John Yuyi wants to change how we think about the internet as an artistic space. Instantly recognisable for her images that use temporary tattoos, Yuyi explores the role social media plays in our everyday lives.
If you’ve never used Facebook, congratulations. Most of us have, and most of us have used it to show the virtual world images of ourselves or our friends. Yuyi thought it’d be fun to subvert that by placing social media stickers on her face, and posting the results online, creating a continuous layering of skin on skin, Facebook upon faces and faces on Facebook.
Yuyi also uses her body as a canvas, becoming a work of art whilst simultaneously being an artist. “I think a lot of people use themselves to build a persona on social media”, she explains. “It’s trendy for people to show not only their work, but also their faces”. We all have bodies, which is why when we look at Yuyi’s work, it is instantly relatable.
Yuyi is obsessed with skin, its uniqueness and individuality. Each of us has a defining feature; a crease in their skin, a dimple or a freckle below the mouth. Working with the body is an exploration of this intimacy; it is lying next to a person and tracing them from toe to forehead. “I always try to remember the people I am close to, like my family or my ex-boyfriend”, Yuyi explains. “The position and placement of a mole on their skin”. These markers feed into her art, which is personal and detailed.
Yuyi has a background in fashion; she studied it at University when in Taiwan and has worked as a stylist for over three years. It was only once she moved to New York that she genuinely considered herself an artist. However, it wasn’t her that first initiated this title, rather the people that followed her online. The work that she does has a strong connection with the fashion industry, having recently worked on campaigns for Gucci and Nike, producing images that emphasise the familiarity of logos and how advertising can seep deep into the psyche. When we look at her instant tattoos, we recognise what brand she’s eluding to, yet she does it in a contemporary and exciting manner.
“I realised I was terrible at expressing myself with words”, Yuyi tells us. “Images are how I express my feelings. This idea of communication or relationships with friends, lovers and society plays a strong role in my work”.
A recent project for Nylon, China sees Yuyi temporary tattooing food with QR codes and the Chinese Yen. When the artist visited Shanghai for her exhibition, she realised how advanced the city was concerning technology. “Every time I tried to use cash in a convenient store, they rejected me; they asked me to use the QR code to pay”. Phones have replaced cards and cash as the preferred payment system. The series for Nylon explores this idea, how even the most basic product has become modernised.
Yuyi’s work explores how humans can no longer be separated from digital technology; our way of life has become so enveloped by it, that it has almost become like an extra limb.
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