Death New Media Artist

Invited by NYU Shanghai this fall, Lu Yang brought her latest work “Lu Yang Delusional Crime and Punishment”, an exhibition of new video installations, to the NYU campus located in Lujiazui, Shanghai.

This ongoing exhibition is typical of Lu Yang, a rising Chinese new media artist, not only because of its “creepy” settings but also of her practice of fusion which traverses a wide range of fields including biology, neuroscience, religious studies and pop culture.

“This time, I just simply wanna present the audience with my investigations with two primordial questions concerning existence as points of departure: the origin of human life and the moral dialectics of crime and punishment,” Lu Yang said.

Wired to electrodes, several dead frogs are dancing to a funky electronic beat in a grim chorus line.

The dead-frog dance was first shown in a 6-minute video called “Reanimation! Underwater Zombie Frogs Ballet” presented in Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan in 2011. It was the latest work of Lu Yang then, who became immediately well-known after the video published.

Deemed to be too sensitive, sometimes even borderline unethical, many of Lu Yang’s art ideas were not able to be realized in China. Fortunately, it was the help from Fukuoka Asian Art Museum that Lu Yang was able to obtain some dead frogs having been used for medical dissection to produce this video work.

“No, no! Mom, I am not staying here! I wanna go home!” A little girl cried out in fright in a hospital in Shanghai in the early 1990s.

Having asthma, Lu Yang spent a great deal of her young age in hospital. It was totally unfortunate for a little girl to go through that unbearable suffering. However, instead of being overwhelmed by the pain of the disease, Lu Yang surprisingly developed an interest in the body. “I was shocked by myself that I started to think about body and death at a fairly young age, ” Lu Yang said.

Although Lu Yang wasn’t born in an art family, she has long been knowing that she would be an artist someday. “It was somehow crazy that I even didn’t know what artists did exactly. I only knew that artists could be creative in their works,” Lu Yang said.

Growing up in a devout Buddhist family, Lu Yang was also greatly exposed to religion. With the introduction of reform and opening-up policy, western rock music and Japanese manga and anime flushed into China in the late 1980s, which later became part of Lu Yang’s daily life. The collision of her own perception of human bodies, religion, rock music and Japanese art forms gradually shaped the way she perceived art, as well as life itself.

Lu Yang, whose name literally means “going upward” in Chinese, is destined to be an unusual and unique artist. After graduating from China Academy of Art in 2010, many of Lu Yang’s works focusing on mortality, gender and religions have been pushing the boundary of art as well as ethics which challenged most people’s button lines.

Apart from the dead frogs dancing in 2011, her 2013 work “Uterus Man”, courtesy of her cooperation with a Japanese asexual artist called Mao Sugiyama, who had his genitals cut off and served them as meals to others, also raised huge controversy. The joint project was launched because Lu Yang was greatly moved by Mao Sugiyama’s Story and his remark that “Why do I need a gender if I could just be a painter?” The “Uterus Man” is a 4-minute video project centered on a bisexual Uterus Man, who rides a “pelvis chariot” and skateboard on a sanitary pad fighting against sexual discrimination.

“I pretty admire Lu Yang that she dares to express dissatisfaction with the patriarchal social system we are living in right now, however, the way she approached to the idea was somewhat gruesome and unacceptable,” commented XiaoPupil, a Youtube user.

“Things I present in my art is no more than usual stuff like death, identities and religion and etc, which are things we all have to face sooner or later. There are a lot of people criticizing me, and there are definitely helpful suggestions, but in most cases people are just restrained by the criteria they set on their own that they can’t truly appreciate the value of my art objectively,” Lu Yang said.

“I am everything I am,” Lu Yang shouted to the world. It’s doomed to be a hard and difficult path for Lu Yang to pursue her own art dreams as a maverick artist. It’s not easy, but she is always on the way.