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The Shanghai-based artist creates digital grotesques as a kind of Buddhist meditation.

Lu Yang Destroys Self in Motion Capture Performance

Lu Yang, The Delusional World (2020). Motion capture performance (still). Courtesy the artist.

Lu Yang's motion capture performance Delusional World (2020) was live streamed from Chronus Art Centre in Shanghai this week. Presented by ACMI, Arts Centre Melbourne, AsiaTOPA, and The Exhibitionist, the event was scheduled to take place in Federation Square, Melbourne, but was shifted online due to the pandemic.

Monsters including a pair of pale legs with a face in place of genitals and a three-headed, many-armed being with its torso split down the middle were brought to life by a performer using motion capture technology. The live stream showed the performer dancing in front of screens where the digital demons mirrored his movements.

While they took myriad forms, each of the monsters had Lu Yang's face.

'In my 2015 work Lu Yang Delusional Mandala, I gave my own likeness to the main protagonist for the first time because the work contained a lot of taboos, such as illness and death,' the artist said. 'Buddhism has these different kinds of visualisation practices, like imagining your body is made up of 36 kinds of unclean matter—a corpse, ravaged by sickness and decay, slowly reduced to a skeleton. Through this kind of visualisation, the aim is to become less attached to the self.'

'For this new motion-cap performance, every character's face is my own but each of them appears as if they're from a freak show,' Lu Yang continued. 'I imagine my own corporeal body is an assembly of all these different freaks.'

In her ongoing work Material World Knight, the titular hero passes through different levels of existence—including a city, a hell filled with similar monsters to those that appeared in Delusional World, and a heaven populated by kawaii cartoon characters—until ultimately he must fight himself. The video game trope of the mirror match serves as a metaphor for transcending the self.

As well as returning to the theme of trasncendence, Lu Yang has been using motion-capture technology in her work for years now. It was instrumental in the creation of Doku, an androgynous digital avatar who appeared in a music video for British rock band the 1975 and a fashion show for Chinese sports brand Li Ning this year.

Speaking to online magazine Radii, Lu Yang said, 'In the virtual world, 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,' the artist said.

Lu Yang is referred to as 'he' in Material World Knight, and a recent ArtNews profile used the same pronoun, but in most previous interviews Lu Yang has been refereed to as 'she'. The artist prefers neither.

'I'd like everyone to just use my name,' Lu Yang said. 'I'm a bit disgusted by gendered titles.'

An irony of binary digital technology is that it allows for non-binary identities. The body can now be transcended not only through ancient Buddhist practices but also Instagram filters.

Asked whether it's time we forego gendered pronouns and nouns that define us by reproductive relationships—sister, son, etc—Lu Yang said, 'I hope we don't need those tags. More and more we live in a virtual world where we need them even less.' —[O]

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