Liu Dao's "Stick and Carrot" is the digital enactment of the metaphor used to describe a system of reward and punishment which procures a certain desired behavior. In visual and literary examples it is usually displayed by a donkey reaching out for a carrot placed in front of him while a stick whips him from behind to goad him on.
In "Stick and Carrot", Liu Dao substitutes the donkey for a puppy and the carrot with a pat on the head from an invisible spectator. The dog is symbolic of another form of behavioral conditioning named after the discoverer, Ivan Pavlov. The Pavlovian response was shown in a renowned experiment that involved ringing a bell as a dog was shown meat, inducing an output of the dog's saliva. With time, the ringing of the bell itself induced saliva without any sight of meat at all.
"This kind of learnt response is called conditioned reflex, and the process whereby dogs learn to connect a stimulus to a reflex is called conditioning."1
But this behavioral learning can also be transferred to human beings, and so Liu Dao's digital artwork provokes the question: what separates human beings from animals? One might say consciousness–but dogs dream as well, so it's therefore inevitable that they are bearers of consciousness themselves. So we think, and ask again. One famous novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip Dick, investigates this question in depth, and is a main inspiration for "Stick and Carrot". Liu Dao asks, as always, who is machine between viewer and artwork? Who watches who? Are we no less of a predictable, programmed, and manipulated spectacle? While staring in the face of the desperate puppy, the viewer will summon empathy, apathy, or something in between, and in the process he must answer the question for himself.
Liu Dao art director Thomas Charvériat answers questions with questions: "Does our LED-dog dream and if he does so, does he dream of electric sheep? Or does he dream to be your dog dreaming of real sheep?"