18 January 2024
Waves of Code
Jiayu Liu’s digital installations
illuminate our perception of nature
by Kate Mothes
Using digital projection-mapping technology, Jiayu Liu visualizes how light and information travels in relation to the physical environment, examining how we interact with the world around us at a time of rapidly-evolving digital interfaces and an increasingly tenuous relationship with the natural world. Fascinated by human perception, artificial intelligence, data streams, and the natural landscape, she constructs elaborate networks through which blips of light travel in undulating patterns and projects enormous compositions onto expansive surfaces, including the side of a mountain in Guilin, China.
The London- and Beijing-based artist is known for creating immersive installations that reflect on the human relationship to digital processes and the earth, creating otherworldly experiences like an AI-generated lake-like surface in The Side Valley (2018) or the rippling effects of mountains in Streaming Stillness (2022), which was displayed in the China Pavilion at The 59th Venice Biennale.
Drawing on a chapter called the “Yu Gong” in the ancient Book of Xia, which describes the first known geographical description of China, Liu’s Streaming Stillness reshapes Chinese topography using AI, casting ever-changing terrain-like patterns onto sculptural peaks. “The creation is grounded in extensive, real data of Chinese topography, where the system synchronously trains the three-dimensional results generated by AI after deep learning on Chinese topography and the two-dimensional outcomes derived from AI’s deep learning on traditional Chinese ink paintings,” reads a statement for the project.
Currently on view at Cheng Ji Art Museum in Shanghai, Waves of Code employs 221 glass LED pieces that link together to form 730 meters of traveling light. A virtual simulation of the art center collects data about the sunlight and elements such as wind speed, force, and direction, and the software calculates a visual system, which is presented on the sculpture in an energetic yet meditative reflection on the infinite scope of light and its effects on our perception of the world around us.
Header image: In the Flow, 2020. Projection onto a mountain Guilin, China. Photo by Jiayie He. Special thanks to the Sugarhouse Hotel
All images © Jiayu Liu