huidi xiang 



selected projects

2024  i made it.
2023  grow oranges together
2023  the ceiling is sweating
2023  when held properly,
2023  villa woodstock
2022  cheese pedestal
2022  model kit card
2022  escaping bird kit
2022  metric system
2022  koala’s march gadgets
2021   playbench in the workground
2021   column on hold
2021   an artist in minecraft
2020  aaaaapple studio
2019   hello kitty is 5 apples tall.
2019   cheese column
2019   the orchestra

latest updated: 06/12/2024
2024 © Huidi Xiang. All Rights Reserved. 

we’ve decided to grow oranges together


Mixed-media installation: 3D-printed PLA, 3D-printed aluminum alloy, wood, cement, masking tape, cardboard, tubes, crocodile clamps, ladder mitts, caster wheels, stickers, reciprocating linear actuator, reciprocating swing motor, light bulb, lamp base, motorized toy trains, extension cords.

12/01/2023 - 12/23/2023
installation created for solo exhibition “we’ve deciced to grow oranges together” at Lydian Stater 

04/12/2024 - 06/16/2024
second iteration on view at the group exhibition “Bronx Calling: The Sixth AIM Biennial” at Bronx Museum of the Arts

[motorized components video documentation]

[00:00-00:13] the reciprocating linear actuator
[00:14-00:27] the reciprocating swing motor

[exhibition handout text by the artist]

“This past summer, my mom and I decided to grow oranges together—not from a real tree, but from a digital tree in a mobile game called Baba Farm on the online shopping platform, Taobao.

Launched in 2018 by Alibaba, the company that owns Taobao, Baba Farm is a key element of an online sales campaign dedicated to agricultural produce in China. The campaign’s core goals include promoting regional food brands and enabling farmers to connect with a wider consumer audience through Alibaba’s expansive platform. Incorporating gamification, Alibaba introduced Baba Farm, offering Taobao users the opportunity to virtually cultivate crops and exchange their digital harvest for real food at discounted prices or even for free.

The part of Baba Farm my mom and I are playing together involves growing a fruit tree from the seed to harvest. To nurture, or more precisely, level up the tree, the player needs to “fertilize” it, and acquiring virtual fertilizer involves completing various tasks, such as browsing recommended products, downloading specific plug-ins, or purchasing certain items from the recommendation page. The digital tree is ready for harvest at level 15, allowing players to receive real free fruits of their choice.

My mom began playing the game earlier this year, and she introduced me to it when I returned to China for the first time since the start of Covid. Initially playing independently, we were unaware that we could grow a “couple tree” together until we discovered that my aunt and my cousin had been cultivating trees together for a long time, progressing much faster than us. Despite the additional fertilizing required, growing a tree as a couple accelerates the leveling-up process and rewards both players with a box of fruits at the end.

So on August 29th, 2023, we decided to grow a tree together. Even after my return to the US in early September, our dedication to nurturing the tree persisted. After more than 3600 rounds of “fertilization,” our first virtual couple tree reached level 15 on October 7th, 2023. This milestone allowed each of us to select a box of oranges. A few days later, the fruits of our digital labor—12 oranges in total—arrived at our home. Unfortunately, I had already returned to the US, and my mom was on an extended trip away from home at that time. Seizing the opportunity, my dad, who contributed nothing to the tree’s growth, indulged in all 12 oranges.

This exhibition starts with this gameplay experience. And as the exhibition unfolds, my mom and I are currently nurturing a new tree. In a way, this game has evolved into a caring mechanism between my mom and me. Concerned about her only child living far away, my mom used to insist on daily texts from me to ensure my well-being. This requirement was set aside when we embarked on this joint digital farming journey, as now she can witness my digital footprint from our virtual farming each day. The joy of receiving free fruits, a result of the ongoing collaborative efforts of taking care of something as well as each other, has also temporarily soothed my ever-present concerns and skepitsim towards precarious digital environments like Taobao.

I extend my special thanks to my mom, Shuhua Huang, for not only growing the trees with me but also fertilizing them far more frequently than I do. Thank her for “carrying” me in the game and in all aspects of my life. Shuhua also painted the orange whose silhouette was used to create the central component of the installation—the orange tree. This same orange painting is featured in the exhibition’s promotional images. It is also her who pained Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in a pond landscape on the wall of the bedroom of our old apartment during her pregnancy with me. I’ve always believed that my artistic practice sprouted from that very mural.”

2024 updates

exhibition view of “Bronx Calling: The Sixth AIM Biennial” at Bronx Museum of the Arts

Courtesy of The Bronx Museum. Photo by Argenis Apolinario