M+, West Kowloon Cultural District - Hong Kong

M+ presents Hardcore Digital Detox, a work by Shanghai- and New York–based artist Miao Ying, commissioned expressly for the M+ Stories online platform. It explores the restricted Chinese internet—popularly known as the “Chinternet”—and is a “strategic lifestyle advice tool” with the seemingly illogical premise of offering an online retreat from the digital world.

This #spiritualretreatinchinternet parodies the widespread commodification of “wellness” in Western societies, as well as the growing demand among affluent consumers for post-materialist experiences rooted in authenticity and nature—the kind that make for perfect Instagram posts.

Miao considers herself a dual citizen of the Chinternet and the World Wide Web, and Hardcore Digital Detox operates in these two territories simultaneously, pitting mainstream internet users against Chinese censors by playfully instructing users to set their virtual private network (VPN) to mainland China, where popular websites and apps like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, eBay, WhatsApp, Vimeo, and Amazon are restricted.

For Miao, the images and ideas that are blocked by the Great Firewall of China are akin to liu bai (negative space) in traditional Chinese ink painting, as both are paradoxically productive negative spaces that stimulate imagination. Far from seeing the restricted internet as a deficiency, the artist’s self-diagnosed Chinternet Stockholm syndrome celebrates the ingenuity, humour, and intelligence of Chinese internet users, and the rich visual culture they have cultivated behind the firewall.

Hardcore Digital Detox adopts many of these users’ creative workarounds, which are strategies Miao describes in positive terms as “self-censorship.” The work is a companion piece to her 2016 project Chinternet Plus, commissioned by Rhizome and the New Museum.

Hardcore Digital Detox
is the first work in M+’s new series of digital commissions, which explores online creative practices that sit at the intersection of visual culture and technology. The series engages with a range of topics related to the digital, including data visualisation, interactive design, gamification, and hyper-connectivity.

Miao Ying is a Shanghai- and New York–based artist who navigates the possibilities available in the restricted sphere of the Chinese internet, critically and playfully reflecting on censorship. Her work has been shown at the Gwangju Biennale (2018); the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto (2018); the Photographers’ Gallery, London (2018); K11 Art Foundation and MoMA PS1 (2017); the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (2017); KW Institute for Contemporary Art (2016); and the Venice Biennale (2015).

M+ is a museum dedicated to collecting, exhibiting, and interpreting visual art, design and architecture, moving image, and Hong Kong visual culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. In Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, we are building one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary visual culture in the world, with a bold ambition to establish ourselves as one of the world’s leading cultural institutions.

Our aim is to create a new kind of museum that reflects our unique time and place, a museum that builds on Hong Kong’s historic balance of the local and the international to define a distinctive and innovative voice for Asia’s 21st century.

Located on Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, the West Kowloon Cultural District is one of the largest cultural projects in the world. Its vision is to create a vibrant new cultural quarter for Hong Kong. With a complex of theatres, performance spaces, and museums, the West Kowloon Cultural District will produce and host world-class exhibitions, performances, and cultural events, as well as provide 23 hectares of public open space, including a two-kilometre waterfront promenade.