Pleasure principle: Meet the Chinese artist breaking taboos for fun, not politics

Does art have the power to bring about real change? Intelligence Squared will explore the topic in an upcoming all artist panel, which will feature Lu Yang, Olafur Eliasson, John Gerrard and Nilima Sheikh. CNN Style is the media partner for the event.

Artist Lu Yang is often labeled according to the themes she explores, the digital media she works with or for simply being young and Chinese. But the 33-year-old isn’t interested in categorization.

“I am not a new media artist, nor a post-internet one,” she said in phone interview. “I don’t even understand what ‘post-internet’ means. I am many things.”

Lu Yang’s art is, indeed, difficult to classify. Her output spans 3D-animated films, video game-like installations, holograms, neon, VR and even software manipulation, often with overt Japanese manga and anime references. Music — electronic and always frenzied — features prominently.

In “Uterus Man” (2013), an ongoing film project, a grotesque superhero rides a chariot made from a human pelvis, eats placenta for strength and skateboards on a winged sanitary pad.

An installation showing the video
An installation showing the video “Uterus Man” (2013) by Lu Yang

The equally arresting “Moving Gods” (2015), which Lu exhibited at the 2015 Venice Biennale as the youngest of three artists representing China, and “Delusional Mandala” (2015) are both part of a long-term project dealing with science, technology and spirituality — and the taboos surrounding them.

If one were to describe Lu’s work, “intentionally brash” would be a good place to start. Adjectives like bold, loud and boundary-pushing might come a close second.

“I am drawn to many different things,” the Shanghai-born and -based artist said, “and I just like to combine them in the pieces I make, even if they wouldn’t normally be associated with one another. I like the sense of freedom I get from that.”

  • Lu Yang Brain Control Messenger
  • Lu Yang electromagnetic brainology 3
  • Lu Yang Electromagnetic Brainology
  • Lu Yang electromagnetic brainology 2
  • Lu Yang Electromagnetic Brainology 4
  • Lu Yang God Of The Brain
  • luyang delusional mandala
  • Lu Yang M woods Uterus Man
  • LuYang@Mwoods_TMS Exorcism
  • Lu Yang M Woods

Personal, not political

Among Lu’s many fascinations are pop culture — from Japan, especially — eastern religions and philosophy. Gender identity, sexuality, consciousness, neuroscience, death and the human body all feature widely in her acclaimed videos and installations, which have been exhibited in and outside China.

“They are an extension of what defines me as a person,” Lu said of her artworks. “I don’t really separate my work from my private life. Everything I create…

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