Inside the futuristic alternate realms of Curry Tian, Mariko Mori, and Lu Yang

When looking at the work of Asian artists Curry Tian, Mariko Mori, and Lu Yang, it feels as though you’ve stumbled upon a portal into another world. These words are found within Tian’s dream-like experimental films, Mori’s extraterrestrial costumes and landscapes, and Yang’s multimedia videos and performances of dancing digital avatars. Their art explores cultural and identity politics, aiming to bridge the gap between cultures such as those of East and West, past and present, and drawing connections between science, technology, spirituality, and the body.

Supreme Pole-01, Curry Tian, 2019

Curry Sicong Tian

Curry Tian is Los Angeles-based motion graphic designer and filmmaker with industry experience in digital art, illustration, animation, photography, and creative directorship. Originally from China, Tian holds an MFA in Animation and Digital Art from the University of Southern California and a dual degree from Tsinghua University in Journalism and Visual Communication. In 2019, she was invited to speak at Motion Plus Design, the motion design industry’s premier global event, in Tokyo. Tian cited her relocation from Beijing to Hong Kong as a pivotal moment in her career, when she realized the importance of Chinese culture and began fusing cross-cultural influences in her practice.

Saṃsāra, Curry Tian, 2019

One of the overarching themes in her work is Yin and Yang, which is the concept of dualism in ancient Chinese philosophy, describing how seemingly opposing forces may in fact be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent. Her series ‘Supreme Pole’, made using CGI, is inundated with references to both Eastern and Western cultures. In ‘Supreme Pole-01’, the West is represented through Christian iconography. Small, winged babies descending from above allude to cherubs, symbolic angelic figures frequently mentioned in the Bible. Overhead, there is a massive red structure resembling an upside-down gothic style cathedral with a rose (circular) window and spires. Behind the cathedral is a circle depicting a traditional Chinese landscape painting. Circles can represent a number of symbols found in Eastern belief systems including the yin and yang, Ensō, and the dharmachakra, or wheel of dharma. One of the oldest symbols of Buddhism, the dharmachakra is used to signify Buddhism in the same way across signifies Christianity. What’s interesting about this portrayal is that instead of pitting the East and the West against one another, they coexist in harmony. Tian envisions a globalized world based on celebrating cultural difference as opposed to division and prejudice.

Gleipnir, Curry Tian, 2018

Among her most captivating short films is ‘SIMULACRA’ (2020), which won awards for the category Best Experimental at the Student Academy Awards as well as the New Wave Short Film Festival in Munich. Described as a multi-immersive experience integrating live-action and motion capture, ‘SIMULACRA’ takes viewers on a journey into the memory of an elderly Buddhist nun. The woman recalls a moment in her past where she and her multiple identities performed a sacred ritual to transform a dark entity into a graceful spirit. Instead of relying on narrative or dialogue to tell her story, Tian uses mood, colour, and tone, particularly red and white, to immerse viewers into an otherworldly realm. The concept of duality is manifested through the triumph of good over evil, the ability to turn obstacles into complementary forces.