Cyberfeminist media pioneer Shu Lea Cheang joins us for the New York premiere of her sci-fi, alt-reality feature UKI (2023). Merging gaming software–generated animation with live action, UKI explores surveillance, pleasure, and control through two parallel storylines. A 24-hour diner becomes the gathering point for a group of activists, hackers, and dissidents in a city besieged by social unrest and a viral epidemic. They exchange information while uncovering a bioengineering scheme by GENOM Corp., a biotechnology company that engages in genetic engineering and data harvesting to exploit the population through the commodification of sexual pleasure. Reiko, a humanoid coder decommissioned by GENOM, is rebooted as the virus UKI, who attempts to sabotage this toxic corporate biosystem with support from the mutant residents of E-Trashville, a landfill for electronic waste. Drawing inspiration from the COVID-19 pandemic and her experiences living through the AIDS crisis in New York City during the 1980s and ’90s, Cheang conjures a new virus with the power “to call for actions, to mobilize, to infiltrate, to subvert.”
Following the screening, Shu Lea Cheang will be joined in conversation with Jeannine Tang, assistant professor in the Department of Performance Studies at NYU, and Stuart Comer, MoMA’s Lonti Ebers Chief Curator of Media and Performance.