Gary Zhexi Zhang

Gary Zhexi Zhang

Artist, Writer, Berggruen Researcher


Gary Zhexi Zhang (b. Suzhou) is a researcher at ToftH’s Non-Human Networks and Markets project, where he will explore the role of non-human agents within the finance system. An artist and writer based in New York, Zhang is interested in the role of fiction and performativity in socio-technical systems. He is a staff contributor at Frieze Magazine and has published essays in ArtReview, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Walker Soundboard and others. Recent book contributions include chapters in Resisting Reduction (MIT Press) and Steve Bishop: Deliquescing (Sternberg).

In 2021, Zhang will present his first solo exhibition, a body of work exploring catastrophe insurance, with Arts Catalyst and Bloc Projects in Sheffield, UK. Recent group exhibitions include the Participation Mystique at Ming Contemporary Art Museum; Cross-feed at Glasgow International (2018) and He received a BA from Glasgow School of Art and completed graduate degrees at University of Cambridge and MIT.

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.