Growing up in China, multimedia designer Yunying Huang was surrounded by a flurry of manga and arcade games. She quickly developed a love for exaggerated cartoon figures, dazzling colours and motion graphics which would later inform the aesthetic of her work. Conceptually however, Yunying’s work delves into the emerging technologies of today, with a sprinkle of pop culture, fashion and social media thrown into the mix.
“I began making cosplay clothing for myself when I was ten years old,” explains the California-based creative. “But I stopped learning and drawing when I was 15 because of the pressure to perform academically in China,” she continues. Despite this, her passion for media, cartoons and motion graphics commenced to thrive as she went onto study digital media technology in China. Throughout her undergraduate degree, and later on in her Master’s degree at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design, Yunying cultivated a unique mode of design thinking while experimenting with the likes of video mapping, game making, motion tracking and more.
Utilising this multi-disciplinary approach and simultaneously hinting at a number of prevalent themes today such as censorship, warp speed modernisation, hegemonic systems and political oppressions in China; Yunying’s practice combines a myriad of techniques and references throughout her forward-facing projects. “By incorporating AI, mixed reality, Chinese pop culture and social media, my work on media platforms creates an experience that addresses the ultra-unreal nature of everyday life in China,” she explains. “It encourages agency and creativity, and challenges the Eurocentric perception of techno-culture in China and orientalism.”
For her thesis project Algorithm Jamplifying, Yunying designed a collaboration between the user and AI. The interactive work “imagines and develops new behaviours and aesthetics that are evolving in Chinese pop culture,” the designer tells It’s Nice That. “The deluge of content uploaded every second on the internet exhibits not just the unique and bizarre aesthetic of the Chinese internet, but also a microcosm of Chinese pop culture itself,” she adds.
Social media platforms such as TikTok, Weibo and WeChat have become platforms, not only for expressing pop culture, but also for building and fabricating it. And instead of benefitting its users, the AI algorithms are designed to aid the government and corporations instead. “Our imaginations are trapped in the bubbled that AI have selected for us,” and Amplifying Jamplifying aims to provide an escape from that bubble. “It is a tool for us to reclaim control over social platforms and a way to express ourselves.”
Amidst several other projects also exploring emerging technologies, Yunying approaches every project with a thinking-through-making approach. “I find that rapid-prototyping is the most effective way for me to test out ideas” she adds on the matter. And currently utilising this working method at a postgraduate fellowship at ArtCenter, Yungying is further exploring AI, knitting machines, fashion and lifestyle. Most importantly, “I’m having fun making knitting!” she says finally.
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