Lu Yang - DOKU, The Binary World
The Room, Freespace
I first started doing motion capture performances just for fun. I spend a lot of time in the virtual world, which is why I put so much effort into developing a performance based on video games. I also like music, dance and other elements very much, and naturally I want to combine them into a performance.
MetaObjects and I have been working together since 2018 to develop a performance system for motion capture. Every time we perform, we explore new things, such as the changes in characters, special effects, scenes, and how dancers control the avatar characters through physical movements and interact with the virtual environments. In this performance, we will attempt to achieve a real-time data connection interactive performance between two places, which is something we have never done before. Under the global pandemic situation, travelling to actual places has become difficult, so this performance takes on even greater significance, and I am really looking forward to it.
DOKU is a new series created at the end of 2019. I used 3D scanning reconstruction technology to scan more than 50 facial expressions to create a complete recreation of my face. This face is assigned to a genderless character, so I have created a perfect avatar based on my personal tastes and aesthetics, which could not have been possible in real life. I regard DOKU as my digital reincarnation, a concept that occurs frequently in Eastern religions, in which the true consciousness “alaya-vijnana” is present in each “self” in different worlds: a self that is “I” but not “I” at the same time. DOKU represents a non-binary existence; it is a virtual character originating from Asian culture.
A new character, the Binary God, will appear in this interactive performance, one that is specially designed for this performance and a new video for my solo exhibition in London in September. This character embodies the characteristics of DOKU’s previous heaven and hell environments. Heaven and hell represent the binary opposition between black and white, yin and yang, good and evil, and so this work is called DOKU, The Binary World.
I invited musician Li Xin (liiii) to collaborate in this work, who had already worked with me to produce the soundtrack of the film DOKU The Self (2022), presented earlier this year at the Venice Biennale. The dancer for the Sydney performance was invited by producer Mathew Spisbah, while the Hong Kong dancer was recommended by the Freespace team. It is my first time collaborating with both dancers, so I am really looking forward to working with them. With each performance, we work with different dancers, who bring a lot of interesting input to the performance. We usually do not give any specific instructions to dancers, but merely ask them to be themselves. Working with different artists who bring their unique contributions is the best way of collaborating.
A Live Motion-Capture Performance Between Two Cities
An Interview with Andrew Crowe and Ashley Lee Wong from MetaObjects, Production and Development (Hong Kong) for Lu Yang’s DOKU, The Binary World
Lu Yang’s DOKU, The Binary World is a live audiovisual performance consisting of a real-time collaboration between dancers in Freespace of Hong Kong and Sydney Opera House, who will be interacting through the bodies of specially designed avatars in a shared virtual environment.
Hong Kong based digital studio MetaObjects, provides the production and technical development backbone of DOKU, The Binary World’s Hong Kong performance. They have been working with Lu Yang since their Electromagnetic Brainology performance at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre in 2018. Lu Yang’s live motion capture performances are a way to explore ideas around neurology, brain control and digital reincarnation, which have been reoccurring themes in the artist’s works.
Digital technologies always play a significant part in Lu Yang’s work. In DOKU, The Binary World, MetaObjects see the digital realm as the most important part of the performance, for it is “not just adding digital elements to a live performance, but the performance itself is based around the virtual environment.”
DOKU, the avatar, has a complex existence. Each avatar is a high-detail recreation of Lu Yang using facial capture techniques. Lu Yang sees these avatars as their digital reincarnation, as ideal versions of the self that would never exist in the “real” world. They are genderless avatars, with each of them representing the binary elements of the six realms of Buddhist reincarnation. Conceptually, the performance itself seeks to challenge binaries and binary thinking. “At the end, both the heaven and hell avatars, with the mixing of the different aesthetic characteristics of both, in terms of colour, dance styles or other elements, will end up combining into one.”
Lu Yang’s many works are about the control of body through external means. The DOKU series pushes that further by seeing the digital realm as a way of representing an afterlife. Ashley Wong, Artistic Director of MetaObjects explains that “the internet or the virtual world is actually a space where you can be reincarnated over and over again, and you can reinvent the self.” Lu Yang therefore sees the digital realm as a space where one reincarnates and how one may “experience the cyclic existence of learning and suffering that you endure through a Buddhist practice in life.”
While the movements of the avatars are controlled by that of dancers in real-time, the virtual existence allows them to co-exist in two spaces (Hong Kong and Sydney) simultaneously. In this live event, the motion data of the movements of dancers are streamed between Hong Kong and Sydney simultaneously so that the avatars can interact virtually. MetaObjects explains, “In each venue, there will be a physical dancer, and then the audience will see both the avatars of the local dancer and the dancer in the other venue who interact with each other in the virtual space.”
The dancers’ physical bodies and how their motions animate their corresponding avatars in the virtual space breaks not only the physical boundaries between the venues on different sides of the Earth, but the boundaries between the “real” and the “virtual” environment. MetaObjects and Lu Yang have worked together on a number of performances and with each performance, the technology has evolved with greater complexity both conceptually and technically.
MetaObjects works collaboratively with Lu Yang to create a live 3D performance programme using a game engine. “We take the 3D models for characters, the environment, and all the textures that Lu Yang created and convert them into the format that can be used within the game engine. We then use game engines to create virtual 3D environments with motion capture data from live dancers.” A VJ in Hong Kong and Sydney respectively will also be triggering the visual effects and camera movements in the virtual environment using a Xbox game controller live. Audiences will have a sense of liveness as the visual effects respond dynamically to the music in a spontaneous nature.
- Lu Yang
- Production and Development (Sydney)
- Production and Development (Hong Kong)
- Hell Environment 3D Design
- Extreme John
Hong Kong Live Performance
- Dr Ashley Lee Wong
- Technical Lead
- Andrew Crowe
- Technical Assistant and AV Coordinator
- Edwin Lo
- Choreographer and Dancer
- Kenny Leung Kim-fung
Sydney Live Performance
- Mathew Spisbah
- Motion Capture Technician AV Coordinator
- Dr Sam McGilp
- Harrison Hall
- Taiga Kita-Leong
About Creative Team
Shanghai-based artist Lu Yang works across video, installation, animation, performance, motion capture and games. Lu graduated with an MA in New Media Art from the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou. Lu’s work explores existential issues about the nature of life through references to Chinese medicine, neuroscience, popular culture and religion. Lu has presented solo exhibitions at ARoS Aarhus Art Museum (2021), Spiral, Tokyo (2018), M Woods Museum, Beijing (2017), and others. Lu was selected for the Chinese Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, and won the BMW Art Journey initiative in 2019.
liiii, aka Li Xin is a musician, guitarist and sound artist based in Shanghai. He has played in rock and electronic bands, including Triple Smash, Mushroom, Naughty Volunteer and SROT, and has toured extensively in China and internationally. In 2012, he founded the Pluto Music Studio, which produced the Shanghai independent music compilation Indie Top 1. The studio has also produced soundtracks and art projects for Budapest China Art Week, Hamburg Sino-German Art Week, Shanghai French Culture Week, Shanghai International Arts Festival, Shanghai Fashion Week, and others. In 2017, he started an independent music and art project under the pseudonym, liiii.
Kenny Leung Kim-fung
Choreographer and Dancer (Hong Kong)
Hong Kong independent choreographer and dancer Kenny Leung Kim-fung studied Chinese Dance at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts before receiving a Master’s degree in Contemporary Dance Performance from the Taipei National University of the Arts. He has worked and toured with a number of Hong Kong and international choreographers, and collaborated with artists in different fields. Fusing the vocabulary of Chinese and Western dance through his rich training and experience, Leung has developed a unique style with a strength in improvisation and diverse physical performance. His work focuses on physical movement and cross-media experiment, exploring the relationship between performing and viewing as well as the infinite possibilities of performance itself. Leung’s recent cross-disciplinary works include The Battle (2020) and Body Codes II: Performscape (2021).
Harrison Hall’s work situates contemporary performance and dance in experiential art environments. Recently, he was awarded a SOLITUDE 1 residency from Chunky Move and the Tanja Liedtke Foundation. During the residency, he and motion graphics artist Luca Dante spawned Maelstrom, a multi-channel digital choreography installation that premiered at MARS Gallery, Melbourne and Metro Arts, Brisbane in late 2021. Through Chunky Move, Hall and Dr. Sam Mcgilp presented BONANZA!, a media artwork blending together dance, film, digital animation and artist dialogue that included conversations with Taiwanese audiovisual art collective NAXS corp. and Chinese digital artist Lu Yang. He was selected as a participating artist at the Taipei Performing Art Centre’s ADAM project in 2020 and continues to collaborate with this network through his contribution to the programme of BLEED 2022. He has worked with international artists and companies including Yumi Umuimare, Theatre Group GUMBO (Japan), The Australian Ballet and La Fura dels Baus (Spain).
Born and raised in Sydney, Taiga Kita-Leong is a freelance multidisciplinary movement artist who began his training at the age of four at various dance schools, collaborating with different choreographers including Cass Mortimer Eipper, Gabrielle Nankivell, Rafael Bonachela and Sue Healey. Upon graduating in 2021, Kita-Leong had the opportunity to perform in the renowned work Decadance by Ohad Naharin with Sydney Dance Company at Sydney Festival 2022. He worked with Miranda Wheen when touring New South Wales, performing The Rivoli with Dance Makers Collective. He has also worked on television and film sets as a movement director, artist and body double. Kita-Leong appears on several music videos, including Touch by Golden Features, Swan Song by Mo’ju, Holdin’ On by Korky Buchek and Honest by Joji Malani.
About Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House is Australia’s premier cultural institution and tourism destination, and a celebrated community meeting place. It is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a masterpiece of human creative genius and a world-class performing arts centre. One of the world’s busiest performing arts centres, the Opera House hosts about 2,000 performances a year across its six theatres and the Forecourt.
MetaObjects is a studio based in Hong Kong that facilitates digital production with artists and cultural institutions. Working across VR/AR, 3D Printing, Motion Capture, audio-visual production and web development, MetaObjects seeks to encourage the sharing of knowledge of new digital tools and processes. Through close collaborations, MetaObjects helps build a deep understanding of the possibilities of advanced technologies to realise complex creative projects.
MetaObjects has worked with artists including, Lu Yang, Samson Young, Isaac Chong Wai, Wong Kit Yi, Gordon Cheung, Carla Chan, Clon x NWRMTC, Rachel Monosov, and others; and cultural institutions including, M+ West Kowloon Cultural District, Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, Hong Kong Design Centre, Asia Society Hong Kong, and others.
MetaObjects is co-founded by Technical Director, Andrew Crowe and Artistic Director, Ashley Lee Wong.
Exhibitionist is a multidisciplinary team of digital arts workers based in Australia. They seek to create new models and formats for how the arts community can engage with the digital and explore ways to create alternate frameworks for the collaboration, creation and dissemination of artistic work IRL and URL.