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In Conversation: Self Evolution from Guihan Lu's Series, Self Theater

Self Evolution, by Guihan Lu, is a projection mapping installation that plays with theater and self-portraiture by projecting images recorded from a brainwave kit that slowly morphs into a recognizable representation of the viewer. Self-awareness has become increasingly diverse during a period of tremendous advancement in technology and the humanities. And Lu's series, Self Theater, views the self as a self-sustaining ecosystem. In this context, the self's virtual form, ideology, reality entity, intellectual presence, and soul form are entangled and collide in a sequence of episodes. Thus, the "self" as a whole evolves, matures, and sublimates over time.

Self Evolution, a short film by Guihan Lu

In this film, Lu considers the "Self" to be a species that can evolve spontaneously through machine learning using the brainwave signals of the viewer as input. As viewers become more attentive, they may see themselves as a new species that is steadily expanding and thriving. Lu transforms the inner workings of the mind into an immersive video and performance—an observable spectacle.

The machine learning process

The machine learning process

Lu devised the notion of "Self Theater" after being inspired by Abraham Ortelius, a 16th-century Flemish cartographer who created the modern atlas and named it Theatre of the World.

The Theatre of the World

Q: What is the relationship between the Theater of the World and the Self Theater?

A: Our current maps normally describe the geographic and geopolitical features of the world. The most special thing about Abraham Ortelius's design of "Theater of the World" is that he brings together the pieces of agriculture, geology, climate, history, industry, language, population, religion, etc, as if the history, nature, and civilization of the macro world are superimposed, merged, and collided on paper, and a play without a plot but full of stories is staged. Species evolve, the natural environment changes and civilizations go on and off the stage. Inspired by this, I created the "Self Theater" to reflect the inner metabolism. I think of "Self Theater" as an ecosystem that operates independently, which includes the components of consciousness space, memory grid, mental architecture, subject perception, data archiving, historical clues, self-evolution, self-governance, etc.

Q: What does the imagery self you created using machine learning mean to you and the audience?

A: In "Self Evolution", I see myself as an endangered species, who can only be seen as a real being in the moments of being gazed at. It's as controversial as whether a fertilized egg can be considered a human being. My own process of creating new species with my attention was full of anxiety and struggles. Our attention can be called by consciousness, but it cannot be taken over by consciousness. Even trying to maintain long-term attention, the brain will be drained at the end. Once I gave up the struggle, the image of the evolved self kept shrinking and finally disappeared entirely. As with all extinct creatures, all previous efforts for her existence will not be stored in time. Like a play coming to an end, everything on the stage would not be the same as in the beginning. People keep deleting old content in the atlas, and new content is being added at the same time. So I made a non-linear map to record the very few moments of the short period of existence- Scattered in a map-like theater like pages from a finished play.

The map of the evolution in a non-linear narrative

The evolving self and the real one

The projected self exists only in the moments of concentration and the gaze

Self Evolution received an honorable mention in the 11th annual Art of Neuroscience competition.


About Guihan Lu

Guihan (Gumi) Lu is a new media artist based in New York City. Her recent research centers on body proxies. She investigates biomaterials, mechanical engineering, machine learning, and electronic media to discover new methods of collaborating between the digital, the analog, and nature. Her long-term objective is to make visible what is otherwise beyond human perception and to develop new sensory organs for the far future by referencing the life created by nature.


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