The ever-evolving technological landscape has impacted the way artists conceive and present their works for decades. Now, with the rise of Web3 advocating for decentralization and ownership, it’s important to ensure all groups and communities are represented in the burgeoning space.
Keep your eyes peeled for these inspiring Asian artists who not only spearheaded ventures in art, technology and extended reality, but also spotlighted ethnic cultures, under-represented communities, and the socio-economic divide in their art.
Tokyo-based artist Lu Yang has gained an enthusiastic following in their home country China and Asia for their boundary-pushing digital works, which fuses ancient mythologies with technology and explores subjects ranging from human biology and neuroscience, to mortality, existentialism and spirituality.
Lu’s strange yet stimulating digital fantasies are populated by hungry ghouls, demigods, even baby tumor cells and a superhero character called “the uterus man” who moves around on a turbo-powered sanitary pad. Mostly screen-based, their works take inspiration and resources from anime, gaming and sci-fi subcultures, sometimes incorporating holography, and live performances. Their digital “persona” DOKU, a gender fluid virtual character, is often featured in their works, such as this music video commissioned by the British pop-rock band 1975 for their song Playing on My Mind.
Lu’s works can be found at their first and most comprehensive solo showcase, “LuYang Vibratory Field”, currently on view at Kunsthalle Basel, and as part of a group show “Fanatic Heart” at Hong Kong’s independent art space, Parasite, which looks into the fandom phenomenon through the works of queer artists.
One of the most recognizable names in the Chinese contemporary art scene, Cao Fei’s inventive oeuvre explores the day-to-day life of ordinary Chinese people who are navigating a rapidly changing social and technological landscape. Way before digital avatars and the metaverse were included in the discourse of contemporary art, Cao had already begun experimenting with the idea of a metaverse in her art. In 2009, She created RMB City, a fictional city built within the popular UGC virtual community, Second Life, which served as host to several events and projects until its closing in 2011. RMB City drew visitors from across the world, from art aficionados to gamers who stumbled across, as well as creators who initiated visual and performative artworks within the virtual city. RMB City is now included in the permanent collection of Hong Kong’s M+ museum.
WangShui is a New York-based artist and eponymous studio that uses moving images, installation, and architecture to explore contemporary notions of desire. The ceiling video projection, Scr∴ pe (2021), was WangShui’s first video collaboration with AI. It is composed by adopting GANs (general adversarial networks), a class of machine learning frameworks, which are trained on an evolving dataset of images. The translucent screen was installed under a skylight at the museum, and there were sensors that interpolated the light emitted from the screen with the daylight from above and fed data back into the imagery. Wang refers to Scr∴ pe as an “anamorphic post-human tissue sample,” and was inspired by the fleshy shape-shifting alien architecture in Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy, which thrives on human tumors.
The artist has noted that their work with AI is about “experimentation, deep learning, and ultimately syncing,” debunking the idea of the artist or artwork as singular, and acknowledging the fact that all images and ideas — between ourselves, the environment, the algorithm or forces beyond, are part of an interconnected exchange. WangShui’s work is currently taking part in the exhibition “Myth Makers—Spectrosynthesis III” at Hong Kong’s Tai Kwun.
Daito is a self-professed “great lover of music and math”, and a man that wears many hats, dabbling between the roles of an artist, a programmer and formerly a DJ. He’s also collaborated with many well-known artists, including Björk, Flying Lotus, and Ryuchi Sakamoto. In 2006, he co-founded a media arts company, Rhizomatiks, “to foster collaboration between media art, industry, and business.” The team orchestrated an augmented reality display at the closing ceremony of the Rio De Janeiro Olympics in August 2016, where former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō made a surprise appearance dressed as Mario from the popular Nintendo game for the flag handover ceremony. Daito also creates various theatrical performances, and interactive installations. He often incorporates technologies like robotic arms, drones, lasers and VR/AR in his works. His work with the legendary composer Ryuchi Sakamoto, Sensing Streams, which transforms electromagnetic waves into mesmerizing visual and audible components, is currently on view at the exhibition “Hylozoism” at Hong Kong Design Institute.
Krista Kim is a Canadian-Korean contemporary artist whose works frequently use light, digital technology and sound. Kim produced a number of touring installations and displays, along with other works which have been sold as NFTs, some in partnership with major brands, including a collaboration with Lamborghini.
Kim advocates for the idea that the future of humanism is digital, achieved through free thought and expressionism that knows no bounds, a philosophy she coined as “Techism”. She thinks the future of art is based on computers and AI becoming a digital layer of our physical reality. Her works are inspired by her movement, transcending the idea that a balanced culture between humans and technology not only can be achieved, but would improve society as a whole. Through visceral digital experiences, Kim intends to create a meditative experience using digital technology, like “a digital zen garden for the 21st century”. Kim is currently the Metaverse editor of Vogue Singapore.