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Meet Mia Yao Meng

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mia Yao Meng.

Mia Yao, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’m a media artist, animator, and creative technologist working through videos, art installations, and virtual reality. I was born and raised in Kunming, China. I went to Hong Kong for the undergrad, and then to the States where recently I graduated from CalArts with an MFA in Art and Technology.

I would never have thought of working as an artist back then when my younger self was still dreaming to be a journalist someday. So far that never happens. I ended up co-producing a computer-animated short film with my beloved classmate as the thesis project, long story short, which totally exhausted me and enthralled me at the same time. I was fascinated by the peculiarities of media arts and the complex formats of practices of artists like Petra Cortright, Lauren McCarthy, Heather Dewey-Hagborg. The list can grow exponentially. That’s when I realized I wanted to delve deeper in the field of media arts not only because it’s so fun but also it could help us better understand the transformations that this world’s going through.

I’ve shown several pieces of sound installation, video installation, and VR installation here at CalArts. Currently, I’m working on a group exhibition “Time is Out of Joint” which is on view at the Mak Centre Mackey House and virtually from September 3 – October 31.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Getting supports from my family and even explaining this to them has been a long-term struggle for me. I’m the only child in a doctors’ family. It can be quite stressful when they don’t seem to have much interest in what I love and am doing, in addition to all other pressures that I always put on myself.

Another struggle, I guess this is for everyone, is coping with this pandemic crisis, and the climate crisis, and unknown post-pandemic life. It’s devastating. Speaking of which, I’m trying to process it into some new work that I can share/exhibit later this year. That’d be my current go-to.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I make art installations. I make videos. Mostly I produce my works on a computer or with some kind of networked media, through which I aim to explore from my observations on the transformations the society is going through and on people’s behaviors in the mundane. I think my work tries to the question of what it feels like to be a human living in 21-century.

I’ve exhibited two installations this year. The most recent one before the lockdown was called “Tap Into Screens”. It’s a 4-channel video installation dealing with the repetitive movements/gestures of using electronic devices like smartphones, showing the possible/imaginary consequences through this kind of interaction. The other one was a VR installation called “We Live as We Dream – Alone” quoting from Joseph Conrad. You would stand between two mirrors and put on the headset where you see a white void space where thousands of black panels are floating around you, and there are some bigger panels live-streaming from the camera on the headset. Basically, you can see your body and your surrounding in the VR world which usually don’t show your body at all.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I don’t really have a “proudest moment of my career”. I’d say it’s probably when I decided to take on this path, take on this practice, and not regret dedicating myself to it.

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