Shanghainese artist Lu Yang’s brilliantly bizarre anime superhero film Uterus Man is currently showing as part of MoCA’s Animamix Biennale. She talks to Time Out about body parts and mortality
Her work has been described as ‘grisly’, ‘grotesque’ and ‘confrontational’, but Lu Yang seems unperturbed by such critiques. The 28-year-old Shanghainese artist is a protégé of Zhang Peili, often referred to as the godfather of Chinese video art, and is unafraid of challenging convention. Her works are marked by themes of death, disease and a fascination with biology and her latest offering, Uterus Man, has all of these in spades. The anime film, showing at Art Labor this month as part of a solo exhibition from the artist, revolves around the titular superhero battling to save a future planet from an evolutionary crisis. It’s a bold, uncompromising work in keeping with Lu’s unique aesthetic to date.
Critics have said your work is more about provocation than aesthetics. Do you agree?
Any work is a layer encasing the necessary expression of the core; of course the medium is going to be worse than the content.
With previous works such as Happy Tree, Cruel Electromagnetic Wave and Kraftremor you received criticism for filming animals being harmed and the tremors of men with Parkinsons’s disease. How do you view that criticism now?
I like the medium of bio-art, and I also like medicine, neuroscience and other similar fields. These works are based on a very objective, empirical perspective of treating these subjects. I don’t think of these things as being dark, I’m just putting real life things in front of the audience’s eyes – different viewers will draw different conclusions. We can’t say that those real things that could happen to all of us are dark. Disease and death are a par t of everyone’s experience, you can’t get more natural than that.
Disease and death do play a prominent part in your works.
I’m just presenting part of the natural experience. We need to accept this kind of possibility and eventuality, rather than to think of ‘other people’s death’ or ‘other people’s pain’ and to think it has no relationship with us.
What attracts you to exploring themes of modern science?
Science is just the modern era’s tool – it’s the same as how ancient people used paint brushes to produce a picture. From the science of the era comes nature, all of these components come from the universe.
What inspired you to create Uterus Man?
The shape of the uterus is similar to that of a person standing with their legs close together and arms open. In the design of Uterus Man, the body armour and other elements correspond to parts of the uterus. He is a superhero with special powers and appears to be a man, but the source of these powers is par t of the uniquely female reproductive system. This contradiction makes Uterus Man asexual.
What are Uterus Man’s special powers?
He has a variety of unique kill moves, some of which have to do with genes and genetic attributes. He can convert enemies into a weaker species, infect them with genetic diseases and change their gender.
The video has become an online game. Do you have any other plans for the character?
As the creator of the character, I invite other artists around the world to enter the world of Uterus Man and change our way of thinking. I hope that it’ll become an open source project and I welcome all forms of collaboration.
I’ve already worked with fashion designers, comic illustrators and music producers and I hope to continue collaborating with others on this project.