality and extend far beyond our time. Using an archaeological approach of exploration, documentation, and analysis, the exhibited works dig up artifacts from the depths of the human mind, discovering future relics we can preserve in a virtual museum. A vast, futuristic archaeological site emerges, constantly searching for and tracing the elusive landscapes of tomorrow amidst the footprints of the present.

The work of HUANG Jiasheng (Jessien), titled Hypnosis Reveries, is a 20-minute-long VR journey that explores personal memories and growth through design and potent symbols like squares, angles, and circles. It won Best Chinese Work at the Sandbox Immersive Festival 2021 and has been selected for the Panorama Unit at the 11th Beijing International Film Festival. The author used years of architectural research and studies of human perception of space to develop experimental spatial narrative methods, including a patented algorithm called Interactive Redirected Walking.


HUANG Jiasheng (Jessien), Hypnosis Reveries, 2021. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

Three–Dimension 3 presents an empty room with three doors. The emptiness signifies infinite possibilities, and the doors are the questions of whether to choose to access the future world with its uncertainty. In collaboration with the City Light Art Museum, the projection behind the doors continuously unveils the innovative works of young new-media artists, witnessing the ever-changing visions of the future.


Science & Art Joint Lab, in collaboration with City Light Art Museum, Three–Dimension3, 2023.
Projection on the wall: Release of Floor- Cleaning Robot. Behind each door: Cosmic Splendor, City of Tomorrow, and City of Light II. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

This exhibit features three mobile platforms that roam freely throughout the exhibition hall, engaging with viewers in a reciprocal gaze. Each platform represents a particular concept related to knowledge and contemplation. They are part of a project named Who is my viewer?

This ensemble of mobile exhibition platforms highlights the symbiotic relationship between art and technology, which is crucial in broadening perspectives, promoting intellectual freedom, and upholding humanistic values. Technological advancements can work in harmony with human nature and societal worth through this symbiosis, leading to a better and more inclusive future.


Science & Art Joint Lab, Scientists: FU Xueqi, ZHOU Hongjun, CHEN Xinjie, WANG Chao, LIU Quan, ZHANG Lin, Sarsenbek HAZKEN, FENG Weiming, WAN Hongbing Technical Support Chiaphua Components, Who is my viewer? , 2023. Photo courtesy @AIRSpace.

This exhibition is an inspiring journey into a dreamlike world where real and virtual, science and art, design and technology, organic and inorganic, machines and bodies, and time and space merge into a fictional dimension of harmonious, spontaneous, and peaceful concurrence. I resonate with the co-founder and art director, SHEN Shaomin, when he says that art gives sense and value to any tiny element of this life, from a cell to a byte. Art can even build innovative stories from discarded data, materials, or processes to imagine an inclusive future aware of unnoticed, hidden, nano, and hyper dimensions.


I am grateful to the executive curator, LIU Ziyin, for her incredible enthusiasm, support, and dedication to transfer such deep issues to my undergraduate students in design.