Essay Ningli Zhu
Oddstream vroeg dit jaar kunstenaars naar hoe zij de toekomst zien. Vandaag is Ningli Zhu aan het woord in het essay Affective Storytelling with Digital Objects.
Dit essay is geschreven naar aanleiding van het filmevenement Affective storytelling with digital objects van 4 tot 6 maart 2021.
De illustratie bij dit artikel is gemaakt door Parrr Geng.
gepubliceerd op 16-02-2021
Affective Storytelling with Digital Objects
Speculating on relationships
As a visual designer and storyteller, I look into the emotional relationships in our digital landscape. In my practice, I experiment with multimedia storytelling to discuss our hybrid virtual identities as well as social-psychological transformations in this technology-driven era.
“Affective Storytelling with Digital Objects”
- What is it?
For me, “Affective Storytelling” is not only a narrative about emotional, sensitive feelings that are based on personal stories, but also a practice to criticize, speculate and reflect on our social relationship which is now highly influenced and relying on digital products or technical facilities. The “Digital Objects” (from the theory of Yuk Hui in the book “ Existence of Digital Objects”) could be broadly understood as device, interface, Internet, AR or VR… all the digital tools or materials that lead and divert our attention between the physical and the digital space. In my opinion, “Affective Storytelling with Digital Objects” is like writing lyrical poems to resist the inescapable digitized (AI-driven) life. Besides, that practice will also bring speculative inspirations on future development with technology.
- Why is that important?
“Being with technique; Technique as being”. “Human in “trans-individual”.
The term “transindividual” from the French philosopher Gilbert Simondon, who sees the individual as a process of development, is to consider the sense of individual liberty through (today’s) technical activity. For me, it generally means that we could only exist in and rely on a collective structure formed by digital objects (technology).
Our current global pandemic situation strongly refers to his “transindividual” ideology. What we have experienced now is a feeling of isolation, when life mostly relied on the mediated machine, especially in this COVID-19 situation. The Internet has made us even more lonely. The “noise” from digital life (overload information) could affect our emotions dramatically or even made us a kind of dumb, exhausting machine… How do we balance a sensitive life? On this one-direction path with emerging technology, we should appreciate more “what makes us human?” Such as sympathy, intelligence… Therefore, the emotional expressions in artwork or film become crucial to confront the imperceptive, simplified, and anti-emotional digital life.
- How do I make it?
<Face to Face> project
My Master Graduation project <Face to Face> could be seen as one example of “Affective Storytelling”, where I approach visual art with interactivity — “interactive storytelling” — merging computational effect, real-time sensors and film into an interactive video installation.
By communicating stories about personal social anxiety, the work shows the intimate connection between emotional recognition, technology and its users. The final work is a two-screen video installation, which presents a mirroring effect on the audience by applying real-time facial sensors and emotion detection. In that project, I have combined a reflective essay with visual elements, including metaphors, 3D face models, shooting footages, to display a blended character of the “modern cyborg” as well as the multi-layered relationship between “self” and “others” (otherness), “human” and “machine”, “inner space” and “outside space”.
However, I think “Affective Storytelling” is not only defined or limited by the media, while new technology could even extend the power of affection for the audience, or bring new discussions. So, in my updated work <Face to Face> series 2, which was presented during (IM)POSSIBLE BODIES Festival 2020, I applied my story into an AR experience scenario, complete with face-filter interactions on the Instagram platform.
On the mode of existence of technical objects, 1958 (Du mode d’existence des objets techniques), Gilbert Simondon