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Leo Xu Projects
2017.05.28 Sun - 2017.07.02 Sun
Opening Exhibition
Lane 49, Building 3, Fuxing Xi Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai 200031, China
+8621 3461 1245
Opening Hours
Tuesday – Saturday 10:00am - 6pm,
Sunday12:00pm - 6pm;
Monday by appointment
Leo Xu

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[Press Release]

“User, Love, High-frequency Trading” marks the second solo exhibition with the gallery by Shanghai and Berlin-based young new media artist aaajiao. Aaajiao, the artistic persona of Xu Wenkai, was first created as his internet handle. As a user of many websites, social media and applications, aaajiao has been exploring the notions about such role and new identities and personalities a user may assume through his or her operation of one specific medium. This two-year long research has crystalized into the exhibition “User, Love, High-frequency Trading”. It goes through multiple aspects—for instance, user’s alter ego, social media communication, and new economies driven by algorithms and networking of users—and arrives at a particular moment in current social and technological development, which has both resonated and contrasted with many of Sci-fi cinema and literature’s Ballardian or cyberpunk fantasies of an early 21st century.


“I Hate People but I Love you”, a large format single channel video installation, opens the exhibition with a strong statement. Set in a Mac OS, the video features two cyborgs, one of which is an anticipated Asian female android, the other in disguise of a floating Möbius strip composed of pop-up windows. Both immerse themselves in a reiterated deadpan conversation: “…May I be your friends? Do I look real to you? I hope so…” “I hate people but I love you.” Such sci-fi paradigm of dystopian sentiments, communications and technological manipulation has been the measures of our everyday expressions and affections, propelled by otherwise less cybernetic social media. Framed in a palm-size, delicate, old-fashioned screen, this pixelated GIF animation of a teenage girl in a gust of wind (“Avatar”) translates the typical but precise social media cuteness and solitude into an anonymous portrait of a collective of users.


Users’ engagement and operations introduce new dimensions to the social life both online and offline, where time has become elastic. Such construct has been behind many of aaajiao’s recent works. The video installation “Progress Bar” studies the psychological effects of User Interface design, and documents a classic Windows 95 media player playing a nearly two minutes clip, zooming in-and-out, of another identical player at work. The progress bars of both players attempt to compete rather than synchronize. Aaajiao maintains that time can thus be measured differently. A similar attempt is seen in “Column”, where the artist traverses the time in the best capacity of a Mac OS.


As the show measures the shape of time, it also finds the cliché of globalization now unfolds on an unprecedented flatness. Lorem ipsum, an ancient pattern of meaningless filler text commonly used in publishing and design, has become another universal language in daily life, only next to coding. Aaajiao’s “Lorem ipsum” proposes a prototype of an ideal User Interface, seemingly perfect and compatible with any language, and any website or application. His “Candy Wrappers” approaches such nonsensical products of globalization from the sphere of social media. A manipulated bowser transforms all the high traffic social media into a running canvas of 1980s Pop abstraction, which overrides the agenda of communication and networking by a frivolous visual pleasure and entertainment.

Having trained as a programmer and lived under the role of users to many products, aaajiao has raised his artistic concern with the processing of datas from users and their engagement with new economies and trades. High-frequency trading is a type of algorithmic trading characterized by high speeds, high turnover rates, and high order-to-trade ratios that leverages high-frequency financial data and electronic trading tools. One of the first pieces from his project to comment on this particular trading, “Water Measure-Petroleum” is a programmed hourglass filled with petroleum-like pitch-black water. Every drip of water reads the binary coded redundant datas filtered from high-frequency trading—a futile gesture of reading of useless or meaningless information created within a smallest possible amount time by a largest possible multitude of users and operations. Another kinetic installation, “WYSIWYG”, shows a surface mounting machine occupied endlessly in a nearly choreographed but purposeless task of assembling.