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Experimental Communication

Chengwei Mao (Toby)

Toby-Chengwei Mao (b.1996) is a visual communicator and art (research) worker, based in London, UK and Chengde, China.


MA Visual Communication- Experimental Communication, 2019-current, Royal College of Art, London, UK

BA (Hons) Advertising, 2014-2018, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

BA Advertising, 2014-2018, Hebei University, Baoding, China


Acousma, Experimental sound art online exhibition, No Space, Beijing, 2020

Fugitive Voices: Loops, online exhibition, London, 2020


Best student award BA(Hons) Advertising, 2018

Outstanding graduates of ordinary universities in Hebei Province, 2018

TIMES Young Creative Awards, 2017

Chinese National Inspirational Scholarship, 2015&2016


Co-founder of, 2020

Graduation show co-creator of BA(Hons) Advertising, BA(Hons) Graphic Design programme, HBU-UCLan school of Media, Communication & Creative Industries, London, 2020

Graduation show co-creator of BA(Hons) Advertising programme, HBU-UCLan school of Media, Communication & Creative Industries, Hebei, 2018

I am interested in the observation and implementation of pluralism philosophical theories and methodologies in visual art communication. From a “thing-in-itself” perspective, the majority of my practice is process-oriented, slow-paced performative objects with physical experiential accessibility. My research projects question the quality and materiality of art objects, the relation between art objects and people, and how human beings create, comprehend, interpret, recognize and evaluate art objects in diverse circumstances.

Private Backyard Exhibition Documentation (29 April - 4 May 2021), video, 86’43’’
Exhibition opening set, 29 April 2021
Exhibition closing set, 4 May 2021

Private backyard exhibition, 2021 was a live art object programme held in spring 2021. The exhibited object was made of sugar and mixed wild bird food (which is safe for the creatures in wild). Since legally, it was in a private property space, apart from the creator, no other people could be involved in this exhibition.

I realized there is potentially a subtle central position of the human being in art communication. “Kantianism claimed ‘we cannot think something without thinking it’— that is, to reject the notion that we can only think what is available to us as phenomena we experience.” However, “Object-oriented ontology assures us that we can think objects as those objects are, outside our minds” I was trying to think about object from an eastern approach, and arguably, there is a Chinese philosophical system in the 14-15c related to metaphysics. Although the unity of knowing and acting is Wang Yangming’s most influential theory, he also claimed the relation between human and the world: objects do not exist entirely apart from the mind because the mind shapes them. It is not the world that shapes the mind, but the mind that gives reason to the world. Although the existence form of object is different from Kantianism and OOO, Wang Yangming positioned human into a higher and separate hierarchy beyond the object or the world. I suggest this is a similar perspective as Kantianism, which emphasized the functional importance of human’s experience. From this point, I think it is potentially feasible to reflect on the exhibition space studies, the noumenon of an art object and the relation between human and object. This ongoing project is aimed to create an art exhibition for non-human, question and challenge the central position of people in art communication.

Creatures, not human, were the audience of this exhibition. When you cannot attend see or position yourself in the exhibition environment, cannot create a direct relation with the object, did the object really exist? Did the exhibition work as an exhibition? This project is intended to question and challenge the relation between human and art objects. The switch of relation explained some of the communication error in visual art.


Mixed wild bird food, sugar, uncertain material


The Layered Rock-Making (Documentation), video, 28’55’’, 2021
The Layered Rock-Making Outcome (Documentation), art object, 90x170x140 mm, paraffin, crayon, acrylic paint, 2021
The Layered Rock-Viewing (Documentation), video, 51’44’’, 2021
The Layered Rock-Viewing Outcome (Documentation), art object, 400x400mm, aluminum plate, paraffin, crayon, acrylic paint, 2021

This is documentation of the work “The Layered Rock, 2021”. The project is made of two processes and two outcome art objects. As a demonstration of the “layering model”, each section contains its own concept but also works as a whole.

“Layering model” can be implemented as an alternative method in art communication. There are three main concepts of the “layering model”: 1. Art objects, same as any other objects, exist by themselves and will not be influenced by any other subjective existence. 2. The art object is constructed by a certain number of layers of material which are dynamically connected to uncertain layers of information. 3. The art object exists as a communication bridge between art creators and art viewers. Paradoxically, in this communication process, it is not in control by either art creators or art viewers.

Every art object works as a piled-up layer of information. And this layered up model can be explained by “sedimentary rock” as a metaphor. In a very direct way­­­ — in the making process, artists are putting up layers of materials to build up their “rocks”. Every viewing process is a cutting activity on the art object layered model. Analogously, viewing and understanding is a flat “cutting section” on the “rock”. Therefore, these images of concept are part of reproductions of the original artwork. 


Silicon rubber, paraffin, aluminum, heater, uncertain material


Critical Position, 2020, Performance, 5’00’’

Critical Position, 2020 is a five-minute website-based performance project, which was made at the beginning of the pandemic in spring 2020. The participators would click the start button on the website and a notification would be sent to me. After I got the notification, I started the performance together with the video clip provided on the website. The video is a description of instructions about how I perform. It is briefly about creating an object with several objects, remaining for a while and then returning them to their original place.

There were several intentional thoughts during the making process of this performance. Firstly, it conveys the idea that an object is a basic element or material that forms up a system. Secondly, it is necessary to realise and understand the relations of the objects. And finally, there is a dynamic and uncertain switch of property and quantity of the object during this performance process.


Uncertain material



An interactive record of the thinking, practicing and researching process. Available on website for full information. Latest update: 12 June, 2021.


Image, text, lines, layers and uncertain material



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