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CIRCA 20:24 - Season I

Ai Weiwei, Ai vs AI

11 January - 31 March

In our questions, more so than any answers, we can find the map of the human mind. We ask questions in search of learning and understanding, says Ai Weiwei, dividing ourselves from systems of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that lack interior identities. The questions we ask reveal our humanity and preoccupations, further distancing the human questioner from machine systems, which have no life story, no personhood from which any sincere question can arise.

Ai Weiwei’s 81 questions are both the continuation of a deep history of rational and spiritual inquiry as well as an innately idiosyncratic autoportrait. Ai vs AI is both an endeavour to reinvigorate the ancient convention of philosophical dialogues (from Socrates to The Enlightenment Salon) and a hand-drawn map of Ai’s own mind. Taking inspiration from both the Tiānwèn (‘The Heavenly Questions’) and Ai’s  81-day imprisonment, he explores how the act of questioning retains power today.  “Authorities always know more than you, and they play a game of not telling you what they know,” says Ai. At all times, they tell you less than you should know. Like many who have lived under authoritarian systems, Ai still has no answer to fundamental and life-shaping questions: “Why was I jailed? Why was I released?” Such painful and complex histories are the foundations of our identities; the questions Ai asks today are asked by the person who has lived this life, drawing an irresolvable distinction between the human and machine. “Questions are important because they relate to our personal stories.”

For all humans – from newly inquisitive children to longest-lived adults – the one capacity and freedom we retain is the question, says Ai. Answers are routinely and blandly mass-produced in knowledge factories – including schools, religious institutions, nations and national myths – yet we often believe answers remain more important than questions. Questions are, in themselves, generative: in asking, we sketch out a terrain vague of human inquiry: for thousands of years, Chinese poets and thinkers asked what we might find walking on the surface of the moon, says Ai – this unknown fueling creativity and generating poetry and song. For this fertile landscape of imagination, the arrival of astronauts on the moon and the photography of dusty craters delivered by lunar exploration marked the destruction of creative terrain. “Expression has always been structured by words and by forms – as fairy tales and mythology,” says Ai. “We have to give a symbolic character to any expression.”

Still, rising systems of technology and knowledge production present new challenges to our ability to question the world. In an age of rising artificial intelligence – when humanity’s role in many forms of knowledge labour is reduced to asking the right questions to powerful systems of information processing – we are reminded that questions are far more than a means to an end, says Ai. “If humans will ever be liberated, it will be because we ask the right questions, not provide the right answers.”

Screen locations

20:24 (KST), COEX K-Pop Square

20:24 (GMT) Piccadilly Lights

20:24 (CET) Kurfürstendamm

20:24 (CET) Luxottica



19/01/2024 Ai vs AI: Ai Weiwei asks the big questions nightly in central London
15/01/2024 Ai Weiwei vs Artificial Intelligence
13/01/2024 Take in a sunset, a snowstorm or a baby’s cry, and see why AI is no threat to art
11/01/2024 Ai Weiwei Takes on A.I. for a New Public Art Exhibition in London’s Piccadilly Circus
11/01/2024 Art that can be easily copied by AI is ‘meaningless’, says Ai Weiwei
09/01/2024 Ai Weiwei Has 81 Questions for Artificial Intelligence
09/01/2024 Press Release: Ai Weiwei, Ai vs AI

81 Questions