Seedlings and Offsprings
Xin Liu

Seedlings and Offsprings 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 themes that include space travel, vitality, mutation, and immortality.

As a way of examining 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 vegetable 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.

Living Distance Credits:

  • Executive producers: Gershon Dublon, Justin Durazzo
  • Producer: Reese Donohue, Qinya (Jenny) Guo, Jacky Tran, slow immediate LLC
  • Live-action production: Second Child
  • Lead engineers: Xin Liu, Gershon Dublon
  • Orbit Weaver flight suit: Andrea Lauer
  • EBIFA Sculpture engineers: Ross McBee, Noah Feehan, Amy Lemaire, Dave Seidman
  • Original Score: Reese Donohue
  • VR Executive producers: Qinya (Jenny) Guo
  • VR technical director: Reese Donohue
  • VR sound artist: Matt McCorkle
  • VR artists: Kyle Szostek, Nate Turley, Lily Fang
  • Cinematography: Paul Mcgeiver
  • Still Photography: Tim Saputo
  • Graphic Design: Tim Saputo
  • Editor: Naixin Xu

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

Living Distance was created with support from MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative, Sundance Institute New Frontier Story Lab, D-BOX Technologies, and Bose Corporation. It is additionally in the collection of X Museum and Kadist Foundation.

About the Artists

Xin Liu (b. 1991, Xinjiang/China) is an artist, performer and engineer whose recent research and interests center on the verticality of space, extraterrestrial explorations and cosmic metabolism. She is the Arts Curator at MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative, a member of the inaugural ONX Studio program founded by the New Museum’s NEW INC and Onassis USA, and also a current artist-in-residence in SETI Institute. Xin is recipient of numerous award, including Porches Chinese Young Artist of the Year 2021, 30 Under 30 Asia, X Museum Triennial Award and the Van Lier Fellowship from Museum of Arts and Design, and has been commissioned by institutions such as M+ Museum (Hong Kong), Ars Electronica (Austria), Rhizome (USA), Media Art Xploration Festival (USA), Onassis Foundation Enter Program (US) and Abandon Normal Devices Festival (UK). An advisor for the LACMA Art + Technology Lab, Xin graduated from MIT Media Lab with a master’s degree in Media Arts and Sciences, after receiving her M.F.A from Rhode Island School of Design and B.E. from Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Lucia Monge is a Peruvian artist whose work explores the ways humans position themselves within the natural world and relate to other living beings, especially plants. For the past 13 years, she has organized Plantón Móvil, a yearly “walking forest” performance that has led to the creation of green spaces in Lima, London, New York, and Paris. Other recent projects include exploring vulnerability through plant respiration, and a "fungi broadcast" about deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. Monge has shown her work internationally, including at the Queens Museum, Whitechapel Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art in Lima, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, Ars Electronica, and the Havana and OCAT (Shenzhen) biennales. Her work has been featured in publications such as MoMA’s Uneven Growth, Global Performance Studies, and Eco-Lógicas Latinas, among others. She holds an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA from Universidad Católica del Perú, is a founding member of FIBRA collective, and Assistant Professor of Art at Amherst College.

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