Farsight Freeport

远见自由港


Site-specific installation, Solo Exhibition
5 September – 10 November 2019
HeK, Haus der elektronische Kunste
Basel, Switzerland


“Welcome to Farsight Freeport, the smart museum of the future! Launching in 2029, our integrated architectural prototype demonstrates how discerning connoisseurs can exchange, store, and exhibit their digital art collections. For our demo showroom in Basel, we feature a selection of early media artworks by Farsight CEO and founder Lu Ming Long, created years before he pivoted from a career in content production to trend forecasting.

We understand how difficult it is for collectors to maximise public engagement while maintaining security and curatorial integrity. To this end, our patented Server/Servant Surveillance System (SSSS) employs physical and psychological barriers to keep your precious artworks safe from accidental damage and unauthorised replication.”

- Farsight CEO Statement




For his exhibition in Switzerland, Lawrence Lek imagines a future retrospective of his work as presented by Farsight Corporation, his technology start-up dedicated to innovation in the creative industries. First conceived as the corporate nemesis in his films Geomancer and AIDOL – both set in the year 2065 – Lek established Farsight in 2018 as a real-life production studio to blur the line between fiction and reality. Since then, he has used the start-up as a nonhuman alter ego, with its relentless drive for growth embodying the principles described in his video essay Sinofuturism (1839-2046) (2016, 60m). Under automated capitalism, artistic creativity is no longer governed by humanist principles but is forced to evolve into a new form, one that reveals the underlying conditions of its production.

In this new site-specific installation at HeK, Lawrence Lek has commissioned Farsight to build an architectural prototype inspired by the former function of the HeK building and the surrounding area of Freilager-Platz, a former freeport, a port area where goods are unloaded, stored, and shipped without payment of customs duties. Farsight has transformed HeK’s exhibition space into a storage and viewing centre for digital artworks, separating the gallery into a 'served' zone for the audience and a 'servant' zone for hardware and software. The interior obeys the functional requirements for the processes that operate in it, while the works on display depict a society that has itself been reorganized by intelligent systems. Invited to enter this unfamiliar zone, the audience slowly gains access to Lek’s oeuvre, assembled together as historical artefacts to be categorised and maintained.

Full press release below ︎︎︎


























Press Release

Lawrence Lek
Farsight Freeport
陆明龙
远见自由港

5 September - 10 November 2019

HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel) is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of Lawrence Lek in Switzerland. London-based artist Lawrence Lek produces immersive virtual worlds and video essays with computer-generated animation, video game engines and electronic soundtracks. His works are often presented within complex installations, mimicking the architectural environment of the virtual worlds that he creates. Delving into the interplay between politics, technology and cultural production, Lek’s narratives contemplate the future of our society, in which artificial intelligence is implemented across all industrial and economic sectors, and the automation of labour is complete. 

For his exhibition in Switzerland, Lawrence Lek imagines a future retrospective of his work as presented by Farsight Corporation, his technology start-up dedicated to innovation in the creative industries. First conceived as the corporate nemesis in his films Geomancer and AIDOL – both set in the year 2065 – Lek established Farsight in 2018 as a real-life production studio to blur the line between fiction and reality. Since then, he has used the start-up as a nonhuman alter ego, with its relentless drive for growth embodying the principles described in his video essay Sinofuturism (1839-2046) (2016, 60m). Under automated capitalism, artistic creativity is no longer governed by humanist principles but is forced to evolve into a new form, one that reveals the underlying conditions of its production.

In this new site-specific installation at HeK, Lawrence Lek has commissioned Farsight to build an architectural prototype inspired by the former function of the HeK building and the surrounding area of Freilager-Platz, a former freeport, a port area where goods are unloaded, stored, and shipped without payment of customs duties. Farsight has transformed HeK’s exhibition space into a storage and viewing centre for digital artworks, separating the gallery into a 'served' zone for the audience and a 'servant' zone for hardware and software. The interior obeys the functional requirements for the processes that operate in it, while the works on display depict a society that has itself been reorganized by intelligent systems. Invited to enter this unfamiliar zone, the audience slowly gains access to Lek’s oeuvre, assembled together as historical artefacts to be categorised and maintained.

The attention to architectural language and symbolism, both in his virtual works and in his installations, is a recurring element in the work of the artist, a trained architect. Buildings are not only the settings of Lek’s existential fictions but act as the protagonists of his installations and video essays. The Louvre Pyramid and its Egyptian predecessors, a fully-automated luxury hotel, the privatized Royal Academy of Arts, the converted QE2 ocean liner, and the airborne Olympic Stadium are featured as subjects in his works, acting as interfaces between the human and non-human worlds. Drawing from French anthropologist Marc Augé’s concept of the ‘non-place’, Farsight Freeport is a liminal space where automated society has evolved its own unique spatial environment, one whose purpose is to monitor and maintain.

Lek's film and video game works are distributed within the Farsight Freeport. These works are set in a future when the Farsight Corporation has evolved into a world-leading AI entertainment corporation. Lek suggests that the automation of labour enabled by artificial intelligence might liberate all humans from work. In this society, humans enjoy a hedonistic existence and spend all their time with art, music and video games. An unsettling question arises from this apparent dreamland: What happens when society outsources even the most uniquely human aspects of creative production to sentient robots and AIs?

Set in Singapore in 2065, Lek’s CGI animation Geomancer 风水师 (2017, 48m) revolves around the creative awakening of an environmental satellite built by Farsight Corporation. ‘If I had a soul I would pray. But all I have is my mind’s eye, so I dream of worlds,’ states the eponymous AI as they descend to Earth, hoping to become the first AI artist. Faced with a world that limits their freedom, Geomancer must come to terms with their militarised origins and the promises and problems of the emerging Sinofuturist movement. Featuring computer-generated graphics, a neural network-generated dream sequence, and a synthesised vocal soundtrack, Geomancer explores the implications of post-human consciousness.

AIDOL 爱道 (2019, 83m), the feature-length sequel to Geomancer, focuses on the global phenomenon of eSports (electronic sports), a growing mass-entertainment medium where professional players compete in international video game tournaments. The film features a fading superstar, Diva, who enlists Geomancer – now an aspiring songwriter – to mount a comeback performance at the 2065 eSports Olympics. The conflict between ‘Bio’ humans and ‘Synth’ machines exists on the global stage but also on a more intimate level, as exemplified by the collaboration between the singer-songwriter and the AI. As with Geomancer, Farsight is the film’s driving force, manipulating both the eSports tournament and Diva’s career.

Lek's ongoing interactive open-world video game 2065 (2018-) is set on a sprawling virtual island that encompasses the sites of its previous installations, including a simulation of HeK created for the exhibition. Players can teleport to other zones: K11 Art Space in Hong Kong, the headquarters of Farsight Corporation, the Barbican Centre in London, and Singapore's Marina Bay Casino from Geomancer. The world exists as an exploratory experience, where players encounter a game without goals, enemies, or end. The HeK exhibition also includes documentation of the Farsight Freeport installation, whose design incorporates AI algorithms used in architectural research. 

In these works, the dystopian elements of the techno-industrial complex are not to be understood in traditional Orwellian terms where an elite dictatorship controls the population through surveillance. Rather, Lek merges utopia and dystopia by envisioning automation without class restrictions, where everybody benefits from luxurious architecture, boutique services and endless fun. Farsight Freeport takes the models of platform capitalism embraced by Airbnb and Uber to their logical conclusion. Yet it remains governed by paradox; the absence of life is eerie and claustrophobic, but the presence of art renders the world visually appealing and seductive. 

Reflections on techno-futurist tendencies and their implementation are not the only thought-provoking aspects of the artist’s work. Lek uses 3D animation, virtual reality and video games – immersive forms of mass-entertainment – to mirror society’s hopes and fears for the future. By producing interactive environments as a complement to his video essays, Lek highlights how new models of sensory immersion and the industry of networked spectacle continue to shape the human condition.

Curated by Sabine Himmelsbach and Boris Magrini




Related Works

The AI conglomerate Farsight also appears in:
︎︎︎ the CGI film Geomancer (2017)
︎︎︎ the video game series 2065 (2018-ongoing).
︎︎︎ the site-specific installation FTSE (Farsight Stock Exchange) (2019).




WORKS   ︎    NEWS   ︎   PRESS   ︎   ABOUT   ︎   SUBSCRIBE