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Yiou Wang

Post-Humanism, Bio-Mythological, Indigenous Culture, Spiritual Practices, Symbiosis, 3D Animation, Eco-Feminism, Performance


Water Always Goes Where It Wants to Go

Water Always Goes Where It Wants To Go, Yiou Wang, AlinaTofan, 2024. Digital Eco-performance. 5’2”.

“Water Always Goes Where It Wants to Go” is an ecoperformance short film of the body in synergy with the storied landscape of water. How can we go back to something we already have? We are born out of water, and water constitutes our body, our territories, and our myths. Mapping water through the body, in between transitory space for waters, the short film investigates the relationship between the self, its embodied and somatic dialogues, and these physical and symbolic waters, questioning how we can return to our first water, the common body. This project can be seen as an embodied dialogue, ongoing somatic dialogue between flesh and water, occurring at different places, at different states of water. Motion times time become form. Just as water which has no form can give form to everything, motion of the body can give form to space. Alina Tofan’s movement was motion captured, creating corporealities of the common body of water. As myth incarnates culture in the first person discourse, this work investigates how water incarnates human beings in the first person discourse, an embodiment, from the individual “one” to the intertwined collective "One," bound by water. The video artwork investigates how we perceive and interact with the nonhuman world around us from the water environment.The method of this work is a nonlinear filmmaking technique, merging the script-driven filmmaking method and the improvisational motion capture-driven ecoperformance method. Preproduction storyboard and virtual scenography from collected natural world photogrammetry are recomposed and reorganized according to the performer's body language. The ecoperformance short film seeks to innovatively convey the intrinsic connection between the human body and water, by connecting theatrical enaction and the bodily feeling of becoming through live motion capture. Through digital avatars and motion capture in 3D scenography, the work innovatively incorporates real-time interactive digital media and imaginative elements in its cultural and ancestral ties to water, highlighting the convergence between myths and tech.

Artist Interview

Q: In this new edition of the UAAD online magazine, we're exploring the theme of "[Matrix] of the [Not-Yet]." How would you interpret these two words, and how do you see your work aligning with the concepts of [Matrix] and [Not-Yet]?

To me, "matrix" is a kind of worlding, a kind of understanding, mapping, populating, and eventually reconceptualizing the world with many dimensions - dimensions of form, of the formless, and of self-placement. "Not-yet" sounds like the unfinished state in the becoming, in a philosophical way of Deleuze or in a spiritual way of reincarnation.

Q: We are very interested in the trajectory of your creative practices and their connection to the theme. Could you provide us with a little more information about your background?

My creative practice explores the relationships between mythology, technology, and a more-than-human universe. Growing up as an animist in Eastern culture, I create what I see and envision with an animist eye — fluid mediums, metamorphosis, and hybrid creatures — which are in direct connection to the theme.

Q: The creators participating in this magazine work across various mediums, including moving images, interactive installations, music composition, etc. What factors influence your choice of medium for your works?

I work with multimedia ranging from digital media such as game, 3D, XR, and performance, to analog media such as drawing and painting. The choice of medium depends on the project. For example, in “Mixanthropy” (2023, with Meichun Cai), a project centered on morphing on visual and behavioral dimensions, I combined CGI and landscape-mimetic skin textures with motion capture embodied by Meichun and myself, presented in the form of an immersive forest of holograms inviting the audience to forget the boundaries between physical and virtual spaces. In “Water Always Goes Where It Wants to Go” (2024, with Alina Tofan), I “staged” a masked Alina in the dynamic worlds made from photogrammetry of real lands and waters driven by game engines, to express the internal wonder, embodiment and interconnectivity beyond our external physical appearance.

Q: How does your work reflect or actively engage with the cultural and social dynamics of your community or the communities you interact with? Are there elements in your art that seek to bridge, disrupt, or transform these dynamics?

I work with and for many different cultural and social communities who share the vision and awareness of a more-than-human, ecofeminist world and a non-anthropocentric way of being.

Q: What real-world strategies or methodologies do you employ in your art practice to manifest your visions of the future? How do these tactics serve as forms of resistance or intervention within the current socio-political landscape?

Currently, I tend to focus on motion capture interaction in my methodologies as it is a bridge between movement — body expressions, and visuals. Movement is the externalization of the spirit, relating to myths and ancient oral traditions. It is a marvelous medium in itself because when multiplied by time, it turns the formless into form. By employing motion capture and retargeting one's movement to a more-than-human entity or landscape, I offer possibilities for the audience to see, hear, and feel the pulses of the more-than-human "other.”

Digital media or the “metaverse” has nothing to do with unlocking magic that make you better at dominating the world. Like all other things, technologies are a means that we use to transform our relationships with other beings and our soil — nothing can be divorced from communal, ecological, sociopolitical and cosmic contexts. But digital media, with their interactivity, possess the artistic potentials of re-enchanting people one step beyond the external “looks” and one step towards accessing the internal sensoriality of a greater world, which was inaccessible to colonial age anthropologists and rationalists. Whether a medium’s impact is positive or not depends on whether it contributes to healthy soil, which is the same as expressed by John Wofstone, which I find really useful and practical: we can only be in as healthy of love relationships as the wider eco-system soil is.

Q: How do you hope your work impacts its viewers or participants, particularly in terms of rethinking potential futures or alternate realities? Who do you perceive as your audience?

I have been and will continue myth-making to make accessible to public realities where all around us is breathing, pulsing, active planetary beings worthy of treating with respect and care. Myth is the connective tissue between people, places, arts, and a more-than-human communal world. I challenge the modern Western hegemonic views and introduce possibilities for the audience to see, to hear, and to feel the pulses of the more-than-human "other." The characters and images I create are often seen by my audience as "hybrid creatures," who fall into misfits because they are uncategorizable. Methodology-wise, I often mix and merge visual image, experience and performance.

Q: As a creator, what do you see as the threats or uncertainties we will face in the coming decade?

The biggest threat now and in the upcoming decade is the climate crises, which encompass a wide range of environmental and social problems, from pollution, to deforestation, to urban sprawl, to habitat loss, and many more. Environmental problems are never isolated from social inequities, since the ecological disasters impact disproportionately people in formerly or currently colonized regions of the Global South. Accompanying deteriorating environmental problems is the progressive loss of modern society's spirituality. Less and fewer people can vibrate with the tides and trees and notice the wave of bird migrations, or echo with the rhythms of seasons and of the sun. Ancient myths, spirituality and precolonial more-than-human epistemologies are harder and harder to access by modern masses, usually dismissed as "fiction" or "metaphor" by the modern Western hegemonic mind. But literature and arts possess the power of changing hearts and minds, for which I am optimistic.

Q: What motivates you to continue creating as an artist?

I have stories to tell, pictures to visualize. It is the same drive since I was a child. It doesn’t matter if I am painting a picture or making a virtual reality experience.

Q: Are there any theories, books, or artists you would like to recommend in your current areas of interest?

Gan Yao-ming's "Pangcah Woman" (Bangcha nühai) (2015), my favorite novel.
Davi Kopenawa's "The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman" (2010).

Q: If you could possess a superpower, what would it be?

The ability to get all of the characters and places in my works and myself to exist in the same universe, able to see and communicate with these fictional characters across medium and across the story/reality boundaries.

About the Artist

Yiou Wang is a multimedia visual artist, designer and filmmaker in the fields of CGI animation, mixed realities and immersive experiences, with a background in architecture. Yiou grew up between a nature obsession and her grandmother's oral lore, using drawing to see and know, which planted a seed for her later full blown gravitation towards animism. Yiou's works act as a conduit between humans and the larger living worlds through myth, tech and imagination. Co-founder of Mixanthropy Art Tech Studio, after the eponymous work “Mixanthropy” which means half human, half animal, Yiou employs tech-heavy approaches like XR, motion capture, and interactive narrative particularly because of their native potentials of plasticity and metamorphosis, Yiou seeks to create works to transcend beyond binary, anthropocentric boundaries of modernity and alternatives to the Western rationalist-instrumentalist-individualist frameworks.Yiou graduated with an M.Arch from Harvard Graduate School of Design. Yiou’s works have been exhibited and awarded at multiple exhibitions and festivals on a global scale, including SXSW, SIGGRAPH, Southern Sweden Design Days, the Red Dot Award, Muse Award, and Asian Media Arts Festival. She has been a global shortlisted finalist for S+T+ARTS Prize in 2022.

©2024 Underground Art And Design LLC | ISSN 2835-284X

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