Asterisk Talks2021

ASTERISK TALKS (A******* Talks) is an online platform of stories and talks touching the topics of artistic freedom and censorship. It aims to break through the power structures that silenced international artists through censorship. In order to achieve that, A-Talks is committed to deliver novel content through the medium of personal and intimate stories of lived experiences from censored artists around the world to a wide audience. Ultimately, A-Talks hopes to create learning experiences and create engaging conversations and interactions between censored artists and their audience.

This project has been completed with the exclusive participation of artists Serhii Zakharov, HunKyu Kim, Camille de Buhren and Kristen Liu-Wong. It consists in two platforms: one website and one virtual space; which both communicated the testimonies and stories of the censored artists.

The website hosted the stories and the information about the project in an familiar and accessible way. The virtual space hosted the stories in an immersive way and also served as an event platform, in which artists, educators and any special guest could hold a talk about the topic of censorship and artistic freedom. Each week, one artist would be highlighted in the event room with their artwork being displayed, beisde their personal room being accessible at all times.

(Field) Web VR, Digial Curation, Digital Initiative, 3D
(Tool used) Blender, Spoke, Illustrator, Indesign
(Role played) Research, Ideation, Curation, Visual design, 3D development
(Collaborator) Minrong Chen, Pierre Engelhard, Weiran Yao

Link to the Virtual Space


Artists are recognised as people who illuminate the margins and call on thoughtful critiques for political, economical and social changes. And this is how and why a lot of art movements have made an impact on history. But what if their voice is suppressed during the age of surveillance, especially after the rise of algorithms? Hence, Asterisk Talks is initiated.

Accessibility: Cross-platform compatibility. From ubiquitous tech(smartphones) to niche tech (VR).

Inclusivity: Change of title + genderless AI voice.

Ethics: Creation of a manifesto and asserting a position in the discourse of censorship.


We see ourselves as mediators in this project, we will be nothing more than the tool that the participating artists can use to amplify their censored voices and visions. Thus, we do not want to influence the artists or have a biased approach to this topic, they are the creators of what this project will become.

Ultimately, we would like our participants to share their stories. What place does their art hold in their life and in others’ lives? What did it mean to them to be censored? What message do they want to share freely on our platform?


People who are in the field of art and design, people who are concerned by the political and controversial messages from the artists.


Asterisk-Talks is entitled to focus mainly on the lived experiences of our participants. Imagined as a gallery of stories and voices, the artwork and visual material from our participants will be put as second.

Asterisk-Talks is only the mediator of our participants’ voices. Asterisk-Talks is engaged to not distort or influence the stories of the artists through unnecessary edits or beautiful digitisations. The written stories found on the website are displayed as told by our participants and the audio stories are shortened versions of these.

Each of our participants is selected according to the type of censorship they encountered. We welcome all artists that have been shut down by power structures due to their social or political work, whether they communicate it through their aesthetic or hidden message behind their art.

Censored artists communicating hate speech or dangerous ideas of any kind will not be found in this gallery

We are aware that this act turns A-talks into a censoring organism, but it is a risk we are confident in talking about in order to communicate messages we hope are ethically correct and can have a positive impact on our contemporary society’s mores.

Asterisk-Talks is committed to transforming artistic controversy into learning opportunities by offering events and talks that will take place in our virtual space and can be found under the event category on the website.


Ultimately, Asterisk-Talks  hopes to fulfil the traditional museum’s mission as a forum for the exploration of diverse ideas, encouraging exchange and communication


The core enquiry of the project emerged based on:

An evaluation of market-related research on social and creative initiatives for insight and guidance

The progression with the interactions made with artists.

We aimed to build a trusting relationship with them, via face-to-face meetings, Zoom meetings and email communication — any communication methods that they feel comfortable with, as we considered artists' safety, security and comfort as a priority.  With that, we had a better understanding of where we were naturally headed. That is a more intimate experience which was revealing important socio-political issues

The conversation made with curators enabled us to get to know how they approach artists

User survey for audiences’ feedback


(The virtual space)
Based on the ideas of surveillance and heterotopia, we designed the appearance of rooms as organ-like bubbles connected with one another through blood vessels. Taking ‘relatively transparency’ which is also an important subtitle for the socio-political context of the project into consideration, the material for the shell of spaces is designed as transparent and hyaline when looking from outside, while blocked when looking from inside the rooms. We used Blender and Spoke to process modelling and material management, then export them to Mozilla Hub on which the virtual gallery is presented and can be visited finally.

For the event room, we put a group of pillars in a circle with vessels connecting the top of them with the wall, creating a metaphor for the panopticon. Visitors can wander in the space or rest on chairs when having events like sharing screens or chatting. On the other end of the room placed a round stage, on which interviewing events and performances can be held.

With the virtual space, we hope to create an environment which will immerse our audience in a space dedicated to listening to our curated stories or talks. Each participating artist has their own room and there is a bigger event room thought to hold our talks and discussion with guest speakers or artists.

The artists’ rooms were built to reflect the intimacy of their stories.  And we decided to create a space solely dedicated to the story. We created an AI genderless voice that narrates the stories in each artist’s room.

A-Talks presents intimate and educative stories that are committed to sharing our participants' voices without distorting them. We intend to reflect the intimacy of the stories and to make the storytelling more immersive, and straightforward to transmit and convey messages to visitors. We didn’t want to overload the space with tons of images of their artwork, which might have taken the attention away from the story.

We created an AI genderless voice to be the narrator of the stories in each artist’s room. The use of voice is for adding a sense of anonymity, which would further enrich our concept and the circumstances reflecting the dehumanising state of engenders artistic freedom.

A-talks triggers conversations and exchange of knowledge and lived experiences, as well as enable our participants to engage with their audience in different ways. by organising events such as public discussions, talks and weekly spotlights, the platform generates direct communication and interaction with artists’ stories and artworks. In this case, the audience does not become passive witnesses in front of the art but becomes peers who are part of a socially engaged practice.

(Ethical Considerations)

There are also some ethical concerns that we will try to tackle which are the followings: We will make sure to discuss with the artists what they are comfortable with sharing. We are aware that some things said can have repercussions which is why we want to give them total control of what is going to be put on our final platform, as well as the opportunity to remove/edit anything that they’ve said throughout the process. The participant’s safety will be our primary concern (we will also make sure to reach out to participants who are in a safe situation to share their testimonies).


© Jingyin Luo, 2022