Cosmic dancer

In conversation with Lulu Wang.

Chinese-born, London-based performance artist Lulu Wang in conversation with Antoine Schafroth

Can you introduce yourself to our readers? Why did you decide to express yourself mostly through performance?

I was born in Shanghai and am now based in London. I work within both visual art and performance, my work is presented collectively by incorporating trace making, video and live performance into my practice. I am very interested in recording movements, which take the form of paintings or large mixed media marks. I worked in fashion and graphic design companies before coming to London to study at the Royal College of Art. Performance was something I had never tried but it instantly felt instinctual to me. Performing through movement is an immediate form of expression and an extension of the mind. I am fascinated by how thoughts and emotions can be communicated through the body and the physical space that surrounds it. Becoming an artist is something that’s always made sense to me, it became a way of seeking my own truth and understanding how to connect with the world.

What are your main inspirations? And how do they influence your work?

During the process of creating, my performance draws from a variety of inspirations such as traditional Chinese mythology, Neo-expressionist dance tradition (Tanztheater), and sometimes even Sci-fi narratives. My piece “LOVE” was developed from the trace work I created, influenced by the childhood game of tug of war, as well as the myth of the Chinese love god ‘Yue Lao’, who links people’s emotions with a thread. Inspired by this, movements are shaped from a gesture of ‘pulling’ and then developed with my performance collaborator Josh Woolford to explore the journey of conflict and compatibility in intimate relationships. Bodies – action and reaction – express the energy of Yin and Yang. Love exists in different types of relationships that weave us tightly. Beyond the physically, love is a universal exchange that bonds us profoundly. Another work “DNA – Beyond The Body”, is inspired by the Pisces Jade Pendant – an urban story of a time and material over a distance transmission device, that questioned the time and existence of a being in China in the 1980s. My interpretation of its legend developed into a performance with a moving body and a light installation. By mirroring my body in the software and tracing the shape of its motions, I animated a digital pattern of infinite mirrored bodies of myself. The live performance of “DNA” has evolved during the process as well. From the first time I performed it at the “Diasporas Now” event in Cambridge (in collaboration with soundscape by composer Zhenyan Lee) to 180 strand reference point (in collaboration with outfits by fashion designer Olubiyi Thomas, Soundscape by sound artist Ijeoma Uzokwu aka Sasoraye, and Live Chinese instrument played by performer Xianrong Lee). “DNA” brings a fantasy of being in a virtual space as well as bringing the energy that has been absorbed from every moment of our existence, seeking the power of self-actualisation.

Your aesthetic has a dark aspect; where does it come from?

I guess to me it’s a way of exploring humanity. I like watching alien and sci-fi movies such as “Under The Skin”, “Arrival”, “Ghost In The Shell”, and recently the new season of “Love Death Robots”. The alienation of the unidentified beings which are far from human but the combination of complexity and pureness balances the Yin and Yang energy. This appears the most obvious in my work “The Ode” (in collaboration with fashion designer Nicole Kaminka, Photographer/Videographer Johann Spinder, and Soundscape in the moving image work by sound artist Adam Dove aka Nexcyia), which I create during the pandemic when I was spending lots of time with myself getting lost and ​​discovering my way out. For me exploring one’s dark side embraces the uncertainty of life, and gives cause to seek the light. It’s a part of the root of humanity and the challenge of self-realisation.

Can you explain your interest in traces?

Traces is the core concept of my performances – the body is a vessel, the initial space between us and the world, a self-reflection of the environment in which we inhabit. Through the motion of the body to draw a pattern significant to the experience and state of the “vessel”, each body leaves its own unique two-dimensional signature, which translates from its three-dimensional form, creating an undiscovered narrative captured in the moment. By using acrylic paintings, mixed materials and even digital software, those marks map the storyline of the performance visuals. The organic dynamic marks from touching are structured by graphic injections and unnatural interruptions. This hybrid visualisation became the mirror of seeing myself from different perspectives. It reflects my vision in different timelines: How I was in the past, how I am shaped by things surrounding me, and the fantasies I see in the future. Traces is the end and beginning of everything.

You set up the platform “Diasporas Now” what it is about? What are you working on?

“Diasporas Now” is a performance platform I founded with performance artists Rieko Whitfield and Paola Estrella in 2021. It is an expanded performance-art platform celebrating cross-diasporic solidarity, helping diasporic performance artists of colour gain exposure. The platform focuses on hosting performance art events, sharing and promoting works by performance artists of colour. We have been working with many different institutions and spaces in the past year like Mimosa House, Cromwell Place, Harlesden High Street, the UK Mexican Arts Society, Kiosk N1C, and Gallerie V. We are building a bridge that connects performance art with music, dance, fashion and other creative disciplines, as well as a community that supports diasporic identities, cultures, and perspectives.

Lulu Wang / Cosmic dancer

Credits:

Artist: Lulu Wang/ @lulu_wangyx
Interview: Antoine Schafroth / @a.schafroth
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Assistant: Camilla Di Pasquale / @micalliroe

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