Enter the Matrix
Tatler Hong Kong|November 2020
Artist Liu Wei presents unsettling visions of our world, but says it’s up to us whether they come true
Oliver Giles

Chinese artist Liu Wei has spent the past few months thinking about the future—and it looks bleak. “Everything in our lives is mediated by screens now,” he says, fittingly speaking over a video call from his studio in Beijing. “It was happening before, but it has been accelerated by the pandemic. The way we use our senses is changing. I think the body will disappear, eventually.” Hands will wither. Legs will shrink. Our brains will be plugged into a universal supercomputer. “It will be like The Matrix,” says Liu. “Then we will lose emotion; affection will disappear.”

He pauses, looks away from the camera. “Maybe our previous definition of love will disappear. But there will be something new, a new kind of affection.”

This U-turn from despair to optimism will not surprise anyone familiar with his work. For more than two decades, Liu, 48, has been examining the forces that shape and shake societies, then packaging his unnerving conclusions into thought-provoking and often beautiful artworks. His most famous paintings feature China’s vertiginous cities rendered in abstract strips of vivid colour. Some critics suggest the bright hues evoke a sunset; others say they represent the suffocating, colour-warping pollution that blankets many Chinese towns. The duality is deliberate. “My art is never to provide answers,” Liu has previously said. “It’s rather to pose a question.”

Last year Liu puzzled plenty of gallery goers at two major shows: his first retrospective in the US, jointly hosted by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, and May You Live in Interesting Times, the central show of the Venice Biennale, in which he exhibited two installations. This month, Liu is opening a major solo show at the Long Museum West Bund, the dramatic, sprawling, 355,000 sq ft complex opened by art patrons Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei on the bank of the Huangpu River in Shanghai.

“They have had a huge impact on the art scene in China,” says Liu, speaking through an interpreter. “And the Long Museum West Bund space makes me very excited.”

Nearly three months before the show, Liu was still working out how to fill the museum’s cavernous concrete halls, partly because this year has given him so much to think about. “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, I was thinking of a classic presentation of previous works or a show of just paintings,” he says. “But this is an extraordinary situation. Now, I don’t know if the old way of showing art works anymore, or if we need to rebuild the whole thing.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM TATLER HONG KONGView All

What Goes Well with Ox?

Searching for an appropriate gift for the Chinese New Year, our resident wine expert finds there’s more to consider than white or red

7 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

Witch, Please

The latest trend in spirituality might just cast a spell on you. Is there really something behind all the fuss about “ritual magick”, or is it all just hocus pocus?

8 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

Poetry and Purpose

As beauty and wellness become increasingly driven by values rather than value, the influence of Aesop and its pioneering concept is becoming undeniable

4 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

The Mind's Eye

According to hypnotherapist Sonia Samtani, deep emotional healing begins with a journey into your subconscious. Here’s how she can take you there

2 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

Who Says It's a Man's World?

The first woman to hold the chief gemmologist position in Tiffany & Co’s 183-year history, Victoria Reynolds talks us through the biggest moment of her career

2 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

We Made It!

As we enter 2021, we look back on a troubled year for the watch industry. But things aren’t as bleak as you might think

3 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

Shanghai Calling

For years the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art has been at the forefront of the art scene in Beijing—now it’s expanding beyond the capital

7 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

A Material Girl

Having grown up with a bird’s eye view on an era of fast fashion, Veronica Chou is on a mission to promote sustainability for all

6 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
January 2021

The Winning Image

Bryson DeChambeau recently won his first US Open, with a Rolex Sky-Dweller on his wrist

1 min read
Tatler Hong Kong
December 2020

TESTING TIMES

Danny Yeung, CEO and co-founder of genetic testing company Prenetics, has launched fast, cheap and—he says—accurate Covid-19 rapid testing to help restore normality to a stricken world.

9 mins read
Tatler Hong Kong
December 2020
RELATED STORIES

CHINA DEMANDS INDIA RESCIND APP BAN AMID BORDER TENSION

China on Wednesday demanded India rescind a ban on more Chinese mobile phone apps amid tension between Beijing and other governments over technology and security.

1 min read
Techlife News
November 28, 2020

CHINA'S LEADERS VOW TO BECOME SELF-RELIANT TECHNOLOGY POWER

China’s leaders are vowing to make their country a self-reliant “technology power” as a feud with Washington cuts access to U.S. computer chips and other high-tech components, hampering Beijing’s industrial ambitions.

4 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #470

Return of the Dragon

China is rising in the eyes of the U.S. and the West. But in its own historical perspective, this is a restoration

9 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
November 02, 2020

POWER SHORTAGE

Women’s rights are human rights. But rights are nothing without the power to claim them.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
October 2020

Hao Noodle's Zhu Rong on Reopening in China— and on Sixth Avenue

“I love New York, but it’s just a different situation.”

5 mins read
New York magazine
September 14 - 27, 2020

Girl Power, Inc.

Disney’s live-action Mulan loses the songs but amps up the corporate nationalism.

5 mins read
New York magazine
September 14 - 27, 2020

WHY HONG KONG'S PROTESTS TURNED VIOLENT

THE ESCALATION IS PART OF A STRATEGY TO UNMASK CHINA’S ABUSES BEFORE THE WORLD.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
October 2020

China Has Eyes On Taiwan

After cracking down on Hong Kong, Beijing turns its attention to the island across the strait

9 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
August 03, 2020

EU Urges China To Move On Trade, Back Off In Hong kong

Top European Union officials pressed China’s leaders to open the country’s markets further to European companies, show stronger leadership in reforming world trade’s governing body and step back from the brink in Hong Kong.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
June 26, 2020

TWITTER REMOVES CHINA-LINKED ACCOUNTS SPREADING FALSE NEWS

Twitter has removed a vast network of accounts that it says is linked to the Chinese government and was pushing false information favorable to the country’s communist rulers. Beijing denied involvement and said the company should instead take down accounts smearing China.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #451