Challenging ai and facial recognition at the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale

Shenzhen & Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale

The world’s most visited architecture event, the Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture of Hong Kong and Shenzhen (UABB), will be the first exhibition to use Facial Recognition and Artificial Intelligence on its own premises, in order to prompt a critical reflection on how digital technologies are impacting urban life. Set up in Hong Kong’s neighboring city of Shenzhen, the exhibition is called “Eyes of the City” and aims to explore the new urban condition of cities that can “see”.

Entirely fabricated locally and interspersed in one of the halls of a high-speed railway station, it features original work by more than 60 acclaimed international exhibitors (more details below). The “Eyes of the City” section is curated by MIT professor Carlo Ratti (Chief Curator), Politecnico di Torino and SCUT (Academic Curators), who will unveil the final selection at the Biennale opening on December 21st, 2019.

The “Eyes of the City” installations revolve around the following question: what happens when the sensor-imbued city acquires the ability to see – almost as if it had eyes? The exhibition premises will be in the newly inaugurated Futian high-speed railway station in Shenzhen, connecting Mainland China and Hong Kong in less than 15 minutes. Because of new technologies, stations themselves around the world, as well as other public spaces, are transitioning from spaces of anonymity to spaces of constant data gathering.

“Eyes of the City” will be the first public exhibition to incorporate facial recognition technology on its very premises. Visitors will be facially scanned upon accessing the exhibition through the two info points, designed by leading Dutch practice MVRDV, on opposite ends of the venue. However, unlike all systems deployed in cities all over the world, everything will be based on transparency: cameras will be highlighted throughout the space and visitors who not wish to be recognized will wear a special mark on their face to remain anonymous, signaling their stance to others.

Among the installations that underscore the “Eyes of the City” approach is the work by leading Chinese architect Yung Ho Chang, in which a series of upside-down telescopes invite us to “Look Back” at technology, advocating for a bidirectional relationship between mankind and the digital city: beyond its “Resisting technologies” section, the exhibition path will be divided into a series of sub-clusters devoted to exploring different fields in which the “Eyes of the City” can impact tomorrow’s urban landscape.

The list of practices and designers involved in the “Eyes of the City” exhibition includes names such as Baukuh, Cui Kai, Dominique Perrault Architecture, Future Firm, Thomas Heatherwick, Liu Jian, Antoine Picon, Terreform ONE, XKool, Long Ying, J. Meejin Yoon, Liam Young, Philip F. Yuan, Zhang Li. The “Eyes of the City” exhibition is the result of an “open-source curatorship” process. More than 280 applicants from across the world responded to an open call.

Exhibition design
The “Eyes of the City” will be the world’s first architecture Biennale to be entirely produced on-site. As part of the “open-source curatorship” approach, exhibitors have produced a series of Blueprints with detailed instructions on how to develop each installation. The Blueprints were first shared digitally with the curatorial team and then made available to Shenzhen-based suppliers, who are currently finalizing the construction of all the installations.

The exhibition, which extends over a surface of more than 5,000 square meters, reacts to its transportation-hub location with a unique design, inspired by duty-free shopping areas. “Eyes of the City” is one of the two main sections that form the 8th edition of UABB, dedicated to the overarching theme of “Urban Interactions”. The other main section, called “Ascending Cities”, is curated by the leading Chinese academician Meng Jianmin and the Italian art critic Fabio Cavallucci. Source by Eyes of the City and images Courtesy of MVRDV.

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