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Miao Ying: Pixelated Pasts
Miao Ying: Pixelated Pasts
Video Transcript

MIAO YING: I think the two words to describe the works at the Sigg Prize exhibition are ‘ominous’ and ‘naive’. ‘Ominous’ is the kind of danger that you don’t really know what’s going on. And then ‘naive’ addresses the work. A lot of the forms are really bright-coloured, and they are cartoonish.

I think website and the internet is really an enlightenment. [It’s] like an influencer; it can be a lifestyle. It really influenced my artistic style because [it’s] from [the] internet that I really appreciate the sense of humour and how people react to the issues. I think that’s the core of the internet. When I was first working with AI, people didn’t have the access to it, and now it is really a tool for [the] masses. They’re actually generating content, like now. I found it’s like we’re in an interesting relationship.

The work that will be shown at M+ is an almost four-year project that has three chapters. It’s called Pilgrimage into Warden XII. The first chapter, The Honor of the Shepherds, are six brains that we pre-trained for a really, really long time, [a] couple months. So, at the beginning, they don’t even know how human joints, you know, how we bend like there is a limit. So, the big data were fed [into the AI]. Chapter two is a film. The script was written completely by GPT-3, and I took the script, then I directed the film on [a] game engine. So, in the third chapter, all the models have already been trained, and they have been unleashed, and it’s chaos.

The website really serves as a guide, a menu of the whole project. I think those three chapters kind of witness the rise of AI to look into the future of, like, how are we going to deal with the [AI] technology. At the exhibition, there is going to be this physical installation. When you first came in, you’re greeted by the towers, and they look like Gothic medieval towers. And [you will see that] they will be torched, but they’re not torched all the way. So, I think that is a metaphor of the early phase of AI training. And so this is the third chapter. They’re already trained and torched and burned, like maybe being trained too much. So, they’re like black.

All chapters have to do with machine learning, which is the technique that I have been researching and working with the past couple of years. In my work, I always kind of seek for those nonsense narrative like my other website-like projects. There’s always this made-up ideological concept. It’s almost like a political lifestyle branding.

I think in my work, I’m trying to address it as if the artists were the slave to the AI. So that’s one possibility. Like, if the AI replace the artists, in that scenario, what is that gonna be? Who is going to shepherd the shepherds?

My concern [about AI] is that it’s going to be very pixelated. So, they learned all this big data from what existed on internet. And I think what that does is dangerous. It’s that it can really make our history pixelated. So, you don’t know what’s true anymore. For future human generations, say if they wanted to find something [online], [they’ll realise] the history is, like, being rewritten. It’s really hard to imagine.

New media artist Miao Ying is known for projects and works that address Chinese internet culture. This complex and hyper-regulated realm, which she calls the ‘Chinternet’, necessitates a sense of self-censorship that Miao describes as being akin to Stockholm syndrome. Her recent works often take the forms of websites, GIFs, screenshots, and installations. Juxtaposing technologies and ideologies from the West with those from contemporary China, Miao’s projects highlight the politics, aesthetics, and consciousness created in the Chinternet.

As a dual citizen of the Chinternet and the World Wide Web, Miao creates works ranging from virtual simulations to installations and explores technology’s impact on our consciousness and daily life.

Miao’s work for the Sigg Prize 2023 exhibition comprises the three-chapter installation Pilgrimage into Walden XII (2019–2023), which is a live simulation of a future world governed by artificial intelligence (AI). The work envisions a medieval fantasy land built within a game engine. The installation utilises a machine learning system that generates a unique rendering with each viewing.

Chapter one presents six AI-powered ‘society shepherds’ who are trained on human behaviour by big data. These shepherds guide Walden XII and monitor its cockroach citizens.

Chapter two is a film scripted by GPT-3, a text-generating machine learning model. The movie depicts the tale of an imprisoned AI shepherd and his cockroach lover, who tries to rescue the shepherd by mining bitcoin.

Chapter three combines the concepts of the trilogy and is presented as a website and mobile app that are accessible via a QR code.

In this work, Miao invites viewers to explore Walden XII and reimagine their realities through a future where AI rules.

Video Credits

Produced by



Moving Image Studio


Kenji Wong Wai Kin, Chan Wing Chi

Director of Photography

Fred Cheung


Lau Tsz Hong, Rex Tse, Ip Yiu Tung Zachary


Fred Cheung


Fred Cheung

M+ Video Producer

Mimi Cheung

M+ Curatorial Research

Isabella Tam, Ariadne Long, Chloe Wong

M+ Text Editing

Amy Leung, LW Lam

Special Thanks

Miao Ying, Chris Sullivan

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