Blessing Machine, 2020
bespoke computer and software
450 x 440 x 170 mm
Commissioned with support from CREATIVE NEW ZEALAND
Regularly experiencing the confusion that Chinese naming conventions cause in Western countries, Peng Jiheng developed Blessing Machine (2020), a computer that translates English names into their Chinese equivalents. To operate the machine, users submit their Christian names to the computer, which are then translated into a Chinese equivalent, along with a printed blessing. By generating these outcomes, Peng’s seemingly innocuous machine offers a gesture to bridge cultural divides and celebrate the cultural plurality.
However, the work contains a shadowy undertone — alluding to a battle for data in the digital realm. While the user interface only asks for the user’s first and last name, Blessing Machine is analogous to the various online and physical portals that require users to enter sensitive data — such as addresses, birth dates, emails, passwords, secret questions — in order to access free services, such as social networking and email. As these online organisations increase their reach, using this data for marketing, and for more nefarious purposes in the case of Cambridge Analytica, Blessing Machineoffers portent insight into the extent that consumers are willing to offer their information to these large organisations. As we ponder the information asymmetry between user and providers in the online era, these companies are remaking economics, government and privacy. In the meantime, the space between our personal and public lives is diminishing by the second.
– Micheal Do