Xin Liu

Xin Liu was born in 1991 in Xinjiang, China, and currently lives and works between New York City, New York and London, United Kingdom. Liu received a BA and BEng from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, in 2013, an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015, and an MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2017. An artist and engineer, Liu works in a variety of media and contexts, fusing art and science in sculptures, installations, videos, virtual-reality experiences, and publications, amongst other media. Through her work, the artist considers the personal implications of our technological advancements, constructing narratives that provide space to imagine ourselves in a world of rapidly expanding possibilities.

In her practice, Liu teases out the tensions between the indefinable qualities of humanity and the underlying drives of scientific progress while demonstrating that science and culture are inseparable in their advancement. Through this, the artist questions the ideologies behind various scientific developments and proposals and the ways they will transform human life. “We are imagining all these versions of futures—living on another planet or living with AI,” says Liu. “But I feel like, as you’re leaving your current place, some part of yourself dies and sheds away.” In Unearthing Futures (2020–ongoing), a collaboration with artist Lucia Monge, the artists consider the history of the potato and its widespread cultivation as a result of colonization, using this as an analogy for human history. In 2017, the Chinese National Space Administration chose only one out of the 4,000 varieties of potato to be grown on the moon. Challenging this homogeneity, Liu and Monge sent six different varieties of potato seeds to the International Space Station and have been cultivating them since their return to Earth. Through this, Liu challenges the continuation of colonial histories in extraterrestrial imagination and proposes a more diverse alternative. 

In other works, Liu more directly addresses the impact of new technologies on the human body. Living Distance (2019–2020) is a three-part project that consists of a performance, a two-channel video, and a virtual-reality experience. In this work, the artist uses her wisdom tooth as an avatar and, through it, journeys into space, crafting a narrative that explores the isolation and transformation that comes from space travel. In her series of sculptures titled Cry:0 (2023), warped, skeletal structures are coated in a thin layer of frost using a cooling mechanism embedded in the sculpture. These works respond to developments in both cryonics and egg freezing, which serve to halt or alter natural human life cycles in efforts to preserve life and increase our productivity. In each work, Liu considers what it is that makes us human and what might be lost as we continue to discover new possibilities in science and technology. “I do believe in science and technology in lots of its methods and its ability to transform the world,” says the artist. “But at the same time, I’m hoping there is a limit that we can never reach because it also strips away the fundamental idea of what it means to be human.”

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“As artists, we tear ourselves apart and reassemble it in every piece that we are creating and recreating.”

Xin Liu