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I’m looking at you, looking at me

How do machines see us? In this project, I hope it's possible looks closer to "behind the machine", human or non-humans observed through the webcam, which means that you can establish a point of contact that can interact in a loop forever: I’m looking at you, looking at me, looking at you, looking at me…(∞).

The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. (Ways of Seeing by John Berger)

produced by: Xiaoyi Hu



I want to learn how to view this world, especially those invisible parts.

Trevor Paglen wrote:“ There is something dramatic happening in the world of image: they are out of our sight. Our machine has learned to see…without us. I call it the world of machine.” “Machine’s image-making” is “invisible”. Today, the significance of its works on “results in form” is not as much as that of “its consequences” and effects it can have.

I transprint a group of Collodion process photos I had taken before this holiday, and tried to erase the people form of the image. After erasing the image, the image becomes a form of nonhuman image. The nonhuman image is a conceptual stimulus that challenges the anthropological discourse around the image. Specifically, it does not belong to human beings, nor is it created by human beings, nor is it an image created by human beings. What I am trying to deal with is some concept of replacing human position, so that human beings no longer play the narrator of history, no longer play the important role of history.

What I'm thinking is that probably all human beings are nonhuman to some extent, and while we practice our own "individualism", we are also running the algorithms. If not, why do most people's food or wedding photos look the same on Instagram? This is also some kind of excitement. It makes people think about the way we produce culture, how we think about machines, and how we think with machines. Did the machine make us? Do machines impose certain decisions on us? To some extent, are we all machines? How do machines see us?

Concept and background research

The image has become an inevitable intermediary between people and the world. When people only used to understand the world through images, images become what people believe to be true. In Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McLuhan claims that the photos are ‘the brothel without walls’ and points out that the world itself has become a museum, and the exhibits you have already touched in another medium. (McLuhan, M. 2015:249) As a result, people directly face the image, rather than the event or the thing itself. There is a new reality that people face in the era of highly developed media. In 1991, Baudrillard sensationally claimed that ‘the Gulf War did not take place.’ He did not deny the fact of the Gulf War, but instead, mean that the Gulf War we saw through television images was not a real Gulf War. What is presented to us with smart cameras and television broadcast systems is nothing more than an image war between the media. In Baudrillard's theoretical logic, ‘simulative society’ is the inevitable result of the further development of ‘spectacle society’, but there are vast differences between them. In the ‘spectacle society’, the dominant is the image and spectacle consumer culture, goods are transformed into visual existence for consumption. At this point, the object behind the image is covered up, but it has not yet disappeared. After entering the ‘simulative society’, ‘there is no connection between image and reality: it is just its own, pure simulacra.’ (Baudrillard, J. 2012: 289). That is to say, when the manufacturing and production of the image do not need to imitate the object according to a certain, it also does not need to take the similarity between the object and the imitation as the basis. More precisely, there is no object behind the ‘simulacra’. In other words, the original image must be based on its prototype, but the ‘simulacra’ breaks this hierarchical order, the production of the machine image does not have to rely on any reality.

How do machines see us? In the past few decades, this question has carefully run through several areas of production and research. In James Bridle’s Tumblr blog the New Aesthetic, he created a series of images that, in his words, "makes fun, I mean critiques, the new ways of seeing the world, an echo of the society, technology, politics and people that co-produce them.”

In this project, I hope it's possible looks closer to "behind the machine", human or non-humans observed through the webcam, which means that you can establish a point of contact that can interact in a loop forever: I’m looking at you, looking at me, looking at you, looking at me…(∞). This reciprocal action can also serve as an interesting extension of the feedback loop we encounter in any screen-based exchanges.


At first I just wanted to implement some unconscious images similar to machine-generated images, so I tried to interact with the images with Ableton live music clips. This part is implemented in MIDI communication in openFrameworks. (see video below)



Later, it was planned to implement a place similar to an outer space town to simulate the uninhabited city form. Some square effects have been achieved in openFrameworks, but the existence of a space has never been completed. So I realized the more specific appearance and color of the house in Blender, and then put it into ofGui to adjust the overall tone with shader. (see image and video below). 


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The final idea was to show some machine "thinking" image through projection plus webcam. However, due to the inability to achieve 3D printing, some of the alternatives I looked for did not have a good projection effect, so I changed to use the effects of Kinect and computer cameras to record people and machines looking at each other.

Future development

If possible, I still want to print out the model of this town, maybe it will be more interesting to add the interaction of projection. 

I also want to try more to interact with Kinect/webcam effects. If a screen were placed behind a 3D printed town model, the effect would be much more intuitive than it is now.



Refik Anadol's awesome work brings me some thinking. I have some conceptual depth and inspiration from his interview: 
 How This Guy Uses A.I. to Create Art | Obsessed | WIRED

McLuhan, M. and Gordon, W. (2015). Understanding media. Berkeley, Calif.: Gingko Press, p.249.

Baudrillard, J. and Glaser, S. (2012). Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, p.289.

Animation cycle series created by YouTube blogger RoyaltyFreeTube

Official example of ofxStratchableGrid, ofxFlowTools, ofxGLSLMaterial, ofxBox2d

The music in Ableton was modified based on a tutorial by YouTube, but I forgot to save it at that time. I really can't find it in the historical records. I'll make it up as soon as I find it.