a cyber-habitat of

Jingtian Zong


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Project NoCode (2o2o)


#COVID-19, #street intervention, #video, #public space, #speculative design, #technology ethics



 
Project NoCode(无码计划) is a (pseudo)anonymous artist collective that engages with topical issues pertaining to urban life under the COVID-19 pandemic “new normal” in China, including access to public spaces, (mis)applications of digital surveillance, the practice and theatrics of social distancing, and the ostensible long reach of QR codes and its potential consequences.

The word 无码 (wú mǎ, literal translation: no code) has long been used as a codeword by Chinese Internet users on underground piracy forums to search for uncensored Japanese adult films (无码 can be translated here as “no code” or “no mosaic”,  i.e. without the actors’ genitals being pixelated). More recently, the widespread use of QR codes in China – driven by the popularisation of such apps like WeChat and Alipay – has made the word 码 (mǎ, code) a shorthand for QR Codes/二维码 in daily parlance. The QR codes – whose blocky appearance eerily resembles the censorship mosaic – have become a fixture in the urban visual landscape, acting as portals between the physical world and the Chinese Internet.

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed overnight the role and visibility of QR codes in urban spaces. Few things better symbolize life under COVID-19 in urban China than the ubiquitous health QR codes, which form part of the state’s data-powered drive to quell the pandemic. A green health QR code signifies both the right to freedom of movement in a state of exception, and the level of control the state exerts on its subjects as (in)dividuals, represented and modulated through data. The proliferation and acceptance of QR codes and other data-intensive technologies in China against the background of the pandemic reflects a growing public fascination on the power of “code” in the country – a sentiment of technophilia unabashedly nationalistic and decidedly uncritical, its reverberations are now resonating with geopolitical oscillations.

Channeling the earlier unruly spirits of “无码”, NoCode is an attempt to look beyond the usual discourses around “code” in order to explore intricate nuances of the pandemic “new normal”. To accomplish this goal, artists of NoCode take up the streets of Shanghai as the main site for observation and actions including location-specific interventions, spontaneous performances, speculative designs, and wily wordplays.

(click on each work to learn more)





Project NoCode is featured in stepbackforward.art and Art Agenda, and exhibited at West Bund Art Center, Shanghai in December 2020.




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