Alessandra Cianetti: Lynn, when we met you were just back from your performance Haumapuhia Rising as part of The Performance Arcade, Wellington, New Zealand. You floated face-down in the sea for approximately 20 hours in total in the city’s harbour as a performative piece inspired by the Māori legend of a girl, Haumapuhia, who was betrayed and drowned by her father. Your international practice has often brought you across frontiers, contexts, cultures, and I wonder how that has impacted on both the development of your practice and the politics of visibility of your own performative body as a female artist and migrant.
Lynn Lu: As a performer who makes site/context specific works, I am acutely conscious of how I am perceived by my audience: Do I pass for local? Am I an Other? Neither / both? In each case, how I am viewed becomes one of the materials with which I construct a piece.
Where I am seen as an exotic oriental, I fully exploit expectations: A guide to life’s turning points
Where I pass for local, I sneak permission to (gently) take the piss: Sumimasen
Where a city made me feel more liked than anywhere else I’d lived, I put it to the test: Strawberrymilkbath
Alessandra Cianetti: Memory, intimacy, closeness, have been pillars of some of your one-to-one performances that I have been lucky enough to experience. Carefully and delicately crafted spaces for encounters with strangers that held the power of creating an instant connection and a two-way communication. I am curious to know what have been the challenges in constructing those spaces of trust and what are, in your opinion, the boundaries of these newly built intimate relationships with strangers.
Lynn Lu: Many of my early works were experiments to test out certain ideas I was learning about as a student of Buddhism. Many performances were designed for an audience of one, and I was mostly concerned with the question I posed in the work and about the “answers” imparted by my participants. I remember being surprised by how openly and generously audiences responded to my requests for personal stories, etc. – however, being young and foolish, the gravitas of strangers entrusting me with often raw and intimate memories, escaped me. One participant of Lojong– incensed by what felt like a betrayal of trust and a trivialization of their trauma – walked out part way through the performance. Since then, I have been hyper-aware of precisely what I ask of my audience and how I protect their trust. Crucially, I ensure that I offer them something of equal “value”, so that the exchange feels fair: if the work asks a lot of participants, then the experience must be gratifying for them in equal measure.
Alessandra Cianetti: performingborders investigates how notions (and lived realities) of borders impact live art practitioners’ work. In your case you have often crossed also disciplinary borders, I’m thinking here at the work you created in collaboration with Pr. Carmine Pariante of the King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (for example the hand that rocks the cradle curated by Something Human, and the latest For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “it might have been” curated by Science Gallery London for BLOOD: Life Uncut). I wonder what role the many notions of border have played in your practice and how you see them intersecting your future projects.
Lynn Lu: Since 2015, I have collaborated with Prof Pariante to produce performances and installations based on his research on perinatal depression and blood inflammation in depression. I also had the opportunity to work with assyriologist Prof Sanna Svärd (University of Helsinki, Dept of World Cultures) in a residency, and together we presented – as part of Floating Platforms which partnered top Finnish researchers with international artists – a multi-media exhibition.
While my work has always been research-based, my collaborations with Profs Pariante and Svärd thoroughly reshaped me as an artist. For the first time, I was granted access to domains usually closed off to non-experts. I had ingress to tools and information in specialist subjects that, in fact, have everything to do with the way we live and understand the world. These exhilarating experiences sparked in me a craving to further explore the counterpoints between art and other disciplines – specifically the sciences.
I recently reflected on my love for the Hunterian and Grant Museums, and realized it was the parasites that I was most enthralled by. The organisms themselves are as macabre as they are alluring. It also occurred to me that our world turns upon myriad other sorts of parasitic relationships in the fields of linguistics, sociology, and economics. Studying the Trypanosome parasite – resplendent under the microscope with its gossamer fins gliding weightlessly through the bloodstream – I’m now working towards creating wearable art/costumes based on parasite aesthetics, and forging a new relationship to gravity through aerial training.
Lynn Lu is an artist whose context-specific work explores intimacy, proximity, and personal histories to unearth the poetics of quotidian experiences. In her interdisciplinary practice, the sentient body is the main medium for perceiving and presenting (versus representing) meaning (versus message) through direct personal experience. Engaging vigorously with the present reality of all that is here-and-now, the meaning of her works often manifest in the resonant relationships created between herself and her audience, and between the audience themselves. An ardent border-crosser, Lynn has lived and worked in nine cities across four continents. Currently based between Singapore and London, she is a Visiting Artist at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, an Associate Lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, and an Associate Artist at ]performance s p a c e [.
Featured image credits: Haumapuhia Rising, Lynn Lu. Photo by Amelia Jones