UCCA Beijing

"Immaterial / Re-material: A Brief History of Computing Art" Symposium


Location:  UCCA Auditorium
Language:  English with Chinese translation

From September 26, 2020 to January 17, 2021, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art presents “Immaterial / Re-material: A Brief History of Computing Art,” a wide-ranging overview of the evolution of computing art from the 1960s to the present, exploring topics that span from machine-learning aesthetics to digital objecthood and technological discontent. The exhibition defines its area of focus not simply as digital art in general, but art-making that actively engages with the algorithms and generative logics that undergird the field of computing. Curator Jerome Neutres, in collaboration with UCCA curator Ara Qiu, brings together works by 29 artists and duos, from early pioneers of computing art to leading digital practitioners, as well as emerging Chinese artists. The show’s title pays tribute to Jean-François Lyotard’s groundbreaking 1985 exhibition “Les Immatériaux,” which conceived of a new mode of materiality that echoed advances in telecommunications technology. By exploring the broad possibilities of computing art and the philosophies underpinning it, “Immaterial/Re-material” aims to write a new chapter in the history of this medium, approaching it as not simply a new media form, but as an entire artistic language.

UCCA Center for Contemporary Art is honored to invite exhibition curators Jerome Neutres and Ara Qiu, and participating artists Elias Crespin, Fei Yining, Miguel Chevalier, and Quayola together for an online discussion (with China-based guests in attendance at the UCCA auditorium) on September 26, opening up a wide range of topics related to the exhibition and the artists’ personal practices. The three topics of this roundtable discussion are as follows: Renaming “Digital Arts in an Immaterial World”; “Artificial Imagination: Art Creation in the Era of Algorithms”; and “Nature as a Main Thematic of an Organic Form of Art.” Each artist will present their work for 15 minutes, to be followed by 30 minutes of panel discussion. UCCA Director Philip Tinari serves as moderator.



Renaming Digital Arts in an Immaterial World

Speakers: Jerome Neutres, Ara Qiu



Artificial Imagination: Art Creation in the Era of Algorithms

Elias Crespin: A Metaphor of the Universe

Fei Yining: Maybe Tomorrow: Unfathomable Landscapes



Nature as a Main Thematic of an Organic Form of Art

Miguel Chevalier: Generative Art as an Artificial Nature

Quayola: Gazing Machines



Roundtable Discussion



Audience Questions


Jerome Neutres (Curator)

Jerome Neutres, PhD (University of Paris), writer, and curator, Jerome Neutres has curated some forty art exhibitions since 1996, including the acclaimed show“Artists & Robots”at the Astana International Expo and Grand Palais, Paris. Former director at the Réunion des Musées Nationaux- Grand Palais, Paris and president of the Musée du Luxembourg Paris, today he is an independent curator and art producer, and the chief curator of the Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation (Geneva).


Ara Qiu (Curator, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art)

Ara Qiu graduated from Communication University of China, School of Television and Journalism in 2012, and received a MA in Arts Politics from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts in 2015. She currently lives and works in Shanghai. In New York, Qiu held internships at MoMA and Asia Society, and in 2018 was a curatorial resident at Residency Unlimited. Before joining UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in 2019, she was previously a curator at Long Museum and Qiao Space in Shanghai. While at Long Museum, she served as project manager for “James Turrell: Immersive Light” (2017). As an emerging curator herself, Qiu’s practice is closely engaged with the work of emerging artists and actively supports their development. In 2018, she co-curated Li Shuang’s exhibition “If Only the Cloud Knows” at SLEEPCENTER (New York), and in 2020 curated the group show “Resistance of the Sleepers” at UCCA Dune, Beidaihe. Her writing has been featured in publications including The Art Newspaper (Chinese edition), Art World, and Numéro Art China, among others.

Philip Tinari (Director, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art)

Since coming to UCCA in 2011, Philip Tinari has led its transformation from a founder-owned private museum into an accredited museum across multiple locations, a public foundation, and a family of art-driven enterprises. During his tenure, UCCA has mounted more than seventy exhibitions and thousands of public programs, bringing artistic voices established and emerging, Chinese and international, to an audience of over a million visitors each year. From 2009 to 2012 he founded and edited LEAP, the first internationally distributed, bilingual magazine of contemporary art in China. He is a contributing editor of Artforum, and launched the magazine’s Chinese edition in 2008. Having written extensively on contemporary art in China, he was co-curator of the 2017 exhibition Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Based in Beijing since 2001 and fluent in Mandarin, Tinari is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and a fellow of the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on US-China Relations. He holds degrees from Duke and Harvard, and is currently completing a doctorate at Oxford.

Elias Crespin (Artist)

Elias Crespin (b. 1965, Caracas, lives and works in Paris) uses custom-software-controlled motors to animate modular geometric structures. His installations consist of single pieces or arrangements of metal, hand-formed geometric shapes, which are suspended in midair by nearly invisible nylon threads. Through computer programming, they constantly shift and mutate, producing highly nuanced choreographic effects. His work questions form, space, movement, and time, structuring dynamics of color, materials and textures, or light and shadow.

Growing up in Venezuela, Crespin was originally trained as a computer engineer. It is no coincidence that his work integrates two personal universes, science and art: his parents were both mathematicians, and his grandparents were artists. It was only later in his career, in 2002, that he began his first artwork, having worked for fifteen years in software programming. He completed it after two years of research.

Since 2004, his sculptures have been shown in many international institutions, including the XIII Bienal de Cuenca; Busan Biennale; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Grand Palais, Paris; Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, Paris; Boghossian Foundation, Brussels; Maison Particulière, Brussels; and La Verrière, Brussels. His works are in major collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; El Museo del Barrio, New York; and MALBA, Buenos Aires.

Fei Yining (Artist)

Fei Yining (b. 1990, Harbin) received an MFA in design and technology from the Parsons School of Design, The New School. Today she lives and works in Shanghai. Fei’s artworks span 3D animation, digital video, and virtual reality. By building multimedia narratives, she explores ambiguous emotions such as uncertainty, anxiety, and desire against the backdrop of contemporary life.

Miguel Chevalier (Artist)

Miguel Chevalier’s (b. 1959, Mexico City, lives and works in Paris) wide-ranging artistic vision has been shaped by a broad education and extensive travel. In 1980, he graduated from the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris, and went on to study at the Ecole nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. After graduating, Chevalier was awarded the Lavoisier Scholarship and went on to study at the Pratt Institute, New York. In 1994, he became an artist-in-residence at the Villa Kujoyama, Kyoto, Japan.

Since 1978, Chevalier has focused exclusively on computers as a means of artistic expression. He quickly secured a spot on the international scene as a pioneer of virtual and digital art. Chevalier continues to be a trailblazer and has proven himself to be one of the most significant artists in the contemporary landscape, with an experimental and multidisciplinary oeuvre. Taking references from the history of art and reformulating them using computer tools, his works investigate and explore recurrent themes such as nature and artifice, flows and networks, virtual cities and ornate designs. His images are a rich source of insights into ourselves and our relationship with the world. In the 1980s, Chevalier began tackling the question of the hybrid, generative, and interactive image. He has created countless projects variously incorporating generative and interactive virtual reality installations projected on a large scale or shown on LED or LCD screens, sculptures created with 3D printers or with laser cutting, holographic imagery, and other forms and media.

Quayola (Artist)

Quayola (b. 1982, Rome, lives and works in London) employs technology as lens to explore the tensions and equilibriums between seemingly opposing forces: the real and artificial, figurative and abstract, old and new. Constructing immersive installations, often at historically significant architectural sites, he engages with and reimagines canonical imagery through contemporary technology. Hellenistic sculpture, Old Master painting, and Baroque architecture are some of the historical aesthetics that serve as a point of departure for Quayola's abstract compositions. His varied practice, derived from custom computer software, also includes audiovisual performance, video, sculpture, and works on paper.

Quayola’s work have been shown widely around the world in ten solo exhibitions and more than a hundred group exhibitions, public installations, and performances. He has held exhibitions at the Park Avenue Armory, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona; Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, USA; Pushkin Museum, Moscow; Ars Electronica Center, Linz; Elektra Festival, Montreal; Japan Media Art Festival, Tokyo; and Sundance Film Festival, Park City, USA. Music collaborators include Vanessa Wagner, Ensemble Intercontemporain, National Orchestra of Bordeaux, London Contemporary Orchestra, Plaid, Jamie XX, and Tale Of Us. In 2013, Quayola was awarded the Golden Nica at the Prix Ars Electronica.