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Recognition, encounter, and vision, in the work of Zhou Song

Stacey Leigh Vorster, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

While most discussions of the relationship between art and technology focus on ‘new media’ practice, there are substantial arguments to be considered through ‘traditional media’ such as painting and sculpture. Art and technology intersect through the process and desire of imagination and, in particular, through the attempt to reproduce life as mimetically as possible. In this paper, I consider the practice of Beijing-based artist Zhou Song, who images and imagines new worlds as constituted by social robots. Drawing on the frameworks of the politics of recognition, in particular Kelly Oliver’s formulation of witnessing, and Gilles Deleuze’s notion of the encounter, I analyze several of Zhou’s works in order to understand what possibilities there are for reading Oliver and Deleuze against each other. I argue that Zhou’s hyper-realistic images, which use quotation as a device through which to balance the uncanny with the familiar, prompt an encounter that challenges the cognitive ordering of the world. This research contributes to developing discourse on social robots through a cultural lens.