Lu Yang, Electromagnetic Brainology, 2017, 5-channel video installation

Born 1984 Shanghai. Lives and works in Shanghai

Lu Yang’s innovative multi-media and animation works often take the form of music videos, but the two themes that constantly recur are neuro-science and religion. 

Electromagnetic Brainology (2017) is a five-channel video in which invented gods dance to a specially composed electronic score made in collaboration with J-pop producers, Invisible Manners. The gods correspond to the four major afflictions of the nervous system, which in turn represent the four elements of the universe: earth, air, fire and water. In Lu Yang’s electromagnetic pantheon, the earth god controls human suffering via the pain receptors in the cerebral cortex, the water god dictates the circulation of the blood and other bodily fluids, the wind god manages the respiratory system and the god of fire rules temperature and thermoreceptors. Each wears a Deep Brain Stimulation crown and carries a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation wand. Thus, with ‘superpowers’ relating to advances in neuroscience and new medical technologies, these contemporary ‘gods’ can, at least in theory, control neurological conditions including anxiety and depression.

Lu Yang’s fascination with the tensions between mind, body and technology earlier attracted her to Parkinson’s disease. In this degenerative illness, the neurones that initiate movement go haywire, sending out impulses as if of their own accord. While patients strain to achieve the smallest deliberate movement, their limbs go rigid or tremble uncontrollably. One treatment for those tremors is Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), in which a tiny electrode is implanted in the brain to block stray nerve impulses. When the current from a subcutaneous battery is on, the twitching and shaking decline; when it is turned off, they resume. Lu Yang’s multipart Krafttremor Project (2010) builds on earlier works such as Revived Zombie Frogs Underwater Ballet (2009), in which she used electrical stimuli to “reanimate” dead frogs. It centres on a video in which the frequencies of Parkinson’s sufferers’ movements are translated into atonal clicks and hums, generating an eerie electronic soundtrack. Lit as if with disco lights and with their eyes morphed into those of amphibians, the men seem to be shaking to the beat, but in fact “their lack of control is controlling the music,” the artist says

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