The Council for the Arts at MIT just announced the recipients of the 2022 Schnitzer Prize in the Visual Arts, awarded for excellence in a body of work, to three students, including Kwan Queenie Li (SMACT ’22) and Christopher Joshua Benton (SMACT ’23).

Opening exhibition on Thursday, May 26 at 5:30pm at the Wiesner Student Art Gallery.

Kwan Queenie Li

Kwan Queenie Li is an interdisciplinary artist from Hong Kong. Coalescing lens-based media, performance, and writing, her practice explores post-colonial intricacies, vegatative kinship, and techno-poetics within neoliberal and technocratic contexts. In her practice, morphing polyphonic worldviews into poetic encounters is to transgress boundaries of linguistic devices, probing hegemonic structures and conjuring alternative narratives.

Li’s work has been supported and exhibited internationally, including at Venice Architecture Biennale (Hong Kong Pavilion, 2021), Art Machines 2 (HK, 2021), Ars Electronica RIXC Garden (2021, LV), BOOKED: Tai Kwun Contemporary (HK, 2020), IdeasCity by the NTU CCA and the New Museum (SG/US, 2020), Design Trust (HK, 2019), and more. Her photo book, “Quasi-Immigrant” on Hong Kong’s exacerbating emigration phenomenon was published by an independent publisher, Brownie Publishing. A first-generation college student, Queenie received her BFA in Fine Art from the University of Oxford (2019) and a SM in Art, Culture, and Technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2022). Queenie is the recipient of awards including a thesis prize, the Stuart Morgan Prize for Art History (Oxon.), and the Enterprise Poets Prize for Imagining a Future (MIT).


Infinite Replicas

Video, 13’45 mins, HD colour, stereo sound; Two-channel CRT display, flat file cabinet, charcoal and graphite drawings, H40.5″xD26.625″xL30″; Eight-channel installation of moving stills. 2022. Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Cambridge, US. 2021.

At the core of this series of work is a 14-minute short film developed within a three-month residency at the MIT.Nano Lab. Documenting the speculation and observation of scanned, operative, and performative bodies against the transparent and infrastructural aesthetics of a world leading nanotechnology laboratory, the film delves into the immense visibility bestowed by new scientific and technological imaging tools and asks, “what is (not) to be seen?”.

This project probes the dichotomy and yet resonance between art and science by returning to one of their earlier convergences: life drawing. The artist’s proposal of staging a life drawing session in the machinal room of the lab was met with concerns of nudity, raising tension among evolving body politics, art discourses, and technological advancements.

Supported by MIT.Nano and the Council for the Arts at MIT.


VR installation with two mirror domes with vinyl prints; 360° video of interpolated videos from StyleGAN2 model trained with customised data set of accidental imagery, 10 minute, stereo sound; Artist’s book. Original speculative fiction in pearlescent print, 3.67” x 8.5”. 2021. Ars Electronica screening. Bartos Theatre, Cambridge, US. 2021; “Unbounded” exhibition, Wiesner Art Gallery, Cambridge, US, 2021.

Where is the threshold between sleepless bodies and machine dreams? This work intends to address an absurd phenomenon: whilst there is an expanding insomniac population reported worldwide, more algorithms have claimed to be able to initiate machine dreaming.

Insomniac/Amnesiac is a mixed-media VR installation that meanders the boundaries of human and artificial intelligence, dream and allegory, cinematic and virtual realities.

The durational, virtual-reality display is an uninterrupted interpolation of two circular projections. They are products of an artificial neural model trained through revised style-based generative adversarial networks (style 2GAN). The generative image model utilises a customised data set of existing accidental images which were taken by mistake, the accidental release of shutters. Together, the parallel imagery is a metaphoric visualisation of the flattened linearity of time. Resonating with an original piece of speculative fiction, the VR immersion delves into a new sleepless era, in a metaphoric concurrence of the sun and the moon.

In all modes of reality, literal, sculptural and virtual, fictions are forward-looking provocations as much as cadavers of the past; returning to Deleuze, they are the crystal of time. Inspired by his writing on Michael Serres’ theory of shadows, against a projection of the synthetic sun and the artificial moon, the bodies of participants inevitably transform into the inverse of the projection, the opaqueness that cannot be exposed by analysis and hence refracts us into infinite speculation.

No Humans in the City, but Weeds

Video, colour, sound, 9min. 2021 Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition – Hong Kong Pavilion, Venice / Hong Kong. Created in collaboration with Joel Cunningham.

Today, the Anthropocene expels nature to the periphery. Tomorrow, humans become marginalised—“weeds”, thriving in an epoch of data.

Hong Kong, a microcosm of intense urban density, is one of many cities at the forefront of a new wave of data centre construction. Fuelled by an explosion of data production and the emergence of edge computing, the territory is currently witnessing the materialisation of new architectural typologies that challenge preconceived notions of digital and bodily distinction. Due to the city’s spatial politics, these facilities have no choice but to exist in close proximity to existing residents and have even started to inhabit buildings previously occupied by human bodies.

This is a piece of artistic research addressing the growing prevalence of data and its less visible yet far-reaching implications upon our urban fabric, convoluting notions of digital and bodily occupation. Focusing on Hong Kong’s burgeoning trend of data-centre urbanism, this collaborative project commenced in 2019 and intends to stimulate collective imagination around the agency and performativity of human communities within increasingly post-human urban environments.

The project manifests as a series of creative non-fiction essays, illustrations, and photographs, a single channel film of HD footage, 8mm film transfer and photogrammetry, an archival website and a public dialogue. In the unprecedented digital transformation and the lurking spell of the “metaverse”, the work speculates a challenge of sustaining affinity with environments that are increasingly catering to our digital rather than bodily needs.

Supported by the Hong Kong Design Trust and the Council for the Arts at MIT.

Poems are the Unleashed Tides of Muteness

Video, colour, sound, 12:55min; Installation, digital projection, RISO prints. 2022. Thresholds 50.

This video/essay revolves around notions of amnesia, tragedy, lunacy, poetry, and insomnia in waves of decolonization and nationalism. Excerpts of the writing are narrated throughout the video, which consists of five identical cycles of stop-motion photographs. The imagery was taken in Hong Kong by the artist on a metro journey during the anti-extradition law protests of 2019 when forthcoming stations were abruptly shut down due to social unrest. The collateral damage of this safety control measure trapped passengers in an endless loop, which is referred to by the repetition of visuals in the video. In this journal, the artist has adapted a print version of the work where selected texts from the writing are outlined as a silhouette of the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (MTR) map with blocked-out stations.

The work reflects on the linearity of progression, and suggests that a hinterland of hope perhaps resides in an artistic realm that is often dismissed and disregarded, where counter-ideologies subside in an inaudible cacophony.