The Inadequacy of Grammar

Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and writer. His recent projects explore financial fictions, weird temporalities and catastrophe.
Gary Zhexi Zhang

Gary Zhexi Zhang

The Inadequacy of Grammar

The Inadequacy of Grammar extends Gary Zhexi Zhang’s exploration of temporality in social, technological and material systems. At EPFL, he will work on a new film project examining the experiences and representations of non-linear time, in dialogue with physicists and neuroscientists.

Envisaged collaborations: Brain Mind InstituteLaboratory of Quantum Physics, Earth and Planetary Sciences Lab, Laboratory of Atmospheric Processes and their Impact, Ecological Engineering Laboratory


Dates of the exhibition:
EPFL Pavilions – Pavilion A

Opening: 22.02, 6 pm

Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
I only have eyes for you (dear)


How real is a hallucination? Metamers are different states of physical reality which produce the same phenomenal experience. It is generally believed that what appears as mental representation corresponds, via the sensory apparatus of the body, to the reality of an external world. Upon waking from a dream, the ancient philosopher Zhuangzi wondered: had he been Zhuangzi dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming it was Zhuangzi? The founder of psychophysics, Gustav Fechner, theorized mind and body—which he extended to the inanimate world—as a curve which is convex from one view and concave from another; he sought to scientifically measure their duality. Contemporary neurological evidence demonstrates that far more of our reality is made in the mind than we may like to believe: we live in a world that dreams of us, far more than we can dream of it.

Unfolding as a psychological and acoustic descent inside anonymous subterranean architectures, METAMERS is an extended hallucination, invoking exchanges between the history of perceptual knowledge and the development of industry, war, and primordial biological memory. Time flows, but without spatial constancy; like a dream, ambiences breathe through one another across icons, portals, and rhymes. A frog watches, but we do not know what its eyes are telling its brain.

Opening Thursday February 22nd 2024, at 6 pm
in the presence of the artist
EPFL Pavilions – Pavilion A

Exhibition/project credits

Gary Zhexi Zhang, METAMERS, 2024
Video, 13 min.

Commissioned and produced in the framework of EPFL – CDH Artist in Residence Program 2023, Enter the Hyper-Scientific.

In collaboration with:
EPFL Laboratory of Psychophysics (LPSY), Prof. Michael Herzog

Credits: Gary Zhexi Zhang, with Cameron Graham and Fergus Carmichael

Curator & Head of Pogram: Giulia Bini

Graphic design and Identity: Jakob Kirch (Lamm & Kirch)


Gary Zhexi Zhang

Gary Zhexi Zhang is interested in unstable knowledge. Operating individually, in collaboration and within organizational frameworks, his work exploressystemic connections between cosmology, technology, and economy. He recently edited Catastrophe Time! (Strange Attractor Press, 2023), a book about time which brings together finance, science fictions, and interviews with leading climate modelers. The opera he cowrote with Waste Paper Opera, Dead Cat Bounce, premiered at Somerset House in 2022 and tours in 2024. In September 2023 he presented The Tourist, a documentary essay exploring an uneasy exchange between Afrofuturism and Sinofuturism via the life of Zanzibari revolutionary Ali Sultan Issa.

He has held teaching positions as lecturer in critical studies at Goldsmiths MFA, adjunct lecturer at Parsons School of Design, and PhD external examiner at the Royal College of Art. He cofounded design studio Foreign Objects, which received the Mozilla Creative Media Award in 2019. He has undertaken fellowships at Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles, Sakiya in Ramallah, and Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, where he leads on strategic initiatives. With the Serpentine R&D Platform, he cowrites the Future Art Ecosystems series on advanced technologies and the cultural sector. His writings on art, technology, and economy have appeared in Frieze, ArtReview, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Journal of Cultural Economy, the MIT Journal of Design and Science, e-flux Architecture, among others.

His writing on art, technology and economy have appeared in Frieze, ArtReview, Verge Journal of Global Asias, Journal of Cultural Economy, MIT Journal of Design and Science, among others. Recent/upcoming books and chapters include Against Reduction (chapter, MIT Press, 2021), Incomputable Earth (chapter, Bloomsbury, upcoming), Platforms: Around, In Between and Through (Singapore Biennale, 2023); Future Art Ecosystems III (with Victoria Ivanova; Serpentine, 2022).

Gary Zhexy Zhang website