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Limit Situation

Against the backdrop of the explosion of information on the Internet, the accelerated pace of life, the doctrine of success, consumerism, and the alienation of social labor, human existence is becoming more and more instrumentalized and alienated.

Under the Limit Situation, what people think about is the closest thing to the deepest part of their innermost being. The work uses digital sculptures, virtual reality scenes and images as media to construct an existential self-examination experience. the VR scenes start from the dice marked 1-6, and each face of the cube leads to the symbolic and artistic situation in the virtual scenes. The abstract digital space is like a boundless region of the mind, and the six paradoxes reflect the human dilemma that is difficult to escape.



Title Explanation:

In psychology, "Limit" is used to describe an edge or borderline mental state. In philosophy, "Limit Situations" refer to moments when individuals face unavoidable crises and get entangled in self-analysis.



In 2020, on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations' founding, UN Secretary-General Guterres pointed out five major challenges facing the world: geopolitical tensions, climate crisis, global mutual distrust, the dark side of the digital world, and the COVID-19 pandemic's global spread. All these signs serve as reminders of the increasing existential challenges, ideological conflicts, and mental crises we are likely to face.


According to WHO statistics, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global incidence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%. While part of this is due to the fear of uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, a more significant factor is the stress experienced in various aspects of life, such as living, learning, and employment, in this era. Behind the public health crisis lies an overlooked social and spiritual crisis.


As shown in surveys conducted by Xu Kaiwen, a psychology professor at Peking University, 40% of new Peking University students believed life had no meaning. This is not a psychological condition that can be alleviated solely with medication; it reflects a deeper loss of values and belonging. Behind various feelings of emptiness and restlessness lie fundamental issues of existence.

During the creative process, I communicated with different individuals about the challenges they face and documented their stories. The difficulties were categorized into several major areas, including "education, work, relationships, finances, family, time, and existential anxiety," and further classified from concrete to abstract levels.
The artwork is divided into six chapters, each introduced by a book providing theoretical background and evidence. Virtual experience scenes serve as the domains for emotions and reflections, with each scene featuring a digital sculpture as the primary visual. From the conceptual books to the visual scenes, from virtual to reality, the artist creates an interpretive system for understanding the challenges of existence.
The initial scene, Scene 0, features the main visual of a "God's Dice." Inspired by Einstein's famous quote, "God does not play dice," it implies that the universe operates under deterministic physical laws rather than generating rules through probability. However, later developments in quantum mechanics completely overturned humanity's understanding of the world, even shaking Einstein's statement. Starting from the question of whether God throws dice, the artwork presents six existential paradoxes and their corresponding visual scenes.

"The reason the human predicament really is a predicament

is that we are caught between a rock and a hard place."

Main Visual Concept:

Scene 01's main visual is a structure that can be interpreted as both a door and a maze, depending on the observer's perspective. Whether seen as a door or a maze, it could signify a beginning, an end, or a midway passage to the unknown.


VR Scene Setting:

Scene 01 unfolds with a misty labyrinth, where the participant can only see the full path upon reaching the destination. From the overhead view in a godlike perspective, the maze's path reveals the words "Certainty of Uncertainty." This scene dialectically explores the inevitability behind seemingly random steps in life.

"Each person who gets stuck in time gets stuck alone."

Main Visual Concept:

Scene 02's main visual is a numerical sculpture representing time. The circular design imparts a sense of cyclical time, with the longest second-hand penetrating the circle and time slices, emphasizing the significance of every moment of existence.


VR Scene Setting:

Inspired by the book "Einstein's Dreams," which presents thirty dreamlike scenarios interpreting the concept of time, this VR scene constructs a dream-like space. "The Appearance of Time" will be narrated through voiceover, and the audience can explore stories hidden within meteorites in the vast expanse of space.

"Chosen it? Or did it choose you? Loved it? Or regretted it? "

Main Visual Concept:

Scene 03's main visual is a geometric heart, with the heart chamber replaced by the Boolean operation of a four-sided pyramid and a sphere. When viewed from a specific angle, the divided pyramid forms a hollow heart shape, metaphorically representing the emptiness of the era.


VR Scene Setting:

Scene 03 features subtly paradoxical phrases gathered anonymously by the artist, such as "elegant vulgarity," "lively solitude," "perfect regret," "weak strength," etc. These simple phrases indirectly reflect the participants' inner contradictions. The scene uses complex intertwining lines resembling a CPU to present a complex state of mind. Throughout life, people make choices and are chosen. Each individual has different judgments, considerations, and decisions, existing on multiple dimensions.

"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart."

Main Visual Concept:

Scene 04's main visual is a cone symbolizing a mountain, surrounded by a circle of feathers. The feathers imply a sense of drifting aimlessly with the wind. Choosing to depict the lightest feather instead of directly showing the heaviest stone is also a response to the absurd heroism of the Sisyphus myth.


VR Scene Setting:

In Scene 04, the participants need to push a massive stone to leave this place and go to the other side of the mountain, even though the other side remains a mountain. Each person, like Sisyphus, tells a story of absurdity and resistance through an endless process of pushing the stone.

"Our Universe doesn’t give life meaning, but life gives our Universe meaning."

Main Visual Concept:

Scene 05's main visual is an inscribed stone monument displaying the formula of the "Standard Model," considered the closest representation of the unity of humanity. The formula represents all known particles and their interactions.


VR Scene Setting:

Scene 05 is a virtual space enveloped by numbers, symbols, and formulas. It embodies the difficulty of humanity's quest for meaning in an entirely digital universe. The equations that govern everything show us that the most incomprehensible aspect of the universe is its comprehensibility.

"Three billion heartbeats. The clock is ticking."

Main Visual Concept:

Scene 06's main visual features melting hands and a string of decreasing numbers from 3 billion. A human's life typically consists of around 3 billion heartbeats. From birth, people embark on a countdown to death.


VR Scene Setting:

In the final scene, everything becomes desolate, with only melting hands, flickering countdown, and the sound of passing heartbeats. Birth, aging, sickness, death, change, and disappearance are all part of life. Human birth serves no purpose, but in this brief few decades, individuals have the opportunity to imbue things with meaning.


Throughout this year, some friends have talked to me about their situations. Some are deeply immersed in hesitation due to their inadequacies, some are torn between choices, some feel bitter about failing, and some secretly grieve under economic pressure. On the last day of 2021, I conducted an anonymous collection activity, and one participant wrote, "No one can see in my heart, there's a heavy box containing the saddest and irreparable things." Perhaps, everyone has such a box in their hearts. Each person has faced or is currently facing critical situations.


As for myself, during my university years, I took on and completed 17 business projects, not counting the ones that didn't materialize due to various reasons. Even so, my business income only covers my basic living expenses, and there's no surplus for future tuition fees.


During college, I applied for internships five times, and only one company accepted me. It was an unpaid part-time internship, and I was very grateful for the opportunity. In a highly competitive society, every opportunity is hard-won.


My resume includes a mix of competitions, some of which I genuinely wanted to participate in and learned valuable knowledge and made friends in the process. However, many were driven by my lack of confidence and worries, using awards as a way to prove that I didn't waste my college years and to increase my chances of being considered in future education and job applications. One of my classmates once confided that he had a tremendous sense of inferiority, and the only way to alleviate it was through winning awards. I was no different.


While most of my peers had already settled into their careers, my graduate school application was still ongoing, and I was weighing the uncertainties of time and money, contemplating an uncertain future.


Everyone faces real and unavoidable difficulties, but difficulties are not necessarily dead ends; sometimes they are opportunities for a new path. Under critical circumstances, I accomplished many things that seemed impossible, and even when faced with seemingly no options, I received unexpected opportunities. As Jaspers said, "The origin in the Limit Situations brings the basic motivation to fight in failure for the way to existence."


This project is dedicated to everyone fighting against their own difficulties.


Lastly, I want to express my gratitude to all the teachers, classmates, friends, and even strangers who encouraged me along the way during my four years of college. Thank you for sharing the struggles of being human and for helping me ease my burdens.


March 6, 2022, written in Guangdong.

bibliographic reference:

Carroll, S., 2017. The big picture: on the origins of life, meaning, and the universe itself. Penguin.

Benatar, D., 2017. The human predicament: A candid guide to life's biggest questions. Oxford University Press.

Tegmark, M., 2015. Our mathematical universe: My quest for the ultimate nature of reality. Vintage.

Lightman, A., 2011. Einstein's dreams. Vintage.

Yalom, I.D., 2019. When Nietzsche wept: A novel of obsession. Basic Books.

Camus, A., 2013. The myth of Sisyphus. Penguin UK.

Yalom, I.D., 2020. Existential psychotherapy. Hachette UK.

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