DOKU the Self, 2022


Location Gallery 3


Title Film Still from DOKU the Self, 2022
Medium 3D animation film, 36 min
Copyright Courtesy the artist and Société, Berlin
Exhibition number AW311

As the first narrative film, DOKU the Self, which premiered at this year’s Venice Biennale, introduces six virtual reincarnations of LuYang. Reminiscent of superheroes, gaming and anime characters, as well as deities and demons, these avatars embody different aspects of LuYang’s self. At the same time, each represents one of the six realms of samsara—the karmic wheel of life—and refers to the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. In LuYang’s work, Samsara takes on different forms: virtual landscapes that resemble worlds of experience in video games, or a kind of gigantic reincarnation roulette that can be controlled by the player with a video game console.
However, the film is inspired by a dramatic real experience LuYang had in 2020 while flying through a severe thunderstorm that nearly caused the plane to crash. In stunning images and dance scenes, it depicts how LuYang’s DOKU reincarnations go through stages of ecstasy and joy, suffering and death. DOKU is the short form of the Japanese “Dokusho Dokushi,” a Buddhist wisdom that can be translated as “We will die alone, and we are born alone.” LuYang shows different illusory worlds that are created by clinging to the ego and persisting in dualistic thinking—a conception of the self that is defined only by opposites: me/you, good/bad, natural/artificial, male/female. The way out of this self-constructed limitation is the complete dissolution of the body and the self, which lets go and accepts that nothing is permanent, as DOKU the Self drastically demonstrates.
At the end of the film, DOKU Human, Lu Yang’s most human incarnation, is eaten by vultures, rises like a rocket into the stratosphere, and shatters into countless crystalline particles. With these diamond splinters LuYang refers to the Diamond Sutra of Mahayana Buddhism, at the center of which is the non-dualistic thinking freed from the ego. Also the brain of the avatar, which stands both physically and symbolically for thinking and finally drifts alone in the blackness of the universe, must decompose, so that the illusion of the self is destroyed.

Further artworks from this exhibition