By Alessandro De Toni
Listed among the most influential young Chinese artists, Shanghai-born Lu Yang(who graduated from the prestigious China Academy of Art’s New Media Department) creates work that explores themes of death, disease, genetics and biomechanics. Behind her daring approach to creativity, there’s a strong interest in otaku (the Japanese term for those with obsessive hobbies or interests) culture, manga and a deep fascination with the physiology of living creatures.
These interests led her to attend last year’s edition of SymbioticA Lab seminar (hosted by the University of Western Australia) where she learned about tissue culture and biological training. And in 2010 she garnered major attention with her controversial piece “Zomie Music Box-Underwater Frog Leg Ballet;” a choreography of dead frogs’ legs that were wired with electrodes.
The artist spoke with CH about her ongoing open project “Uterus Man,” which has already become a hit in the art world. “Uterus Man” is sort of a superhero; in Lu Yang’s words, “The shape of the female uterus resembles the outline of a person standing straight with her arms open wide.” He appears to be a man, but the source of his superpowers is the uniquely female reproductive system. This contradictory configuration determines the asexuality, but greatness of Uterus-Man.
Like other superheroes, genderless Uterus Man has his own special powers, weapons and vehicles. He rides a chariot made of a human pelvic bone, skateboards on a winged sanitary pad, uses a baby as a mace and shoots “ovum light-waves” at enemies. He possesses all kinds of unique and ultra-deadly weapons; part of these retain the power of altering genes and heredity functions. For example, using the power of gene alteration, he can instantly change the enemy into a weaker species—and then carry on the attack. The power of altering hereditary functions can change the sexual gender of the opponent, or instantaneously evoke a genetic disease to weaken them.
Uterus Man’s very own nature calls into question the law of propagation of natural beings and as Lu Yang sums up: “These queries on the biological gender, grading of species, genetic breeding and evolution are all hidden within the integrated setting of Uterus Man.”
The first part of the “Uterus Man” project—consisting of an animated video—was showcased for the first time last autumn in Shanghai, and the exhibition raised the interest of other artists, fashion designers, comic artists and even video-game developers, who came aboard on Lu Yang’s project. Beijing-based electronic outfit Squareloud created the soundtrack, HHUUAAZZII helped with manga illustrations and asexual Japanese cosplay artist Yuma Hamasaqi was a model for Lu Yang’s hero.
The next step in Uterus Man’s adventures will be in video-game form. The artist is currently developing the game with a group of Japanese creatives but, in the meantime, she’s working “on a very cute but creepy kawaii project; an evil creature—something related to disease and killing human beings.” Just another adventure somewhere on the boundary between beauty and monstrosity.