Christine Xia:

Hi!

I’m Christine Xia and I am a recent graduate of OCAD University’s Graphic Design program. I enjoy type design, the web, creating systems and placing things into them, interactive and generative media, book binding, making things that look cool, performance and installations, and typesetting very large lengths of text.

To know more about me, you can look here.

Thanks!

Reach me at hi@xiaxiaxia.design

Thank you for reminding me
Defunkt
Grave Eternity
Monday Night Seminars
大哥
Vernacular Beauty
Essentially Anonymous
A Hundred Flowers Bloom
Loss: A Future Meme Culture

Thank you for reminding me, 2019 (Ongoing)

// 42 min 9 sec video, 5 × 7 in book, interactive installation (oscilloscope, microphone, script).

Thank you for reminding me is an ongoing project that creates new connections with our surrounding spaces by embracing the mistranslation of old ideas. Rather than taking a flawed approach to adapting valuable yet somewhat outdated writings and beliefs from the past, this work attempts to find beauty in the bits and pieces that are lost in translation while still acknowledging both the past and present. This project will continually iterate by pairing new texts with new locations, resulting in a growing number of documented performances/scenes that hold unique connections with their respective spaces.

The work is composed of three parts: a video documentation of the on-location performance, a book made from the logged speech-to-text of said performance, and an interactive installation of the oscilloscope and a script of the selected piece of writing.

// 42 min 9 sec on-location performance of We have only just met (Scene 1).

// 183-page book of recorded speech-to-text and video stills from We have only just met (Scene 1).

// Interactive installation: the microphone and script sit on one side of the door while viewers can watch the text on the oscilloscope from the other side, out of range of the speaker’s voice.

The first scene is called We have only just met and was based on translating the introductory chapter of Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London. While personally I find gaps within and disagree with her writing approach in some places, she vocalizes an importance in not forgetting about the flâneur by trying to find a place for the role in today’s urban landscape; outside of its original definition for the bourgeois French man.

Using the old technology of an oscilloscope, the more contemporary tech development of Google’s Cloud Speech-to-Text, and my own flawed reading of the chapter, I set myself in the alleys hidden within Toronto for my performance. The text generated from my reading was then taken to create a 183-page book of Elkin’s original 21-page chapter.

Defunkt, Work in Progress

// Typeface (regular and italic), 16 × 36 in specimen poster.

Swooshes, ink traps, and alternate glyphs galore, Defunkt is a new typeface that carries on the tradition of weird and awkward grotesques. This is an avenue that has absolutely already been explored, but why not keep having fun? Defunkt seeks to inherit the conventions that define its predecessors but implements glyphs with high-contrast and dramatic strokes. With display use as their goal, characters slope in and out with gusto to produce unusual and energetic forms. Where strokes are often thin, they are thick; where they are usually wide and strong, forms are pinched and narrow; letterforms shrink, grow, and confidently flare out.

Grave Eternity, 2019

// Performance, monitor, computer mouse, staple gun, and participants’ illustrations.

Grave Eternity is a web-based installation and performance piece that requires participants to take a few minutes to respond to a portrait of the man featured in the frame through drawing or writing. I then collect people’s contributions and use a staple gun to violently attach them to the wall, surrounding the frame with eclectic and mostly uninformed reactions to the subject of the image.

The man in the image is Francis Galton, one of the early contributors of racial sciences and creator of term eugenics—the practice of correlating physiology to intellect and taking action and affecting policy to reflect their beliefs. This piece is an act of disenchantment towards Galton—an “anti-shrine”, unceremonious and misinformed. It removes the power of controlling his own public perception by re-appropriating his image and his personal history to endlessly loop and generate. Similarly to how the photos of anonymous individuals documented during expeditions rest in archives or databases completely separated from any shred of their actual humanity or real self, I have created a ritual and “alter” to create the same experience for this scientist, no longer allowing his image rest peacefully. This work is a part of my undergraduate capstone project to be completed in May 2020 that addresses the issue of disinterring history and speaking about the pain of others.

// The installation before the performance began—in front of the portrait of Francis Galton are a pile of previous audience contributions, a staple gun, and a computer mouse.

// The audience’s contributions to the performance.

Monday Night Seminars, 2019

// Single-page website.

This site is a web-poster made to promote a possible series of events for Monday Night Seminars presented by the McLuhan Centre of Culture and Technology. With the series being inspired by McLuhan’s The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man, the idea of an ‘industrialized folklore’ seeped into the the composition, selected typefaces, choice of colour, and user interaction. Rather than this “folklore” being based in distant stories from the past, the types of cultural narratives McLuhan addresses in his essays looks to technology and the popular culture that has grown around it.

Leaning into this modern folklore theme, a composition with heavy typographic ornamentation, a web-based display face, another calligraphic typeface, a modern re-cut of Times New Roman, and a more “digitized” book reading experience with the use of stick elements that you flip/scroll through. The chaotic interactions are meant to make the users hyperaware of their engagement with the large amounts of content they are presented with, reflecting the arguments in The Mechanical Bride. This leads back into the seminars which all address different ways in which we can begin to tackle, disassemble, and take control over the overwhelming and over-growing techno-culture that surrounds us.

View the full website here (best experienced in Chrome).

// The background colour is tied to user’s mouse speed, making the page glow and flash with any fast movement.

// Details on the speakers are hidden until the user hovers over them and the large titles that say ‘Monday Night Seminars’ expand and deteriorate, revealing how the letterforms were made.

大哥, 2019

// Framed installation, digital images, sound.

大哥 (dà gē) is an interactive installation made as a part of another project, Vernacular Beauty. The Communist Party has been governing China for over the past 60 years and even though the ways in which society functions and communicates has shifted an unfathomable amount with the ever growing presence of the internet within every facet of our lives, the Chinese government continues to assert their control over its citizens even in this new digital age. Even though Chairman Mao’s time in office has been over for decades, just as his portrait looks over Tiananmen Square, this digitized version of his image follows the viewer even closer than before, just as China’s government has an even stronger clutch against their citizens’ access to information within a digital space.

Images of the former Chairman’s face have been collected from a wide and expansive collection of propaganda posters created in during Mao’s time of governance over the People’s Republic of China. These depictions of his visage range from wise and stoic to joyous and loveable.

The country’s national anthem plays on repeat, only increasing in volume when the user steps away to get the “bigger picture”, while being closer to the installation lowers the volume, making this overt display of nationalism fade away into the background.

Vernacular Beauty, 2019

// Digital images, prints, interactive installation, writing.

Vernacular Beauty is an ongoing process of self-reflection, discussion, and craft that takes the visual artefacts of propaganda and dissects them, hoping to isolate parts of their beauty that stem from their pervasive visual vernacular that weren’t yet clear to the viewer, or even myself. By breaking apart the inherently political art/design objects created for propaganda to distill them to just their visual elements, when reassembling them, what’s left of their original messages and agendas have been reconstructed into a new meaning, and one that doesn’t necessarily hold the same amount of intent and purpose as its source material.

// Reconstructed Virginia Slims cigarette advertisements (13 × 19 in posters).

// 大哥, an interactive installation. More information on this work here.

While it may be some sort of aimless theme that prevails throughout each component of the project, it’s one that’s shaped by the conversation between me as “the maker” and the source material. This conversation shifts back and forth, weaves and forks, and also leads to some dead ends, but every part of it adds another layer to this new colloquially developed theme within the project as a whole.

// A collection of “macho” eyes from vintage cigarette advertisements (animated GIF).

This project takes the rigidity of the meaning and messages of propaganda and attempts to transform it into something softer, less deceptive, and more authentically ambiguous, because no truth is as black and white as it’s presented in propaganda.

// A set of “macho” eyes half-constructed of cropped Virginia Slims advertisements.

Essentially Anonymous, 2020

// A pair of 5 × 7 in hardcover books.

Essentially Anonymous is a two-part installation comprised of two books, one that can touched and flipped through and another that is out-of-reach and unknowable. Both books are comprised of expedition photographs collected from the American Museum of Natural History’s digital archives; the untouchable book in the corner is filled with nameless photographs of people taken by researchers during these expeditions while the in-reach book puts the faces of said researchers on display for viewers to examine. These images are interspersed with a poem addressing the conflicts within the act of speaking for others and documenting experiences outside of your own. This work is a part of my undergraduate capstone project to be completed in May 2020 that addresses the issue of disinterring history and speaking about the pain of others.

The untouchable book rests above the viewer’s head, with its pages almost out of sight, positioned in the icon corner to pay a modest tribute to these anonymous individuals by transforming the book they reside in into a type of worship space or alter. Instead of their anonymity taking away from their individuality, this type of anonymity removes these people’s faces and bodies from display altogether and returns the control of visibility back to these individuals. In contrast, the book that viewers are able to touch and see is filled with images of the expeditioners, the ones that have performed questionable acts of documentation. Both books are nearly identical: same number of pages, same text, same size. The only difference is the portraits that have been swapped out. With antiquated and unethical anthropological research practices often putting the most vulnerable people on display, this pair of books does the opposite by putting the perpetrators on display.

// The untouchable book filled with portraits of anonymous individuals. Their portraits only barely peak out through slivers between each page.

// The touchable book filled with portraits of expeditioners and researchers funded by the American Museum of Natural History. Due to some of these photos including the faces of local guides or other individuals not affiliated with the museum there are black circles throughout the book that censor these people’s faces.

Below is the poem that is woven between the portraits within each book:

You do not know me and I can never know you.

I want to be seen but I do not want to be watched.
I do not want to be watched but I want to be visible.
I want to be visible but I do not want to be surveilled.
I do not want to be surveilled but I want to be present.
I want to be present but I do not want to leave my past.
I do not want to leave my past but I want to grow.
I want to grow but I do not want to leave.
I do not want to leave but I want to explore.
I want to explore but I do not want to overstep.
I do not want to overstep but I want to understand.
I want to understand but I do not want to judge.
I do not want to judge but I want to make connections.
I want to make connections but I do not want to be vulnerable.
I do not want to be vulnerable but I want to be receptive.
I want to be receptive but I do not want to be naive.
I do not want to be naive but I want to admire.
I want to admire but I do not want to stare.
I do not want to stare but I want to be curious.
I want to be curious but I want to be respectful.
I want to be respectful but I do not want to be governed.
I do not want to be governed but I want to belong.
I want to belong but I do not want to lose myself.
I do not want to lose myself but I want to participate.
I want to participate but I do not want to perpetuate.
I do not want to perpetuate but I want to create momentum.
I want to create momentum but I do not want to be misguided.
I do not want to be misguided but I want to demystify.
I want to demystify but I do not want to expose.
I do not want to expose but I want to speculate.
I want to speculate but I do not want to exploit.
I do not want to exploit but I want to wonder.
I want to wonder but I do not want to misinform.
I do not want to misinform but I want to educate.
I want to educate but I do not want to overshare.
I do not want to overshare but I want to be vocal.
I want to be vocal but I do not want to silence.
I do not want to silence but I want to be represented.
I want to be represented but I do not want to be captured.
I do not want to be captured but I want to be remembered.
I want to be remembered but I do not want to live forever.
I do not want to live forever but I want to live forever.
I want to live forever but I do not want to live forever.
I do not want to live forever but I want to live forever.

May your image rest peacefully.

A Hundred Flowers Bloom, 2018

// 5 × 7 in handwriting practice books.

This set of handwriting practice books is meant to be a teaching tool that helps to engage the user with both the language and history of China, but does so with a critical lens that acknowledges the wrong-doings and negative influence of the nation’s government. While at first the book comes off as a somewhat regular and mass-produced item, as you look closer, you can begin to uncover the true intent of its contents.

Loss: A Future Meme Culture, 2018

// Multimedia installation exhibit.

This exhibition explores the developing relationship between generative methods of visual design and the visual culture of memes. Through research it has become evident that the inflation of meme value has increased at an exponential rate since the earliest recorded search term analytics from Google. The graphing of search terms we have compiled aims to support our thesis that the over-saturation of memes within the present visual culture could paint a dystopian near-future for the very culture in which they are present. Thsi project was made in collaboration with Cole Wielgosz.

// Exhibition poster and brochures.

// Loss.jpg looks forward to the future of corporate Twitter memes created by marketing teams and their infiltration into colloquial visual culture. It asks: what does a near-future look like where corporate interests infiltrate the culture of memes as a whole, injecting corporate messages and slogans successfully into popularized meme formats? This generative work pulls tweets from “#ad” in real time and converts the tweets into the visual format of four different generations of memes: an advice animal, rage comic, deep fried, and fantasy object labelling meme are all generated using the same #ad tweet. This piece addresses the disintegrating distinction between authentic and corporate memes and the possibility of weaponized memes in order to forward political, social, or financial agendas.

// Grape intends to create a hypothesized scenario in which memes transcend from digital spaces into physical space. Through the use of code and physical computing, the user does surgery on a grape, referencing a popular meme in late 2018. The result of this “surgery” is an interactive generative installation—every time the user touches the scalpel to the grape, a new layer is added to the meme format. This projection of the future of memes being brought into physical space pushes the boundaries of the traditional perception of memes and makes the current digital space that they occupy more apparent.

// Flashlight envisions a near-future in which enter into an interactive space, eventually leading to participatory engagement with memes. The piece depicts a post on Reddit which appears to be black, until the user interacts with the flashlight on their phone. Motion detection is used to create a spotlight that follows the movement of the flashlight, allowing the user to search and find the hidden image.

// Pretty Boy (left) houses a speaker that plays the audio of the vines that were translated into Vine Visualizations (right). There is a foreseeable link between the visual culture of memes and the visual culture of contemporary art exhibition through code, as well as the documentation or preservation of the ephemeral Web. The visual outputs that comprise this piece were created through Processing—popular vines were played and visualized based on their amplitude and frequency. Sourced from the now-defunct video-sharing platform, Vine, we have memorialized these fleeting cultural moments into tangible outcomes. This piece addresses how we can capture the volatile culture of the Internet and how these future meme-based works could exist in a gallery space.

Save Us All!
Rave in Berlin 1100
Human Artifacts
Welcome to the Me-Wide-Web
SATURATION III
The Death of Stalin
International Festival of Authors
Downtown
Shadows Talk

Save Us All!, 2019

// 24 × 18 in screen prints.

Save Us All! is an edition of prints that satirizes The Royal Family’s perfectly planned and measured public image to highlight the gossip and tabloid news that keeps the family relevant and present in popular culture. While exaggerating the monarchy’s grandeur by transforming their balcony photo from the Trooping the Colour ceremony into the image of saints, these “holy” portraits are overlayed with loud and brash text—the background is composed of tabloid articles that gossip and speculate about the family’s lives and the foreground consists of the words from God Save the Queen stretched, scaled, and transformed into eye-catching headlines and titles. This work is a part of my undergraduate capstone project to be completed in May 2020 that addresses the issue of disinterring history and speaking about the pain of others.

Rave in Berlin 1100, 2019

// Web-based typeface.

Rave in Berlin 1100 is a display face created purely with HTML and CSS. While its rigid set of rules and alignments keep it in a strict blackletter-esque order, its pointed curves sweep above and below the cap-heights and baselines to form a systematically dramatic set of glyphs. This display face was used in my web-poster for Monday Night Seminars.

View the full website here.

Human Artifacts, 2019

// 4 × 5 in books.

Human Artifacts is an anthology of algorithmically-made stories that reveal the ways in which our digital culture can artificially reflect intimate emotional experiences. Trained from ImageNet’s non-human categories, images were bred together to create morphing sequences that somehow still capture human-like figures. Despite the categories not meant to portray humans, the few people that have snuck into other categories of objects and landscapes are able to creep their way in to the series of uncanny images. Although the algorithm that produced these photos are not meant to recognize a human figure, they are still able to tell a narrative. This work is a part of my undergraduate capstone project to be completed in May 2020 that addresses the issue of disinterring history and speaking about the pain of others.

Below is the afterword of the book:

None of these images were meant to include human figures. At the very least, they do not include any genes that might hint at their anthropormorphic origins. Barbershop, running shoe, tree frog, flamingo, Schipperke, fire engine are all things that these images proclaim themselves to be. But, there’s something more to this, isn’t there? There must be, or how else am I able to see a child grow up or watch two lovers drift apart?

Of course, such a feat is unachievable without some level of human intervention that shapes and manipulates these uncanny forms into something that feels a bit more familiar. These images were selected, sequenced, and titled by myself, but their actual creation was dictated by something beyond our shared understanding of image-making. In other words, each image was made using machine-learning algorithms that bred one shadowy frame with another to form each of these almost-humans.

Does it surprise you to know that the neural network that produced these portraits does not even know what a human is? These networks do not learn in the same way we learn. While they were modelled after the human brain, in reality these algorithms were made to read and identify pixels and make relationships between them without the need to understand what meaning was held within these 512 × 512 grids. Images, along with their assigned tags and labels, were fed to them by people—people with their own complex lives, partialities, and preferences. A machine-learning algorithm can only learn and produce from what its been given. Yet, 81.1% tub, 12.3% angora, 3.5% monastery, and 3.1% lumbermill produces something so powerful and tactile that you end up forgetting about all of that.

This isn’t to say that the making of these images are immune to human influence. Rather, it is this bias in its very nature that has subconsciously guided the selection of training images to allow scatterings of people to appear in the backgrounds or sidelines of the targetted subjects. It is these peripheral figures that reemerge into the ghostly entities that fill these pages.

The making of Human Artifacts was possible thanks to Joel Simon’s Artbreeder project.

Welcome to the Me-Wide-Web, 2019

// Single-page website.

Welcome to the Me-Wide-Web is a collection of projects, experiments, resources and thoughts from my Fall 2019 Interactive Media: Web course. My web journey is documented and erratically organized into expanding and collapsing columns, with each of the items fully iteractive within their own frames.

View the full website here.

SATURATION III, 2019

// Series of 15 digital album tiles.

A series of album tiles made for BROCKHAMPTON’s album SATURATION III. Rather than designing album covers, these tiles were designed with the specific intent of digital applications. Due to the digital uses of album art usually downsizing images to small tile sizes, the series of designs were made to be recognizable at these smaller scales, be distinct

View the process and ideas for this project here.

The Death of Stalin, 2018

// 4.5 × 6 in book, 8 × 10 in magazine.

A paperback book and magazine for the screenplay of The Death of Stalin, written by Armando Iannucci and David Schneider. While the former serves to be more functional and the latter is more expressive, both employ visual tropes of propaganda, and particularly the Russian constructivist style in the magazine.

The book emulates the look and feel of a “little red book”, formatting the typical look of a screenplay into a more dense text and the magazine uses geometric and stylized letterforms to create spreads based on the visual compositions and mood of selected scenes from the film.

International Festival of Authors, 2018

// 18 × 24 in posters.

Complimentary mock posters to promote Toronto’s International Festival of Authors. These two posters—one that uses only typography and one that also includes image—display a nostalgic motif of library book sign-out cards as their visual identity.

Downtown, 2018

// Interactive sound and 3-channel video installation.

An installation made in Processing that allows the audience to use their phone flashlight to interact and have a dialogue with the lyrics of the song Downtown by Babeo Baggins.

The use of the phone flashlight draws on the experience of being at a concert, but contrasts with the installation’s experience of being in a much smaller space with much less noise. The dark room and trance-like visuals that glow between pinks and blues along with the control the user has over the movement of the text establishes an intimate and responsive relationship between person and screen.

Shadows Talk, 2018

// 2 channel audio, photographs, webpage (headphone use recommended).

Images of deteriorating poster were collected as a source for these audio works. Using the idea of psychogeography as a starting point, this piece captures the visual experience of a poster in a purely auditory experience, layering pieces of conversations about the subject of each poster. The volume, clarity, and direction of each conversation fragment is based on the legibility and position of each poster within the image. Listeners can experience each time and location with the soft sounds of traffic in the distance behind the aural collage that moves back and forth from one ear to the other.

View the full website here.