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Seedlings and Offsprings

Cry:O Series
Living Distance
Installation view of Seedlings and Offsprings, Pioneer Works, NY, 2023

Pioneer Works
New York, USA

July 7 - September 10, 2023

Seedlings and Offsprings is an exhibition that brings together a selection of artist-in-residence alumni Xin Liu’s recent and ongoing projects. Comprising sculptures, video, virtual reality, and an outdoor installation, the presentation expands upon the artist’s explorations into space travel, vitality, mutation, and immortality.

As a way of looking into humanity’s innate desire to sustain and to perpetuate its species, Xin has created a new series of mixed-media sculptures inspired by biological and medical innovations such as cryonics and egg freezing, each designed to interfere with natural life cycles. Embedded with a cooling mechanism that causes thin layers of frost to appear on its surface, the works also reference scientists’ research into subglacial lakes in Antarctica and ice-covered oceans deep beneath the surface of moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn, where probing devices search for traces of life from ancient and unknown worlds.

Another component of the exhibition is Living Distance (2019-2020), a three-part project comprising a performance conducted in outer space, a two-channel video installation, and a virtual reality experience. Partially realized during Xin’s residency at Pioneer Works, the series centers on the fantastical journey of her wisdom tooth, which traveled aboard the International Space Station before returning to Earth. Carried by a crystalline robotic sculpture engineered by the artist, the tooth metaphorically becomes a newborn entity as it enters an infinite darkness. While the video installation mixes documentary footage with dreamlike imagery of Xin’s performance, the virtual reality component allows viewers to experience the tooth’s journey from a first-hand perspective.

The artist, together with collaborator Lucia Monge, similarly sent potato seeds into Earth’s lower orbit in March 2020, initiating a series titled Unearthing Futures (2020-ongoing). Even though more than four thousand varieties of the root vegetables exist in the world, only eight types are grown commercially in the United States, and only one has been selected by the Chinese National Space Administration to be cultivated in miniature ecosystems sent to the moon.

Conceived as a response to the rise of homogeneity both in agriculture and in politics, Xin and Monge’s project casts potatoes as subjects that call for a diversified imagination of what the future can look like, particularly for space exploration in non-colonial terms. A selection of these spacefaring potatoes will be grown and harvested in Pioneer Works’s garden, where the outdoor installation will give way to a dynamic host of educational programming.

The exhibition also lays a thematic framework for a new iteration of Scientific Controversies, a programming series that brings creative minds together to celebrate the passionate spirit of scientific curiosity. Hosted by Pioneer Works Director of Science Janna Levin, the conversation will center on the topic of space colonization, and feature geneticist Christopher Mason, whose book The Next 500 Years proposes a ten-phase program that would engineer the genome so that humans can tolerate the extreme environments of outer space—with the ultimate goal of achieving human settlement of new solar systems.

Xin Liu: Seedlings and Offsprings was supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council, as well as the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. 

Public Program