“I want to see the hope and life in ordinary objects, to make them breathe so the whole world will breathe with us.”
Born Harbin, Heilongjiang, 1979
Wang Yuyang has always regarded technology as his primary medium. “I am curious about how machines are made,” he says. Many of his works incorporate motors, lights and electricity, but they are also powered by ancient ideas. “I like the traditional Chinese philosophy because it talks about the relationship between 1 and 0, on and off, black and white, something and nothing. My works explore this connection,” Wang Yuyang explains. He is especially interested in what he calls “the zero state”, of silence, stillness and emptiness. In the Breathe series, ordinary devices seem to inhale and exhale. Rhythmic motions, quiet wheezing and the softness of silicone rubber give these machines the look, feel and sound of living beings. Automated teller machines have become so indispensable that Breathe—ATM (2011) makes us wonder about the closeness of our relationship with them. “I can’t live without ATMs,” Wang Yuyang says. “They are like our magicians—they change numbers into cash and cash into numbers.” The dusty van of Breathe—Manager Zhao’s Black Cab (2008), with its battered, grey exterior and single working headlight, could easily be mistaken for one of the thousands of illegal taxis that ply the streets of Chinese cities, but it seems as much of a battler as the self-styled “manager” who owns it.