Lawrence Lek

Lawrence Lek

Theta (2022, 12min). CGI video.

‘Theta’ follows a self-driving police car as they confront their existential crisis while patrolling the streets of the abandoned smart city of SimBeijing. Left with nothing to do, but still under constant surveillance, the car discusses their troubles with their built-in therapist — a self-help AI called Guanyin. Not all is as it seems in the smart city. Originally built as a replica of the Chinese capital to test autonomous vehicles, SimBeijing has mysteriously become a ghost town. As Theta gradually opens up to Guanyin, they reveal the darker reasons behind why the city has been abandoned. Theta continues Lawrence Lek’s ongoing Sinofuturist universe, in which he explores questions of identity, surveillance, and empathy in the age of AI.

Lawrence Lek 陆明龙 is a London-based artist, filmmaker, and musician working with video game engines, simulation, and architecture. He explores worldbuilding as a form of collage, incorporating elements from both material and virtual sources to develop narratives of alternate histories and possible futures.

In his ongoing cinematic universe, begun in 2016 with his seminal video essay ‘Sinofuturism (1839–2046 AD)’, Lek explores how the complex interplay between geopolitics and technology shapes a vision of the coming world that conflates China and its diaspora with artificial intelligence. In this and other works, the artist imagines how agency may be restored to the Other: a satellite in ‘Geomancer’ (2017) wishes to become an artist, while ‘AIDOL’ (2019) centers on the relationship between a fading pop star and an aspiring AI songwriter. Blurring geographical borders and the delineation between natural and artificial beings, Lek leads viewers to confront contradictions that humanity might face in the near future.

Lek composes soundtracks and conducts live audio-visual mixes of his films, often incorporating his open-world games such as ‘2065’ (2018-) and ‘Nøtel’ (in collaboration with Kode9, 2015-). Soundtrack releases include ‘Temple OST’ (The Vinyl Factory, 2020) and ‘AIDOL OST’ (Hyperdub, 2020). Solo exhibitions include ‘Ghostwriter’, CCA Prague (2019); ‘Farsight Freeport’, HeK, Basel (2019); ‘Nøtel’, UKR, Essen (2019); ‘AIDOL’, Sadie Coles HQ, London (2019); and ‘2065’, K11, Hong Kong (2018).

Visit Lawrence Lek’s artist page – lawrencelek.com

The film screeing is part of “1,2,3 Playtime. A lecture and workshop series in the field of gamification” organised by Inter Arts Center and financed by Region Skåne.

Photo credit: Video stills from ‘Theta’ (2022, 12min).

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