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29 Oct

Lu Yang’s digital reincarnations explore the ghost within the

Lu Yang NetiNeti is the Shanghai-based artist‘s first solo UK exhibition

Experiencing Lu Yang’s sprawling virtual worlds is a pure dopamine rush. The Shanghai-based artist constructs techno-psychedelic realms that explore the human body through the lens of Buddhist iconography, videogames and sci-fi, where fantastical avatars embark on mind-bending odysseys across multiple dimensions, and neon deities compete in Dance Dance Revolution-style battles within the afterlife.

Often set to pulsating, arcade-style soundtracks, Yang uses digital technology to increase their soul beyond its corporal form and into various avatars modelled on Doku, the artist’s 3D-scanned digital replica, or “reincarnation”.

LuYang NetiNeti, named after the Sanskrit expression meaning ‘neither this, nor that’, is Yang’s first solo UK exhibition, featuring immersive digital installations, an interactive gaming arcade, and a screening room of the artist’s biggest hits from across the last decade. “Lots of my works are concerning the body, spirituality, and perspectives on the world,”

they are saying. This includes “DOKU Binary God”, a brand recent work commissioned for the exhibition, where heaven and hell engage in an epic dance showdown atop a yin yang symbol. Featuring a thrashing metal soundtrack, the 2 avatars – modelled on Doku, the artist’s 3D-scanned digital replica, or “reincarnation” – move in sync, eventually summoning a 3rd hybrid character: the binary god.

For Yang, Doku is an extension of their soul within the digital realm, separate from their physical body – a ghost within the shell, when you will. “It’s a duplicate of my soul reincarnated into the virtual world,” they confirm. Slipping out and in of those digital skins becomes a approach to experience multiple embodied lives, each IRL and URL, breaking away from western, binary ideas surrounding life and death.

“Once I have a look at Doku, I sense my soul coming out of my body, like a near-death experience: the body that’s my very own, but that which has nothing to do with me.”

Yang has created six versions of the DOKU avatar thus far, corresponding to the six paths of reincarnation as described in Buddhism: Animal, Asura, Heaven, Hell, Human and Hungry Ghost. With apocalyptic shots of mountains full of the dead bodies of past reincarnations, the show’s central piece “Doku The Self” recruits this all-star solid of avatars in a 35-minute video that sees Yang as a passenger on a plane,

moving across various dream states and simulated realities: past and future, human and machine, life and death. “Like Buddhist meditation, [this avatar] allows me to experience and visualise one other layer of the universe by identifying with my virtual selves,” they are saying.

Merging ideas of immateriality with neuroscience, Doku ascends into space before breaking down, pixel by pixel, until all that is still is a nervous system. The scene cuts to Yang laying on the ground surrounded by airplane debris.

“To live life fully is to at all times be in no-man’s land,” reads the text emblazoned on their hoodie. Plunging the viewer into digital disarray, Yang reminds us that the mind exists beyond matter; it extends beyond the body, spreading through computerised networks and towards infinity.

LuYang NetiNeti runs from September 22, 2022 to February 12, 2023 at The Zabludowicz Collection

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