Great Adventure of Material World

Lu Yang

“I don’t think the self exists. I think you have a superpower universe inside you and you can develop in that universe.” – Lu Yang

You have entered Lu Yang’s complex, philosophical world. In the first space, the film ‘Great Adventure of Material World’ transports you along an elaborate odyssey. This new mythology confronts long-standing, human questions: what constitutes “self” and “other”? Is there life beyond death? In each chapter, you explore a new afterlife until you finally reach the material world. Along your route, the avatars interrogate the nature of these realms: does your skeleton have a gender? What is shame without a point-of-reference? How can our spirit be tortured in hell without a body to sense the pain? Let us gather round these screens’ warm glow and witness the tale unfold.

In the second space you are invited to play a game – set in the same world as the film before it. Throughout the game androgynous avatars aid in your quest to unlock new wisdom and conquer fantastical enemies (many bearing Yang’s own face). His characters crossover, battle and collaborate across many of his artworks, musing on philosophies informed by Yang’s Buddhist upbringing. To Yang, the world around you is a matter of perspective “you can find 1000 universes in your home, or one in your skin”- our reality is not stable, but one of many to choose from.

In 2021 over a third of the world’s population played video games. This pastime (once niche) is now a mass cultural event. Like cinema in the 20th century and books before it – they absorb billions of people into alternate bodies, worlds and lives. Through cut scenes, time jumps and re-do’s video games destabilise our sense of time. Linear narrative ceases to matter. They are a realm of reincarnation, of trying different roads and tactics to overcome the odds. Are you yourself performing? Playing or being played? Whilst different characters vary in power, weakness and ability – we experience new ways of being, we perform with Yang. How might we inhabit new bodies in ‘real’ life?

Lurking in the air above is Yang’s monumental ‘Monster Head’ blow-up sculpture. This creature’s burning eyes watch as we investigate these questions of virtual versus physical reality. The Medusa-like entity first appeared in Yang’s childhood nightmares: afraid of the inky blackness of his apartment hallway at night, his mind encountered a vision of his own decapitated, floating head bursting forth from the darkness. Having escaped the dream-world, it haunts this hall.

Lu Yang | b. 1984, China
The work of multimedia artist Lu Yang has been featured in major museums and institutions internationally including recent important solo exhibitions at the ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Aarhus, Denmark; Spiral, Tokyo, Japan; M WOODS, Beijing; UCCA, Beijing; and Fukuoka Asia Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan. Lu Yang (born 1979) was recently awarded the BMW Art Journey in 2019, and Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year 2022.

Recent works in large-scale thematic exhibitions include Asia Society Triennial 2021, New York; Shanghai Biennale 2018 and 2012; Athens Biennale 2018; Liverpool Biennial 2016; Montreal International Digital Art Biennial 2016; 56th Venice Biennale 2015 China Pavilion; and Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2014.

Lu Yang on Instagram