On 11 November from 6-7pm AEDT, Lu Yang premiered her live-streamed performance, Delusional World in ACMI Melbourne’s new online gallery. The work was streamed from Chronus Art Centre in Shanghai as part of Asia TOPA 2020. The piece was commissioned by ACMI, Arts Centre Melbourne, Asia TOPA and Exhibitionist and was developed in collaboration with Chronus Art Centre, MetaObjects , and curator Mathew Spisbah.
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).
Motion capture is a way for Yang to extend and explore ideas around the body in spaces free from prior boundary assumptions. 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.”
During 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the artist and collaborators had to adapt the work to an online experience, which Lu Yang's work is aptly suited to. Ashley Wong of MetaObjects, the studio supporting the work's technical development, described some of the possibilities of working online, as part of a recent Ars Electronica interview. “The fact that it’s a virtual performance, it doesn’t have to be tied with a specific city necessarily; it could actually be an international collaboration." though she recognised the challenges of presenting works across multiple time zones. The pandemic situation has encouraged artists and institutions to explore new online programmes and virtual art experiences, bringing forward the digital transformation.