“There is a possibility that vision is not as solid and truthful as we think; perhaps the reason we think it’s real comes from our stubborn self-belief.”

Born 1980, Weifang, Shandong

Images are based on dots, or points, and colours. Points in space can be identified by Cartesian coordinates, which denote their position relative to horizontal (X), vertical (Y), and deep (Z) axes. In computer graphics, colours are usually defined as combinations of red, green and blue (RGB). Zhang Liaoyuan says he is no maths genius, but he was fascinated by the idea of swapping the two systems and defining colours as if they were points. A geek friend was happy to help. Adapting a graphics coders’ toolkit, he created a program to carry out the conversion and applied it to a short film of a billiards game. The RGB “coordinates” of each pixel in the frame were translated to XYZ Cartesian coordinates. The rapid succession of frames in the film on the bottom screen generates moving lines and planes on the two screens above it—rendering the images unintelligible. “Art and mathematics are both systems everyone is familiar with. In essence, they are both based on assumptions in our minds,” the artist says. His aim was to upset those assumptions: “When XYZ is used to explain colour, what we see can no longer be interpreted in the normal way—we cannot recognize it any more.”


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