NetiNeti: Buddhism And Neuroscience With Artist LuYang

NetiNeti: Buddhism And Neuroscience With Artist LuYang
Enter disorientating and darkly humorous worlds created by multimedia artist (she prefers ‘entertainer‘) LuYang. Converging modern anime, arcade and sci-fi technology, with neuroscience and Buddhist motifs, this absurdist fantasy delights in the mysteries and mechanics of the human mind and body.


LuYang NetiNeti incorporates the Sanskrit expression for neither this, nor that, colourfully recreating past and future, human and machine, life and death, via meditations on simulated ‘realities’ and the fragility and strength of transience. Central to the exhibition is LuYang’s (b. 1984 Shanghai) own digital reincarnation through a shapeshifting avatar called Doku. Named after the phrase dokusho dokushi which translates as we are born alone, and we die alone. 

Doku exists in an ethereal realm and is expressed in 6 forms, corresponding to 6 paths of reincarnation: Hell, Heaven, Hungry Ghost, Animal, Asura, and Human. Animated through CGI and motion tracking, the breath of life given to these avatars is inspired by contemporary Japanese pop dancers, and the hand and eye movements of legong dancers from Bali.

The ever-unfolding series is currently spread out over the multiple rooms of the Zabludowicz Collection, culminating in an interactive arcade where visitors can navigate LuYang’s amusing, thought-provoking and unashamedly grotesque universes first-hand; traversing techno-psychedelic landscapes populated by deities that don’t shy away from the nature of death, disease and the fabric of reality or sanity itself.


Insidiously Inverting Illusions

In the main entrance hall stands a temple-themed installation: a nod to the chapel architecture of the gallery building, and their long-standing relationship with the exploration of religious ideas and motifs.

4 TV screens line each wall, the centrepiece being a cinematic vision commissioned directly by the Zabludowicz Collection, and behind it, a large mandala with glowing red eyes – the demon Yama holding the Wheel of Life in LuYang’s version of the cycle of rebirth, and its 6 realms.

A pop-metal dance-off between Heaven and Hell amidst the wreckage of burning cities, forest shrines and seas of tears breeds the hybrid Doku, a binary god. The story of Doku the Self begins on a passenger jet before moving through lucid dreamworlds that synonymously uncover various aspects of the self alongside its blissful obliteration.


Electropop Electromagnetic Encephalography

In Electromagnetic Brainology, this fantastical blend of modern and historical elements of religion, medicine and neuroscience allows the artist to imagine a world where pain is cured using an invasive golden headdress that elicits electromagnetic deep brain stimulation. Four deities representing earth, water, fire and air are linked to different functions of the nervous system, and impulses from Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Wands strengthen these supernatural entities, allowing them to perform healing procedures that comically appear to increase happiness.

Uterus Man follows suit, riding in on his pelvic chariot and winged sanitary pad skateboard. This male superhero draws his powers from the female reproductive system, flying high on jets of blood and attacking enemies with monstrous baby weapons. An asexual digital avatar is created in Delusional Mandala, a blunted replica of the artists’ own face and body, which vigorously dances to high-energy music while being subjected to multiple neuroscientific procedures.

A robotic voiceover coldly reflects on neural anatomy and the association of particular brain regions with conscious experiences, before exploring god-like states and various definitions of brain death. It concludes with a golden hearse bearing contorted grinning images of the artists bald face speeding out of sight.

Despite LuYang’s delusional demise, the Deep Brain Stimulation Crown is picked up by a schoolgirl in Brain Control Messenger, and bestows her with a special Key inspired by Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (a real-world technology that can influence a persons’ balance by sending electrical signals to the brain). Facing a Mars Attacks!-style brain baddie in a Kaiju-style dance duel-off, the schoolgirl played by Japanese idol Chanmomo from the girl band Ja Naimon! emerges victorious.

Still suffering for her sins, Delusional Crime and Punishment sees LuYang reincarnated in the underworld, and sent on a horrifying journey through multiple realms of hell, including gyms, laboratories and fairground rides. Helplessly flailing around, innumerable clones of the artist are subjected to various forms of violence from animal-human hybrids, set to a hip-hop soundtrack by GAMEFACE. Finally, in Wrathful King Kong Core, the artist considers Yamantaka, the ‘destroyer of death’, and offers a neuroanatomical analysis of the god’s state of being.


Material World Knights

The Material World Knight project is housed in a retro-fit futurist arcade, filled with the characters from earlier works presented in the gallery, who flit between multidimensional digital animation, anime and reductionist green code straight out of the Matrix.

A three-channel screen presents a future in which three types of intelligent entities evolve: cloned humans, exoskeleton-enhanced cyborgs and AI robots. Debating the origins of consciousness and arguing over which life-form is a superior species, they ultimately combine themselves to create the Material World Knight.

The playable video-game spin-off allows you to chart the Knight’s journey through an arcade of realms within the universe, featuring fundamental Buddhist teachings such as the illusory nature of the self and the material world. The narrative is driven by pop-up text boxes containing philosophical questions, queries, riddles and paradoxes.


The Zabludowicz Collection

The Zabludowicz Collection describes itself as an independent philanthropic organisation that is home to a growing collection of contemporary art, alongside a programme of exhibitions, events and residencies.

A private collection with a public ethos, it was founded in 1994 with a commitment to producing a vibrant and sustainable ecology for creative talent. Inaugurated in 2007, Zabludowicz Collection’s London project space presents a varied programme of self-initiated group and solo exhibitions and commissions. The programmes’ main focus is to support early career artists and curators, and is housed in a former Methodist chapel.

Admission is free, Thursday to Sunday.