Exploring the point where sugary anime cuteness meets cancer and death at Lu Yang’s new mixed-media exhibit in an old lanehouse.


By Ian L.


Someone has probably said you’re going to get cancer from living in Shanghai. This always leads me to thoughts like “what if I die while my parents are still alive?” and “that sounds really terrible and expensive.” And I cope by drinking more carrot juice and saying, well, I won’t be here forever. But this is all mortality and fear. Issues in my mind. I don’t ever confront the raw, biological side of cancer – the cells, the lymph nodes, the compromised organs. That’s precisely what Shanghainese artist Lu Yangthrows at us in her new exhibit “KIMOKAWA CANCER BABY” at Ren Space, going on between now and June 11.

Lu Yang explores the “extreme values” of cute and cancerous in this [really] mixed-media work now on display in a 110 year-old lanehouse over by Yu Garden. This is far-out, and probably one of the coolest exhibits to see in 2014. We’re talking a psychedelic Cancer Babies cartoon with a catchy bilingual **theme song** that sounds like some J-Pop, dozens of 3D-printed Cancer Babies that look like they belong in an expensive toy shop, screen prints, jewelry, sculptures, paintingslike Pokemon, it’s a whole world.

[There’s much more to this exhibit than what we show here, but we don’t want to give it away because you really should go check this out for yourself]

This is a Cancer Baby. They just want to grow and multiply, and that happens really fast. They don’t want to die. Hmmm sounds kind of like humans.

These look so medical because LuYang spent six months in Australia last year doing some biology and operating on brains. She’s gotten similarly grotesque in previous works like “UterusMan” and “The Beast,” a tribute to the popular anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. She also did an underwater ballet in which she reanimated the legs of dead frogs. That cover on Uterusman is so Urotsukidoji.

Lu Yang 3D-printed then hand painted all of these. Apparently she worked all night for about six months to make this whole exhibition.

The cartoon came first, and she got some friends to record a Cancer Baby theme song that includes lyrics like “We are happy cancer cells…we stay inside your body…we grow up very very fast.” It’s really well done for Flash animation. Cute, disturbing and mind-blowing at the same damn time.

Some more anatomy here on her screen prints. Love how these colors pop.

This is hope fuel for people with cancer. Her uncle recently died from cancer, and according to the curator Summer, Lu Yang believes that patients need humor and happiness to win the battle. She also wants to remind people to live healthy so they don’t meet Cancer Babies in real life. Plus the rings are for sale, with some of the proceeds going to cancer research. Lu Yang invited some cancer patients to the opening and gave them rings. Apparently they loved it.

Cuteness and death – this really isn’t so far off from real life, it’s just concentrated here. On an average day in Shanghai, you’ll probably meet Hello Kitty, Happy Lemon and that weird QQ Penguin on those meat-product sausages, as well as some smog, second-hand oil, fake cigs, pesticides, and lord knows what else. Remember, Cancer Babies grow up very fast.

Highly recommended for those who like cartoons, anatomy books, biology, sci-fi, and the new new. Open TueSun at Ren Space from 10am6pm. That’s right between the Yu Garden and Laoximen metro stops.