Café des Sciences: Semiotics through New Media Art

Collaborating with Chronus Art Center and its CAC_LAB, the eleventh CdS event will have Andreas Gysin, a designer from Lugano, Switzerland, to discuss his works on signage systems.

Event Details


swissnex China office
22F, Building A, Far East International Plaza, 319 XianXia Road, Shanghai, China


November 21, 2019 from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm Asia/Shanghai (UTC+08:00)


Free, RSVP required

For the eleventh Café des Sciences, we have invited Andreas Gysin, a designer from Lugano, Switzerland and the current reseidency artist of Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, at Chronus Art Center.

Semiotics is the study of sign process (semiosis), which is any form of activity, conduct, or any process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. A sign is anything that communicates a meaning, that is not the sign itself, to the interpreter of the sign. The meaning can be intentional such as a word uttered with a specific meaning, or unintentional, such as a symptom being a sign of a particular medical condition. Signs can communicate through any of the senses, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or taste.

Of course, we cannot talk about semiotics without mentioning the Swiss linguistic Ferdinand de Saussure, arguably one of the founding fathers of modern semiotics. He divided the sign into two components: the signifier (or “sound-image”) and the signified (or “concept”). For Saussure, the signified and signifier were purely psychological: their connections are almost entirely arbitrary and hence signs are not so much real substances as abstract forms. For instance, why does the word “dog” refer to the member of the genus Canis (canines), which forms part of the wolf-like canids, and is the most widely abundant terrestrial carnivore that walks on four legs and barks? Why couldn’t the word be “poj”, “mig”, or “ertdfgcvb”? Is it because we have been calling dogs “dogs” since humans have language? If so, who decided dogs are to be called “dogs”? And why can’t we change that? Or perhaps, how do we change that?

In today’s day and age, signs are ubiquitous than ever before. The moment we wake up, we pick up our smart phones that have been charged up by our pillows ready to blast us with another day of information overload: political scandals, corporate jargons, protest signs, advertisement posters, 6 second video clips of loud music and vibrant visuals. And, the most chilling fact is, we are used to them. We crave them. We cannot live for a moment without them because if otherwise, we will stop to be busy. Not busy makes us confused, aimless, and bored. So we constantly seek out visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or taste signs to tell us what to do, how to think, and pretend to be “productive”.


It is under this context that Andreas’s works become important.

They erase meaning to offer a moment of peace out of the meaninglessness.


Event Rundown

18:00-18:30 Registration
18:30-18:35 Welcome Speech
by Dr. Felix Moesner, Science Consul & CEO, swissnex China
18:35-19:15 Presentation
by Mr Andreas Gysin, Current reseidency artist of Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, at Chronus Art Center.
19:15-19:35 Q&A Session
19:35-20:30 Networking Reception


Andreas Gysin

Born in 1975 in Zürich, Switzerland, Andreas Gysin is part of a duo with Sidi Vanetti: together they work on design and research projects without a particular purpose since 2000. The duo Gysin-Vanetti was listed among “Collection Cahiers d’Artistes” by Pro Helvetia in 2013. Andreas in particular explores and extends the work around the “found geometries” in industrial and urban signage, displays and other electro-mechanical objects. The visual characteristics and configurations (color, form) and the internals (mechanics, electronics) are the center aspects of his signiture work, which began in 2007 by designing and programming a custom-built split-flap display. Later this approach extended to other signage systems and objects, kinetic and static. An important aspect of the work is the displacement and the reconfiguration of these informative elements, removing the original function but enabling a different and new reading of the forms.

Past Works from Andreas:

LED matrices, electronics

Ten synchronised algorithmic animations which originate from – and reduce to – a line.
Built during a short residency in Johannesburg during Fak’ugesi Festival 2019.


Plotter, custom software, overhead-projector, sand

A sand drawing machine with a simple rule: continue straight or turn right.

To learn more interesting works from Andreas Gysin, check here for a masterlist of projects.


Co-organized with

Chronus Art Center (CAC) is China’s first nonprofit art organization dedicated to the presentation, research / creation and scholarship of media art. CAC with its exhibitions, residency-oriented fellowships, lectures and workshop programs and through its archiving and publishing initiatives, creates a multifaceted and vibrant platform for the discourse, production and dissemination of media art in a global context. CAC is positioned to advance artistic innovation and cultural awareness by critically engaging with media technologies that are transforming and reshaping contemporary experiences.


Supported by

Pro Helvetia is dedicated to the promotion of contemporary cultural works of national and international interest. It also fosters co-productions or exchanges between Swiss artists and artists from other countries, in particular from countries where Pro Helvetia has a regional office. Pro Helvetia Shanghai is founded in 2010 and represents the Swiss Arts Council in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Its aim is to encourage dialogue between Swiss and Chinese cultural practitioners and institutions by supporting projects that enhance the exchange of knowledge and experience in the cultural field.


Café des Sciences

Shanghai | Every third Thursday each month 2019

Café des Sciences is a new format at swissnex China offering a monthly platform for Swiss Spotlight Scientists and Start-ups to present their projects and connect with the local community. The lectures will offer a casual setting in which speakers can present their work and engage with the attendees during a Q&A period. Audiences are welcomed to enjoy the networking reception with Swiss flavour after the talk. The lecture is scheduled to take place every third Thursday each month at swissnex China or our partner spaces.

Past events: