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Friday, March 27, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Yo-Yo Lin

Dear friends,

Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody

Yo-Yo Lin

Yo-Yo Lin
(photo: Zack Filkoff)

Yo-Yo Lin is a Taiwanese-American interdisciplinary media and performance artist who explores the possibilities of human connection in the context of emerging, embodied technologies. Through an on-going exploration into ‘soft’ illness data, body sonification, and impairment-generated dance, she is researching and developing methodologies in reclaiming and processing chronic health trauma. Her latest solo performance the walls of my room are curved premiered last winter at Gibney. Recently, Yo-Yo co-facilitated a four-part movement workshop series “Modes of Embodiment: An Expressive Toolkit for Chronically Ill and Disabled Bodies” at Movement Research. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Yo-Yo now lives and works in New York City. More info at

Yo-Yo Lin's the walls of my room are curved
(photo: Steve Dabal)

Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

I had planned on showcasing the performance the walls of my room are curved at two gallery openings this spring, both of which are now postponed indefinitely. the walls of my room are curved is a movement-generated sonic performance of the body living with a connective tissue disorder. The performance uses several microphones attached to my moving body, capturing the live sounds of creaking and crackling bones and joints as they shift, transfer, extend, and rotate. As I dance, an electronic musician samples, processes, synthesizes the sounds of my body into a musical score in real-time. I also have a group show currently up at the Jewish Community Center, entitled Rituals, that is now closed as well. Curated by Ezra Benus, the show addresses living experiences of illness and disability in abstract, ritualistic forms. I had planned on doing a durational performance based off of my data-tracking framework called The Resilience Journal but am now re-imagining it to be done remotely.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

I began with drawing and painting, then started making my drawings move. I was interested in moving images as a sculptural element--often taking these moving images and projecting them onto different surfaces. This led me into using real-time technologies--tools that would allow me to live-manipulate the visuals, map them onto 3D shapes, and sync with body movement. Naturally, live performance was the venue for these explorations. I often work collaboratively with musicians, dancers, and other performing artists in turning their visions into reality. As of recent, I’ve been combining my media art based practice with an emerging performance practice. I’ve been doing research into somatics, internal arts (including Tai Chi), and illness/ disability aesthetics in dance.

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?

I am practicing a revealing and re-valuing of realities. Living with an invisibilized illness has prompted me to question the realities of my body in relation to time and space. I am discovering that illness is relativity. Notions of how the ill bodymind can be generative sources for creative expression--in visuals, sound, tactility, shape, space, movement--has coupled with my explorations in time-based media art and technologies, creating works that seek to make the invisibilized not just visible but felt, embodied, and honored in its complexity. These works span from ‘soft’ data visualization to soundscapes made from bone sounds, to impairment-generated dance scores, to extended reality nightlife spaces. These explorations sometimes echo the complicated relationship between the body and technology, often precarious, discomforting, and transformative all at once. But ultimately, these works reveal a yearning for a deeper understanding and vision of the self, reflected back in its wholeness.

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

My practice belongs to a lineage of immigrant, ill/ disabled QTPOC womxn artists, all of whom have created art from necessity and with what they had. I find that “necessity” has produced the most honest, provocative art. I have been recently practicing with this idea in mind, unlearning the excess in technology-based art, acquainting myself with my body and the living planet, and holding space for grief and pleasure. I have been doing this not alone but with many others--creating and facilitating spaces for looking inward, safer discussions, and collective growth. Last fall, dancers Lara Marcin, Pelenakeke Brown and I facilitated a four-part movement workshop series entitled, “Modes of Embodiment: An Expressive Toolkit for Chronically Ill and Disabled Bodies” at Movement Research, where we sought to create an access-centered dance-making space. We dream of continuing to create communal space to honor the trauma in the bodyminds we own and building tools and methodologies to do so.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

My practice continues to function, perhaps ever more urgently, in the world we have now. I see the able-bodied workforce employ techniques that chronically-ill and disabled folks have long asked for and use as a form of access. Suddenly what was deemed “impossible” to do for a disabled person--such as tele-communication, healthcare benefits, paid leave, virtual events--are suddenly possible. I would like to dwell in this reality we live in right now, to hold space for the grief, fear, and anger we feel as chronically-ill and disabled folks in a time where we see ableism in full-force. I also call upon the wisdom we have developed over generations of mutual aid, resilience, and crip magic. For us, illness is nothing new. We’ve been on our own before. In my practice, I hope to further highlight the generative nature of illness by utilizing tools I have to my disposal while in quarantine, and taking this time to rest, listen, and serve the most impacted.

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.


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