Keywords of the Greater Bay Area



Zian Chen

Lawrence Lek’s Sinofuturism

When China is mentioned, one might think of its long history, while others might think of its advanced technologies. Depending on who they are, everyone has a distinct way of defining contemporary China. Most Sinofuturist visions center on its advanced technologies. Artist Lawrence Lek, who coined the term, emphasizes that this neologism refers to the paradigm of an AI society, inspired by China's unconditional acceptance of logistical automation. Lek also draws on John Searle's Chinese Room argument, which was intended to refute artificial intelligence, to describe how this paradigm operates. It relies on the accumulation and computation of data—not thought and certainly not intimacy.

The kernel about Lek's Sinofuturism is its description of logistics administration as a transnational condition. Thus, Sinofuturism is not about what China actually is. Apart from its observations about technological societies, Sinofuturism attempts to propose a space of desire related to a specific cultural strategy. In the second half of the last century, a generation of Afrofuturists, including jazz musician Sun Ra and science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, developed the narrative method of xenogenesis. This classic strategy opened a cultural space in which racial others could directly disregard a universalist view of history and gain the power to imagine the future. Although they rely on a similar narrative paradigm of diaspora culture, Gulf Futurism and Sinofuturism both appeared in the 2010s. However, compared to Afrofuturism, which arose from an actual cultural movement, these two movements seem to be more of a reproduction, outlining its contour while maintaining an emphasis on mainstream culture's epistemological biases toward the respective regions. Without opening up other alternatives to the status quo, the trend of whatever-futurism seems to be more connected to the fast fashion of Conceptronica.

On this point, we must note how Sinofuturism has internalized historical discrimination against the "inscrutable Chinese," while also expressing a passion for the visual forms of simplified Chinese characters and even a simple understanding of Chinese characters in mainstream English-language business culture. As they say, the word for "crisis" contains the characters for both danger and opportunity. At its best, Sinofuturism is like dubbing on a club, or writing camp of futurologist group; it remains open to later collaborators shaping that imagined space.

About Keywords of the Greater Bay Area

The "Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area" is a new construction envisioned from a top-down perspective and territorial integration. It is a blueprint for a future urban development based on efficiency, speed, and mobility. What if we conceive the Greater Bay Area as an experiment, an imaginary experiment? On the one hand, there is the question of 'diversity'. When we talk about smart cities, artificial intelligence, automation, ecological crisis, information security, the future of virtual reality, global trade, etc., where does this view of the future come from, and what determines it? On the other hand, a profound political, spatial, historical, and geographical significance is present in the Greater Bay Area. Is it possible to develop a different imagination based on the history and culture of the "Pearl River Delta-Greater Bay Area;" meaning, to consider a development departing from local knowledge production, negotiating with accelerating technologies, facilitating collaborations between art and other disciplines, and reshaping the vision of institutions of art and technology? By exploring the diversity of technologies, human and non-human ecologies, and reproduction of social relations, might it be possible to reposition the "Greater Bay Area" as a pioneering experiment of southern China's technological and cultural imagination beyond a mere economic zone?

Editors: Jianru Wu, Guo Yun
English editor: Christy Lange