Lu Yang (陆扬, 1984) is a critically acclaimed new media artist and rising star based in Shanghai, China, who works across film, games, performance, and installation. His work has been exhibited at numerous biennales and exhibitions in China and around the world, including the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. He has collaborated on videos with high-profile rock bands like The 1975, and one of his videos featured in a 2020 fashion show of the Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning.1 Lu Yang has also won prestigious awards, including the BMW Art Journey Culture award in 2019, and Deutsche Bank's Artist of the Year award in 2022, and the artist was anthologized in Barbara London's critical history of video and the digital arts, Video Art: The First Fifty Years (2020), as well as in Dominique Moulon's Chefs d'oeuvre du 21e siècle : l'art à l'ère digitale (Masterworks of the 21st Century: Art in the Digital Era, 2021). In contemporary art and popular culture, Lu Yang is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
An Artist in Transformation
Ari Heinrich, Livia Monnet, and Gabriel Remy-Handfield
Where is Lu Yang? Not here nor there; they might well be this new supernatural life form Maupassant could feel invading his everyday when the world became planetary, an invisible entity coming from abroad and unstoppable. Indeed, Lu Yang (LY) is unstoppable, unlocalizable, out of time and space. Planetary being? Asian superhero? Their aesthetics are avowedly Asianesque, with clear references to Japanese otaku culture, Buddhism, Chinese characters. This is 1990s techno-orientalism on speed opening onto what Livia Monnet calls a planetary unconscious.
Lu Yang's Cancer Baby
Coercions of the Image
Jennifer Dorothy Lee
Centering a genealogy of the image 形象 (xingxiang) in China, this article opens up the task of interpreting Lu Yang's (b. 1984) works of animation and sound. To make sense of the artist's scientized preoccupations with disease, neuroscience, and biomedical interventions into brain–body interconnections, I argue that scientific uses of technology become an artistic medium for Lu, inhabiting and encoding his work from the 2010s, in particular Cancer Baby (2014). Framing the digital animation of this piece amid the fraught intellectual history of the image—a concept that carries generations, even millennia, of debate in China—the article offers a set of clues, if not a window direct, to opening up the dynamics of consciousness, materiality, and control in the artist's creative method.
An Otaku with Chinese Characteristics?
Localizing Japanese ACG Currents in Lu Yang's The Beast
Existing studies on Lu Yang have largely sidelined his engagement with Japanese anime, comics, and gaming (ACG) culture, despite the artist having frequently reiterated the significance of ACG to his upbringing and practice. Nor have they extensively explored what, if anything, is particularly Chinese about Lu's work. This article argues that it is precisely Lu's appropriation of ACG's visual aesthetic and symbolic language that firmly positions the artist within twenty-first century Chinese youth culture. Focusing on The Beast (2012)—Lu's tribute to the cult classic anime Neon Genesis Evangelion—I adopt an interdisciplinary approach synthesizing otaku research, fandom studies, Chinese socio-economic analyses and institutional critique to contextualize Lu's practice within the socio-historical nexus of Sino–Japanese transcultural exchange and the global network of contemporary art.
Pushing the Boundaries
Curating LuYang, a Global Artist Embedded in Local Situatedness
Nora Gantert and Malte Lin-Kröger
LuYang's first institutional solo exhibition in Germany took place at Kunstpalais in Erlangen in 2022. LuYang is undoubtedly a global artist, yet at the same time, his art is testimony of his embeddedness into an Asian/Chinese background. In his works, he draws heavily from a mixture of religious tradition, pop and subcultural influences from Asian countries, and global post-internet art trends. The presentation and mediation of his works in a German art institution needs to consider preconceived ideas that the local audience might have about art with Asian aesthetics. To avoid the pitfalls of Othering and the reproduction of stereotypes, a deeper understanding of underlying topics, such as religious tropes, is necessary. Therefore, a collaborative, interdisciplinary curatorial approach is the curator's means of choice.
Solitude in Pixels
Lu Yang's Digital Figuration of Corporeality
This article studies Doku, a digital figure created by multimedia artist Lu Yang. Unlike Lu's previous works that celebrate how virtuality makes possible the fashioning of a formless figure free of bodily restraints and thus of various identity makers, Doku betrays a different take on the potentials of the virtual in relation to the corporeal. By closely examining select videos featuring Doku, I highlight Lu's emphasis on Doku's entangled bodily presence and affective intensity. Contextualized against the backdrop of contemporary digital cinema's engagement with corporeality and of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these features of Doku invite us to reevaluate Lu's figuration of digital bodies.
When Lamps Have Feelings
Empathy and Anthropomorphism Toward Inanimate Objects in Animated Films
Alyssa D. Edwards and Daniel M. Shafer
This article presents a study that investigated the phenomenon of empathic connection with non-human movie characters. Using an original, animated video as a stimulus to explore the relationship between anthropomorphism and empathy, the study found that characters with appendages significantly increased viewers’ empathy and use of anthropomorphic language when compared to a character without appendages. This was true regardless of the type of appendage or whether participants labeled the appendage using human anatomy terms. Additionally, participants’ use of anthropomorphic language was significantly linked to empathy. Thus, anthropomorphism and empathy are connected when viewing animated characters, but an explanation of all factors behind these processes is yet to be discovered.
Maarten Coëgnarts, Jonathan Frome, Christopher Goetz, and Maureen Turim
Roger F. Cook. Postcinematic Vision: The Coevolution of Moving-Image Media and the Spectator. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2020, 240 pp., $27.00 (paperback) ISBN: 9781517907679.
Federico Alvarez Igarzábal. Time and Space in Video Games: A Cognitive-Formalist Approach. Bielefeld: Transcript-Verlag, 2020, 220 pp., $45.00 (paperback), ISBN: 9783837647136.
Daniel Reynolds. Media in Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019, 224 pp., $38.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190872526.
Walley, Jonathan. Cinema Expanded. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020, 576 pp., $39.95 (paperback), ISBN: 9780190938642.
Cranes, Drones and Eisenstein
A Neurohumanistic Approach to Audio/Visual Gestures
In this article, a neurohumanistic, “third culture” approach to “gesture” is delineated. Grounded in an exegesis of Eisenstein's sensorimotor theory and extending to both contemporary and historical thinkers, a “constellation” of the notion of both visual and musical gestures is triangulated and operationalized into empirical research. An overlap between Eisenstein's model of audio/visual gestures and the contemporary frameworks of embodied simulation theory and embodied music cognition is revealed. Through artistic collaborations with a filmmaker and a film composer, custom-made, naturalistic video clips (filmed with a drone) and musical tracks were created using the film The Cranes Are Flying (Kalatozov 1957) as an aesthetic model. Empirical results demonstrate an increased sense of movement and involvement in the perception of both visual and musical “ascent.”
A Case Study in the Mutual Benefit of Combining Social Neuroscience with Film Theory
Cynthia Cabañas, Atsushi Senju, and Tim J. Smith
How do we understand the experiences of characters in a movie? Similar to real life, viewers attribute mental states to characters through a process known as Theory of Mind (ToM). Filmmakers commonly use Dramatic Irony, a narrative device where the audience knows something that at least one characters does not. From a social neuroscience perspective, understanding the cognitive mechanisms that underlie dramatic irony can provide a remarkable opportunity to study ToM in a more ecologically relevant context. While descriptive narrative theories of dramatic irony exist, these have never been studied in relation to contemporary social neuroscience. In this opinion piece, we aim to bring together these two traditionally isolated disciplines to propose a cross-disciplinary research roadmap for investigating the social neuroscience of dramatic irony in cinema.