- 26 OCTOBER 2022
- GLORIA MARIA CAPPELLETTI
- Image by
- COURTESY OF SHUANG LI & MIU MIU PRESS OFFICE
Shuang Li's sublime complexity for the Miu Miu SS23 runway show
Multimedia artist Shuang Li's work is as much about deep raw emotions as synthetic algorithms. The Chinese-born, Berlin/Geneva-based artist, uses an approach that is, as she herself puts it, "an exploration of our contemporary digital landscape." And such stunning scenario has been chosen by Miuccia Prada to dialogue with her Miu Miu SS23 “In Translation” runway show, just recently held inside the Palais d’Iéna in Paris.
The work confronts language and technology, our desire for communication in the age of hyper-language and finally the impossibility of it. While sometimes there are simply no words, Shuang Li spoke to us about her art, the relationship between the human body and screens, the metamorphosis of our interpersonal relationships and her creative process with Mrs. Prada and the OMA team.
Tell us about yourself: Where did you grow up, what did you want to do when you were a child, what do you do and where are you located now?
I grew up in a small town in China. Growing up, I didn’t really have any aspirations about what I wanted to do in life. As a child I spent most of my time reading and playing video games — maybe that’s where everything started!
I’m an artist and I’m currently based between Berlin and Geneva. My art integrates various mediums, such as performance, sculpture, video installations, and interactive websites. To give you an insight into my work, I would say that my practice revolves around an exploration of our contemporary digital landscape, and the various technologies that connect us. I am very interested in how we interact with digital technologies, especially screens. My works question both the dematerialization of our experiences and relationships, and the materiality of the infrastructure that supports our digital lives and that we tend to take for virtual.
Do you recall when and how you first encountered the internet and how much it has changed your vision of the world?
To be honest, I don’t remember being particularly impacted by the breakthrough of the internet. At that time, I was mostly playing video games, and those did shape part of my vision of the world. They made me see the world for the first time for sure. Another important influence on my perception of the world was when I came across My Chemical Romance as a teenager. It changed everything for me!
Can you walk us through the creative process of your latest work for the Miu Miu Spring Summer 23 fashion show and collection? Where did the idea come from?
The whole process was very organic between me and Mrs. Prada, as well as with OMA who helped a lot with the installation, and the whole Miu Miu team. I didn’t receive guidelines. They wanted me to think of this installation the same way I do when working on one of my exhibitions.
From the start, my idea was to talk about communication, about the glitches and impossibility of communication. I had those situations in mind where we sent a message, and it was never received, which made me wonder where all those lost messages go. I’ve also been inspired by those moments when we try to communicate something we are thinking about, but it doesn’t come out right or it gets lost in translation. Something similar happens very often with all these instant message apps. They are supposed to ease communication; but they fail, they fail us.
With this set for Miu Miu, I wanted to inspire people to take a step back and reflect on our current modes of (mis)communication.
What message did you want to give to the Miu Miu fashion audience? What inspires you as a multimedia artist?
The hyper communication of our current time is something that fascinates me, as well as its apparent immateriality. We tend to imagine that our messages fly through the air to reach their destination in the blink of an eye. While in fact there is a huge global infrastructure made of undersea cables, satellites, and other pieces of hardware. We are all connected by a network that operates in a much more old-fashioned way than we think. I have always been interested in our impulse to get closer to one another and the predicaments we encounter along the way. These “cracks” in our digital communication, that’s what I wanted to explore and give shape to in that installation.
My Chemical Romance, Miranda July, Sophia Al-Maria, and Robert Gober.
What do you think about NFTs?
I haven’t really had time to form an opinion on NFTs yet, even though I have thought a lot about the status and future of the image in the age of social networks for instance. I even dedicated a whole video installation to the question of the death of the image in our time of infinite scrolling [Still, 2022]. So NFTs… let’s talk about them again in the future!
And what about the Metaverse?
As with NFTs, I haven’t taken the time to thoroughly think about it yet. But my work may speak for me. For example, the question of our intimate relationships with technology is central in several of my recent projects. The relationship between the body and the screen, between the body and its image, that’s something I’ve been exploring a lot lately. As our lives are getting more and more mediated, it becomes harder and harder to remember that a body is made of tangible, organic substance in the first place. The body-screen relationship is now completely reversed. We used to have our physical bodies first, that we could then turn into representations on different mediums, like photographs and paintings. But now, if we don’t have a screen body, it seems like our physical bodies don’t matter anymore. As if you had to exist on a screen to exist at all. The pandemic has made me dig deeper into these questions. This state of dematerialization of the human presence, as well as the metamorphosis of our interpersonal relationships were the focus of my performance Lord of the Flies (2021) for instance.
What can we expect to see from you next?
At some point in the future, I would love to make a movie.
But in the meantime, you can find me in Venice, as part of the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia [“The Milk of Dreams” curated by Cecilia Alemani is running until Nov. 27].
Thank you so much Shuang Li for taking the time and all the best for the future!
Watch Miuccia Prada's Miu Miu SS23 "In Translation" runway show, as the models walk through the immersive digital landscape created by Shuang Li and listen to her poem that echoes as a voiceover soundtrack inside the Palais d’Iéna in Paris.
We at RED-EYE could not resist to publish the complex poem and we hope you'll enjoy every syllable of such an inspiring composition.