Lu Yang

Get ready for a mind-blowing trip! Lu Yang’s work is as extravagant as digital art can be – filled with electronic beat music, fast-paced edits, and colourful CGI.

YoungMi Lamine  |  Ed  |  20 December 2020

Lu Yang Multimedia artist profile on Agora Digital Art
Website

Lu Yang (b. 1984) is a Shanghai-based multimedia artist who creates fantasy worlds. Often frenetic, provocative to shocking experiences of death, sexuality or asexuality, mental illness, religion and neurological constructs of both real lifeforms and deities.

Yang’s work spans 3D-animated films, video game-like installations, holograms, neon, virtual reality and software manipulation.

Yang graduated with a BA and MA from the New Media Art department of the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou;  in the new media department led by Zhang Peili, a practitioner and pedagogue whose influence is felt keenly amongst contemporary Chinese video artists. Yang’s work requires frequent collaborations with performers, designers, experimental composers, robot companies, and idol stars.

Recent performance

Lu Yang,  Delusional World, 11 November 2020 all real-time render motion capture© Courtesy of the artist.
The work is streamed from @chronus_art_center in Shanghai as part of @asiatopa . ⁣
The piece was commissioned by ACMI, @artscentremelbourne, Asia TOPA and Exhibitionist and was developed in collaboration with Chronus Art Centre, @metaobjects and curator Mathew Spisbah.⁣

Did you know?

Growing up in Shanghai with a Buddhist grandmother and on a steady diet of Japanese anime, manga and games, Yang’s work is deeply influenced by Japanese otaku (video game and manga fandom) subculture. At the Academy, her art practice formed through a confluence of interests in neuro-science, religion and popular culture, exploring grandiose questions of consciousness through dazzling and technically extravagant animations, video games, life-sized action figures and other popular cosplay.

Lu Yang is committed to creating a digital world where you can do anything you want, completely based on your personal preferences and the ideal form in your own mind. Their high-octane multimedia works explore neuroscience, mortality, and religion through the misadventures of their own digital avatar. Their art evokes a world of limitless identity reconstruction that exists outside of the limitations of tags and categories.

What’s next?

The 1975 and Ben Ditto have curated an online exhibition of 14 artists responding to tracks from ‘NOACF’. 15 Lu Yang responded to ‘Playing On My Mind’. © Courtesy of the artists.

From 1975, NOACF  ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ (2020), Lu Yang responds to Playing on My Mind

Lu Yang’s commission for The 1975 is performed in the virtual world by their nonbinary digital alter-ego Doku, whom she’s constructed using the latest in 3D scanning, motion capture and digital modelling technology.

50 of their facial expressions have been recreated from ultra-high quality scans, while Doku’s pop choreography was performed by a dancer turned motion-capture puppeteer. Their sneakers are glowing neon. Their bare torso is lit up with incandescent circuitry. Their hands leave trails of violet effervescence in the air.

“In the virtual world,” says Yang, “I was able to do things such as choosing my own gender-neutral body and creating an appearance that reflects my own sense of beauty, which are not possible in real life. I consider Doku as my digital reincarnation. He is me but someone else at the same time. Just like the Buddhist concept of alayavijnana (storehouse consciousness), he represents a stream of consciousness which lingers in different worlds and different selves.”

Unleashed from the constraints of having a physical body, Doku is free to dive into the mysteries of the universe and try to establish a greater sense of his own identity. “On a planet where time and space no longer limit our minds,” says Yang, “to live is to create and explore. Emptiness and loneliness become the ultimate romance.”

They shows us how our shared virtual world, the world of digital creation and imagination, the world in which you’re watching his film, is not so different from the planet without time and space of their imagination: it’s a creative place where we can play with our identities and explore ourselves, our many parallel selves, and prepare those selves for new dimensions and universes. A whole new cosmos of infinite possibility stretches before us.

In an interview with Xin Wang (art-agenda) about recent work DOKU, Yang describes how the worlds she inhabits are spaces where understanding and empathy are sought through a combination of suffering and levity, of making careful choices and letting those go. “I don’t see why I should love the body I did not choose for myself. If I woke up in the body of a cute guy one morning, I’d happily accept that this is my new reality; I might wonder for a while what happened to Lu Yang, but would eventually stop caring about my former self and his subsequent sufferings once it becomes clear that there’s no turning back. […] How do you know if the copied consciousness is you? The real you who can experience this world has died; the copy is a new life with a memory storage.

Featured Projects

Lu Yang, Uterus Man (2013) © Courtesy of the artist.

Uterus Man (2013), an anthropomorphized womb who is also a battle-ready superhero in the typical anime mould, is an early opus which crystallizes the darkly humorous and subversive approach to biology, (a)sexuality and cyborgian bodies that runs through much of Lu’s best work. The 11-minute film is a frantic CGI montage resembling a video-game trailer or anime title credits, introducing the eponymous hero’s features, abilities, weapons and upgrades against an unrelenting arcade-style dubstep soundtrack. The character was originally inspired by the gender-neutral Japanese artist Mao Sugiyama, who famously served their surgically removed male genitalia in a banquet. In Lu’s version, Uterus Man is equipped with a sanitary-pad skateboard, swings a foetus on an umbilical lasso and mounts a quadrupedal ‘pelvis chariot’: a skeletal sci-fi crossover between the gothic visions of H.R. Giger and the mecha cyborg aesthetics of popular anime series such as Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–96). His abilities include flight by menstrual-blood jet propulsion, an ‘XY chromosome attack’ and a special pregnancy attack involving ‘summoning the baby weapon’.

Of course, as is evident in classic titles such as the cyberpunk noir Akira (1988) and the recently Americanized Ghost in the Shell (first serialized in 1989), these fleshy, cyborgian themes of posthumanist, existentialist speculation have long been explored in anime and manga culture. Vanquishing his enemies by scrambling their genetic code, Uterus Man may be the hero we deserve in these uncertain biopolitical times, as the regimes of heteronormativity become increasingly violent even as traditional categorizations of gender and sexuality are destabilized. There is a thrilling proliferation of technoscientific provocations in Uterus Man’s synthetic, genetic, unapologetically transhumanist and deliciously queer bio-aesthetics. With her richly detailed graphic sensibility, Lu is an otaku at heart and evidently takes pleasure in producing the kind of geekish adrenaline rush that characterizes the franchises she loves.

In “Uterus Man” (2013), she collaborated with musicians, manga artists and others to create a project centered on an anime-style character called Uterus Man who rides a “pelvis chariot” and skateboards on a winged sanitary pad.

Lu Yang, Delusional Mandala (2015) © Courtesy of the artist.

The artist created a digital nonsexual human simulator in her own shape for the first time to complete an artwork. Because of the powerful curse in the content of the work, the artist has to apply the spell to herself to avoid harming others.

This artwork is all about neurosciences, in which the artist is always interested. She makes use of the principle of the stereotactic system, the deep brain stimulation and RTMS working on the deep limbic system, in order to extend delusions, substitute into religious perspective and fugacious meditation on the material world and produce objective delusions.

This work is the artist’s reflection on her creation in the past, at present and in the future. Is consciousness adhere to the brain? Where on earth is consciousness? The artist simulates the delusions of damaging herself and her works over and over again in her work. It can be sure that these delusions will eventually come true.
This artwork is the second piece of the artist’s new series of works. The first one is Moving God. The new series of works are still involved with categories such as religion and neuroscience, etc. They are different from the works in the past, using this method to meditate and practice, and constructing delicately through different ways this delusional mandala.

Lu Yang, Delusional World (2020) in @acmionline ‘s new online gallery. ⁣
The work is streamed from @chronus_art_center in Shanghai as part of @asiatopa
The piece was commissioned by ACMI, @artscentremelbourne, Asia TOPA and Exhibitionist and was developed in collaboration with Chronus Art Centre, @metaobjects and curator Mathew Spisbah.⁣

Delusional World (2020)

The work extends Lu Yang’s ongoing exploration of how the body, the digital and the spiritual coexist and shape one another. Through dance, motion-capture and animation, the artist creates vibrant, unboundaried and engrossing performative worlds which reference video games, religious iconographies, and manga aesthetics. Through these worlds, she asks expansive questions; about life, death and reincarnation, relationships between mind and body, consciousness and existence, neurological control and human intention, and about identity formation and corporeal re-embodiment in the virtual realm.

Delusional World continues some of the themes explored in previous projects Delusional Mandala (2015) and Delusional Crime and Punishment (2016). In these works, Yang transported herself into virtual worlds as “a bizarrely manufactured human figure (a 3D genderless simulation of Yang herself) stuck in limbo between a life of synthetic potential and its inevitable condemnation.” (Art Basel). The beings and worlds she creates are divergent and nonlinear, meeting-points of various aesthetics, cultures, religions. She is influenced by the Buddhist understanding of human life as intrinsically connected to all other organisms and elements, as flowing without a clear predetermined beginning or end (“Life, death, rebirth, restart are only frames added in post-production” – ibid).

The artist created a digital nonsexual human simulator in her own shape for the first time to complete an artwork. Because of the powerful curse in the content of the work, the artist has to apply the spell to herself to avoid harming others.

This artwork is all about neurosciences, in which the artist is always interested. She makes use of the principle of the stereotactic system, the deep brain stimulation and RTMS working on the deep limbic system, in order to extend delusions, substitute into religious perspective and fugacious meditation on the material world and produce objective delusions.

This work is the artist’s reflection on her creation in the past, at present and in the future. Is consciousness adhere to the brain? Where on earth is consciousness? The artist simulates the delusions of damaging herself and her works over and over again in her work. It can be sure that these delusions will eventually come true.
This artwork is the second piece of the artist’s new series of works. The first one is Moving God. The new series of works are still involved with categories such as religion and neuroscience, etc. They are different from the works in the past, using this method to meditate and practice, and constructing delicately through different ways this delusional mandala. — Lu Yang

Music Edit by Cavia666 (djcavia.com)

Interview

By Nov. 27, 2015

In an interview, Yang reflected on the human body, growing up in Shanghai and her collaboration with a Japanese asexual artist.

Q: How did you become interested in the subject of the body?

A: When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in hospital emergency rooms because I had asthma. So naturally, I became interested in the idea of medical treatment and the body. The body is fascinating to me because it is totally objective. There is no right or wrong. That’s why in my work I don’t indicate the value or the aim of things. I use a very cold and calm approach.

Another theme in my work is religion. It’s more difficult to get into religion when you’re older because you’re more sceptical. But growing up, my family was pretty religious. I often read my grandmother’s books about Buddhism, which made me really interested in religion.

Q: Does your family have a background in art?

A: My parents were just ordinary workers at a medical company. Now they’re both retired. I don’t talk about my art with my parents. But I think they’ve probably looked up my work on the Internet. They know I make art, and they know I can make a living. I can depend on myself, so for them that’s enough.

Q: Did you know from a young age, growing up in Shanghai, that you wanted to be an artist?

A: I always dreamed of being an artist. But after I entered middle school, I didn’t think it would be possible. I didn’t even know what artists did exactly. I only knew that artists could be creative in their work.

I was able to get into the China Academy of Art because I really liked to paint. I was growing up at about the same time that Chinese contemporary art was beginning to emerge, so I learned about contemporary art early on. When I was in middle school, my classmates were interested in the latest trends, but I wanted to find more special things, so I started going to galleries and listening to Japanese music. Later, in high school, I subscribed to some magazines about contemporary art.

Q: What were some of your early influences?

A: I used to like Western rock music, but I don’t really listen to it anymore. I was also exposed to Japanese culture at an early age. In Shanghai, a lot of television channels played Japanese cartoons, so they had a big influence on our generation. My favorite thing today is still mainstream culture, like sci-fi movies with really good computer-generated effects and other really good Japanese animated movies. I don’t really like art-house films.

Q: You often collaborate with other nonvisual artists, like the sound artist Wang Changcun and the composer Du Yun. How do these collaborations come about?

A: Sometimes I search for musicians and sometimes they find me. I’ve collaborated with musicians who work in opera, death metal, electronic and pop music, and hip-hop. They are usually acquaintances or people I’ve discovered on websites like SoundCloud. The Internet is quite useful, because I don’t really interact with people that much. As long as I have access to a computer, I can make art.

Q: Do you identify as a Chinese artist?

A: It’s kind of inevitable that you’re labeled as one. If I have an exhibition abroad, they always say, “This is a Chinese artist.” But that’s why I say that I want to live on the Internet. That way, nobody knows who you are. People online only care about your work and whether it’s any good. They’re not thinking about who the person is behind the work. By living on the Internet, you can abandon your identity, nationality, gender, even your existence as a human being. I rather like this feeling.

Q: Can you talk about your 2013 work “Uterus Man”?

A: The human embodiment of “Uterus Man” in my work is a Japanese man named Mao Sugiyama, who had his genitals cut off and served them in a meal to other people. When I first heard about him I thought he sounded really weird. But then I noticed that he was a painter and that he had said that he hated gender labels and if he was just a painter then why did he need to have a gender? I was really moved so I got in touch with him. That’s how we started collaborating.

A lot of people think it’s a feminist work, while others think that it’s a superhero story. People project what they’re already thinking. My own opinion is that you can’t choose your gender when you’re born and it only matters in a social context. When you’re contemplating something, you don’t consciously think, “As a man, I think this” or “As a woman, I think this.” That’s why I think society’s gender divisions are pretty absurd.

Q: You said you basically live on the Internet and your work is influenced by things you see online. Is there any influence from real-world events or politics?

A: The older generation of artists really like to make works concerning politics or the nation. But I think there are limitations to this creative method. If you don’t understand politics, or if you’re not from that country, you can’t understand the works.

I don’t really understand these kinds of things myself. I’m really scared of going to museums because I don’t understand a lot of the works. There are things that are common to all human beings and even animals. Basically, I spend my time chasing after those universal things we all have in common.

Key achievements

Solo shows

2018 Lu Yang Online Exclusive Show , Rén Space
2017 Welcome to LuYang Hell , Société, Berlin
2015 “Lu Yang Delusional Mandala” presented at Beijing Commune.
2014 KIMO KAWA CANCER BABY | Lu Yang Solo Exhibition , Rén Space, Shanghai

Group shows

2020 Neurons: Simulated Intelligence, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
2019 Edition Société Publications , Société
2019 Refiguring Binaries, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn
2018 AURORA 2018: Future Worlds , Aurora, Dallas
2017 10 Years of Love 拾爱 , ART LABOR Gallery, Shanghai

Museums, Festivals and Biennales

One of the foremost members of a new generation of artists working with digital technology, she has shown her work at the Venice Biennale, as well as festivals from Moscow to Istanbul

Lu Yang has been featured in major exhibitions at venues such as the UCCA, Centre Pompidou, MAXXI National Museum of XXI Arts. She has also participated in numerous Biennales such as: Shanghai Biennale, (2018 and 2012), Athens Biennale (2018), Liverpool Biennial (2016), Montreal International Digital Art Biennial (2016), 56th Venice Biennale, China Pavilion (2015), and Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2014).

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