Li Zhu
All Beings Are Suffering

There was a time in the past that I was convinced that all our pain and misfortune were because we would die. In other words, death is the root of all anxiety and the source of all struggles. My idea was simple: if there is no death, then there would be no accumulation of wealth, then no inheritance, no capital, and no class conflicts. Then all the suffering of this world can be solved. 

I discovered that the arrival of technological singularity might fundamentally solve the ultimate problem of death. So I became very interested in technology. However, new issues slowly appeared. I realized that if there were no deaths, all the pains in the world would disappear, but all happiness, such as love and family, would also disappear together. In other words, the foundation of human civilization is the inevitability of death. This seems to be a straightforward idea. So I began to imagine what a non-death social model would look like. At the same time, another critical issue is that private life would very likely no longer exist in a singularity-based society. A robust technological society may turn all individuals into a whole. There will probably be no privacy or freedom in this entirety. Information technology eventually turned people themselves into human-bits. When I realized this, I discovered the deep meaning of McLuhan’s words: “We shape our tools, then our tools shape us.”

As I said above, I try to imagine the very detailed problems of the future society. This is not even as far as the word "future" describes. I try to imagine a situation that will happen soon: an information society where multiple intelligences coexist. In this society, it might have humans based on family and gender cooperation, human-like machines that are very similar to humans, and perhaps other intelligence that is entirely different from humans, such as various low-pixel robots.

At the beginning of the Human Dust series, the idea was to show this kind of self-production scene of human-like intelligence: these identical bodies can be reproduced endlessly. Like the kind of robots mentioned in the Turing Test: they look like humans and can do everything humans do, but we don’t know whether they have consciousness. From the current technological development, the reproduction of such humanoid robots will very likely no longer be based on gender cooperation.

The above are the ideas that my rationality expounded. Obviously, in the process of the realization of this work, every minute and every second has been mixed with my anxiety and sorrow as a human being. Slowly I even felt that I was venting some of my mental pressure caused by COVID-19 through such images. My teacher Mr. Sullivan said it was like psychorealism. I think he makes sense.

Art Statement

Li Zhu is a Chinese-Canadian artist and scholar who uses new technologies such as video games, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and social media to create new ways of understanding reality. All Beings Are Suffering is part of an ongoing series titled Human Dust. 

Li Zhu has an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She received a B.A. in Visual And Intermedia Arts from the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. She studied at the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris and McGill University.  Her work has been exhibited in China, France, Canada, and the United States. Recent exhibitions include I Think (solo, 2017) in Guangzhou, China, ON AURA (group, 2021) in Montreal,  and VRAL (online exhibition) at Milan Machinima Festival 2021(Italy).