“A lot of the work I’ve been trying to do with my body has been coming from a space of thinking there’s so much that my body holds that I never create space for or give language to. A lot of it is intertwined with experiences with living with disability, living with the questionings of identity itself. Am I disabled enough? Am I Asian enough? Am I American enough? There are so many layers there that I’ve slowly been excavating over the years and finding these little pieces and fragments and piecing them together into something that feels whole.”
- Yo-Yo Lin
In her work channels, Yo-Yo Lin created a multisensory performance that delves into the complex pathways of the chronically ill body. By weaving together audiovisual poetry, bodily music, and technology-mediated dance, challenges the audience to consider the many ways in which we inhabit our bodies and connect with one another. Lin understands us all to inhabit multiple bodies: ones made up of what we commonly think of as our physical body composed of its parts and organs, and others seemingly invisible, extending beyond the skin, taking the form of energy fields and kindred relationships. In her work, she generates connections within and between these bodies through the concept of qi 氣, networked technologies, and disabled embodiment. As materials for this exploration, she uses and amplifies the connective tissue of her own body as well as the care relationships that bond two or more bodies together. The first movement, “channel 1,” investigates the internal pathways within the body, exploring the energetic channels of qi 氣 moving through the body as conceptualized by Chinese medicine, and the cyclical nature of the body living with chronic illness. As both qi and this cycle are seemingly invisible to the eye, the artist examines the illegibility of the body in illness, pain, and healing, combining poetry with animations derived from what she calls her ongoing “soft data” archive. “channel 2” explores external pathways of the body through movement and sound. Using wired microphones attached to the artist’s moving body, electronic musician Despina amplifies, samples, and manipulates the creaking and crackling sounds of the artist’s connective tissue in motion, transmuting the sounds into an improvised soundscape. The artist responds in turn, augmenting the music with movement sensors, channeling herself as an instrument. Reflecting the ever-changing body, each performance is unique, no soundscape ever the same. Through deep listening, the duo engages in an interdependent, cyborgian feedback loop of generative music and dance. The final movement, “channel 3,” invokes ways of being together across distance. Choreographed and performed with Pelenakeke Brown through means of virtual communication, the duo plays with the subjectivity of placehood. This piece exists as an homage to the movements of the disabled community, whose connections are made, and togetherness found, without leaving the walls of one’s own room. The performance garments (designed by Weijing Xiao) embrace the performers’ physicality through fitted matte lycra and metal-fibered silk like a second skin, fully fabricated with couture hand finishings. Extending beyond the body are the “hyper-organs,” draped from a special, 100-percent stainless steel fabric and liquid-metal twill. Facial and hand wearables for all of the performers are composed of hardware, pipings and 3D-printed details. The design synthesizes a visceral hybrid of the natural and industrial, the body and machine. Weaving audiovisual together poetry, bodily music, and technology-mediated dance, the this one-hour performance invokes cybernetic possibilities for how we imagine our bodies. To the audience, Lin poses a series of questions: What channels exist within ourselves that connect us to ancestral ways of knowing? Can pain be a portal, and care a feedback loop? What are the electrical currents that we signal to one another, reminding us that even in continued isolation, we are not alone? Isn’t virtual togetherness another form of astral projection? With her focus on qi 氣, networked technologies, and disabled embodiment, Lin invites us to rethink our relationship with pain, care, and virtual togetherness. Through her art, she reminds us that even in isolation, we are never truly alone.