Lulu Ao showing her artwork to a visitor

Loughborough student’s work features in art exhibition in Germany

Lulu Ao, a PhD student in the School of Design and Creative Arts, has just finished a run at the exhibition ‘Beyond Language’, in Tübingen, Germany.

The exhibition featured artists from China, Germany and Sweden. It was covered widely in German and Chinese publications, including The People's Daily, one of the most influential official Chinese media outlets, and Artron, one of China's most prestigious art publications.

All the artwork in the exhibition uses language as a starting point and creates dialogues from this. Lulu used interactive text to explore the relationship between the language and the Mosuo’s matriarchal society.

She began this process when she was invited by Professor Gao Xiang, the leader of the Lugu Lake Artists Residency Project in Yunnan, China in November 2019. She met the other artists in the exhibition, Monika Weber, Andreas Hoffman, and Christina Hallstrom and stayed for a month to experience and investigate the local matriarchal culture whilst also making art. 

When she interviewed Mosuo people she learned that their language only exists in their daily conversations – their culture is passed down orally. In recent decades, the younger generations have begun to speak Han Chinese in school, and it is also used by those working in the tourism industry. As a result, the Mosuo is being used less and less.

Lulu’s work portrays the importance and potential dilemma of Mosuo language. She chose to focus on some of the sentences they use in their daily lives including the phrase ‘our family is so big, we couldn't run without our uncles’. The work was made interactive by displaying the International Phonetic Alphabet allowing viewers to pronounce the sentence correctly, and therefore connect with the Mosuo language.

Lulu Ao and other artists from the exhibition

Image: (left to right) Christina Hallstrom, Lulu Ao, Dr Stefania Renda, Monika Weber, Andreas Hoffman

On the exhibition, Lulu said: “I was really happy to see that it was more popular than we thought and that it has created a lot of discussion around the subject of languages.

“I am currently in the second year of my PhD programme, and my research focuses on text-based art so it has been exciting to discuss my work with peers and professionals. I've received a lot of feedback from this exhibition, which is very helpful and inspiring.”

The exhibition was sponsored Künstlerbundes Tübingen e. V., China Center in Tübingen (affiliated with Tübingen University), and Tübingen City Council. Lulu is supervised by John Atkin and Professor Phillip Lindley.