Lü Zhi and Xiang Biao: A Dialogue on the Common Worries of Humans and Nature

September 17, 2022


9.17.2022 – 4:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m PDT
9.17.2022 – 19:00 – 21:00 Beijing Time

Language: Chinese

About the Dialogue
How does one define “symbiosis” and “co-existence”? How can “symbiosis” and “co-existence” help us cope with future survival challenges both in theory and in practice? How can we move from an anthropocentric, expansionist perspective of the ‘global’ to a mindset of the ‘planetary’? The Berggruen Research Center at Peking University has been hosting events in the series “Towards a symbiotic, co-existential future: from natural philosophy to planetary governance” since 2021. The series seeks to explore the ideological connotations and the value of symbiosis and coexistence from a multi-disciplinary lens. In this upcoming event, the renowned anthropologist, Professor Xiang Biao will have a lively discussion with Professor Lü Zhi, a well-known scholar and nature conservationist. They will discuss our “common worries” and the current global existential crises as well as the possibility to work to create an alternative intellectual framework that enables us to achieve a new, cohesive consensus for the path forward.

Key Discussions:

• How do anthropologists and nature conservationists understand the idea and the methodology of symbiotic and co-existential relations?
• How are the particular and pluralistic local experiences connected with the general values and feelings of humans?
• What should we do in face of the “common worries” and the global existential crisis of humanity?

Lü Zhi, Professor, School of Life Sciences, Peking University

Professor Lü Zhi is a Professor at the School of Life Sciences and Deputy Director of the Center for Nature and Society at Peking University, Vice President of Chinese Women Scientists Association, and Founder of Shan Shui Conservation Center.

Zhi is committed to the connection between nature conservation research and practice, seeking evidence-based practical solutions for nature conservation and sustainable development. Through constantly observing the interaction between nature and human activities, she has long conducted research on endangered species such as giant pandas and snow leopards in the mountains of southwest China and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. In recent years, she has focused on exploring the mechanisms and conditions of coexistence between humans and nature, promoting rural community-led biodiversity conservation and restoration, and citizen science practices through economic incentives, cultural values, and policy improvements.

Xiang Biao, Director, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
Biao Xiang studied sociology at Beijing University, China, and received his PhD in social anthropology from the University of Oxford, UK. He worked at Oxford from 2004. Xiang is the winner of the 2008 Anthony Leeds Prize for his book Global Bodyshopping and the 2012 William L. Holland Prize for his article ‘Predatory Princes’. His 2000 Chinese book 跨越边界的社区 (published in English as Transcending Boundaries, 2005) was reprinted in 2018 as a contemporary classic. His work has been translated into Japanese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Italian. Since September 2021, Biao Xiang heads the department “Anthropology of Economic Experimentation” at the Max Planck Institute for Ethnological Research.

ZHAN Yiwen, Lecturer, School of Philosophy, Beijing Normal University·
Zhan Yiwen is a Lecturer at the School of Philosophy, Beijing Normal University. His research centers on modal metaphysics and epistemology, especially on problems involving conceptual structures, individuality, vagueness, and perspectivality. He was a researcher at the Berggruen Institute China Center (2020-21).


composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE