Miao Ying (1985, Shanghai) is based in New York and Shanghai. She holds an MFA in Electronic Integrated Arts from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, and a BFA in New Media Arts from China Academy of Fine Arts.
Miao is among the first generation of Chinese contemporary artists who grew up with the internet, Chinese economic reform and one-child policy, and were educated in both China and the West. She calls her relationship with China’s authoritarian paternalism and hyper-regulated online sphere a form of “Stockholm Syndrome.” After the critically acclaimed exhibition Holding A Kitchen Knife to Cut the Internet Cable at the Chinese Pavilion, la Biennale di Venezia in 2015 that first manifested the artist’s love-hate relationship with the Chinese internet, Miao was commissioned by the New Museum, New York in 2016 to create the online project of Chinternet Plus as part of the museum’s First Look: New Art Online program. The artist describes Chinternet Plus as unveiling a “counterfeit ideology,” a parody of a state strategy proposed in 2015. Lauren Cornell, curator at the New Museum at the time, comments that the work is “essentially a guide for how to brand an insubstantial idea, suggesting that, in the case of political branding in particular, media can easily stand in for the message.” Divided into five sections—”Our Story,” “Our Mystery,” “Our Goal,” “Our Vision,” and “Our Experience,” Chinternet Plus is a humorous, sharp critique of ideologies today, parodying the ways in which an authority conceives, represents, implements and virtualises state projects top-down.
In 2018, Miao was commissioned by M+, Hong Kong to create Hardcore Digital Detox for the inaugural digital commission of M+ stories online platform. The online project is effectively a companion to Chinternet Plus, furthering Miao’s practice to juxtapose Western technology and ideologies, such as filter bubbles with effacements and absence online. She compares images and ideas that are blocked by the Great Firewall of China to liu bai (negative space) in traditional Chinese ink painting, pointing out that both are paradoxically productive negative spaces that stimulate imagination. In her curatorial statement, Ulanda Blair, curator of Moving Image at M+, describes Hardcore Digital Detox, a “Strategic Lifestyle Advice tool,” as navigating the Chinternet and the World Wide Web simultaneously, “pitting mainstream internet users against Chinese censors by playfully instructing users to set their virtual private network (VPN) to mainland China, where popular unicorn websites and smartphone apps like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, eBay, WhatsApp, Vimeo, and Amazon are blocked. Far from seeing the restricted internet as a deficiency, Miao’s self-diagnosed Chinternet Stockholm syndrome celebrates the ingenuity, humour, and intelligence of Chinese internet users, and the rich visual culture they have cultivated behind the firewall.” Organising the exhibition Miao Ying: A Field Guide to Ideology at The Art Museum at University of Toronto in 2022, curator Yan Wu spoke of the experiential aspect of Hardcore Digital Detox: “HDD offers an illogical online retreat from the digital world, transporting viewers into a faux-natural island complete with cookie-eating fantasy animals—stand-ins for computer cookies that reveal users’ online activities and unicorn companies that collect and prey on users’ data.”
Recently, Miao has completed the trilogy of “Pilgrimage into Walden XII” (2019-2023), inspired by B. F. Skinner’s 1948 utopian story Walden Two. The three independent chapters—The Honor of Shepherds, Surplus Intelligence, and Battle for Glorious Magic respectively commissioned by Asia Culture Center (South Korea), The Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (Italy) and M+ (Hong Kong)—are live simulations that envisage a future human world governed by artificial intelligence. Employing a game engine, each play-through of the simulations is unique, reflecting the ways in which authoritative, ideological imagery and voices are conjured.
Miao Ying’s recent solo exhibitions include: “Savage winds, a land of stone, Forsaken intelligence, left alone”, Kiang Malingue, Hong Kong (2023); “A Field Guide to Ideology”, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Toronto (2022); “Pilgrimage into Walden XII”, OVR: Pioneers, Art Basel, Online (2021); “Tough Love”, Galerie nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna (2019); “Hardcore Digital Detox”, M+ Museum, Hong Kong (2018); “Stones From Other Hills”, MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai (2018); “Miao Ying: Chinternet Plus”, First Look: New Art Online, New Museum, New York (2016); “Content Aware”, MadeIn Gallery, Shanghai (2016); “Holding a Kitchen Knife to Cut the Internet Cable”, Chinese Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Venice (2015).
She has also exhibited at Sigg Prize 2023, M+, Hong Kong (2023); Hawai’i Triennial 2022 (HT22), Honolulu, Hawaii (2022); “The Floating Collection”, The Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna (2022); “Mediating Asia”, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung (2022); ”ON | OFF 2021: Carousel of Progress”, HE Art Museum, Shunde (2022); “Facing the Collector: The Sigg Collection of Contemporary Art from China”, Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin (2020); “The Art Happens Here: Net Art’s Archival Poetics”, New Museum, New York (2019); “Artistic Intelligence”, Kunstverein Hannover, Hanover (2019), “ZHANG PEILI, GENG JIANYI’ s Student”, China Academy of Art, West bund Art Center, Shanghai (2019), “Imagined Borders”, 12th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju (2018); “.com/.cn”, MoMA PS1 and K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2017); “The New Normal: China, Art, and 2017”, UCCA Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2017); “Secret Surface”, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2016), amongst others. She is the recipient of the Porsche Young Chinese Artist of the year (2018-2019), and finalist for Sigg Prize 2023.