• Issue
  • Jan 30, 2023

The Artists of 2022: Lu Yang

Full text also available in Chinese.

Portrait of LU YANG. All images courtesy the artist.

Before Covid-19 introduced “self-quarantine,” the otaku was the modern-day hermit who, absorbed in the world of ACG (animation, comics, and games), loyally practices their rituals connecting the physical and the virtual realms. Artist Lu Yang, perhaps once an otaku, extends this practice into his fantastical animated realms composed of sci-fi narratives and pop aesthetics.

Mirroring the ACG industry’s obsession with fictional characters and drawing on deities from many cultures, Lu Yang introduced his own persona, DOKU, in 2021. Named after the Buddhist philosophy “Dokusho Dokushi” (born alone, die alone), the artist’s gender-neutral digital reincarnation dances in the form of six avatars, each with different colorful outfits and armor representing heaven, hell, human, animal, hungry ghosts, and asura. They collectively debuted in a single-channel 3D animation at Lu Yang’s solo exhibition at Kunstpalais Erlangen in Germany (2/12–6/19); reappeared in the central exhibition of the 59th Venice Biennale (4/23–11/27); and manifested again in “Ultra Unreal” (7/22–10/2) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney. Viewers could dig into the avatars’ backstories at the DOKU Experience Center at Berlin’s Palais Populaire (9/10–2/13/2023) in a show mounted after Deutsche Bank selected Lu Yang as the Artist of the Year in late 2021. In the episode Binary conflicts invert illusions (2022), featured at his solo “Neti Neti” (9/22–2/12/23) at London’s Zabludowicz Collection, DOKU as heaven-and-hell interacts with yin-and-yang, giving birth to a new binary god. Similarly merging were two dancers in motion-capture suits who performed simultaneously at Hong Kong’s Freespace and the Sydney Opera House (10/7–9), animating and combining DOKU’s many incarnations into one.

LU YANG, DOKU – Binary conflicts invert illusions, 2022, still from 3D animation with music by liiii: 4 min 33 sec. 

Lu Yang’s unique visual style interweaving spiritual and virtual elements was recognized with the inclusion of his game-film The Great Adventure of Material World (2020) in the Hans Ulrich-Obrist curated exhibition “World Building” (6/5–12/10/2023) at the Julia Stoschek Foundation in Düsseldorf. In that journey, Lu Yang’s “Material World Knight” travels across realms with a desire to deconstruct and transcend his perception of the universe. By breaking the walls between these dimensions—a dream come true for the otaku—Lu Yang’s works question the forms of human existence and offer new perspectives on viewing our virtual experience.