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Cao Yu
Cao Yu
Artist Highlight

Cao Yu


Through your work, you say you aim to ‘break social conventions’. Do you think that art can be a vehicle for change in society?

Of course. Firstly, regarding the “breaking social conventions” you mentioned, it depends on what specific conventions are, and I am not intentionally breaking them. The truth is, I often experience fear in my daily life. So exerting force to attack and break through it, that conviction is an unquenchable flame that cannot be extinguished by the vast sea. Without pain and ruthlessness, how can you touch upon the core?

I will defend freedom of thought to the death. Thought is not a unique product of power holders, but rather a right that everyone possesses. It’s just that most people give up and habitually go for “ borrowlism”, and not knowing they are doing one thing – becoming someone else. And Art, is such a scalpel that scrape the
Poison Off the Bone.

Just like a patient who is willing to endure painful surgery to get healed. Art is the transformed ‘social reality’ of wisdom, and it’s like a shiny mirror that reflects the dirt and ugliness of oneself and everything around them clearly. Art is a weapon with an injection of imagination and creativity. It could not only self saving, but also saving others. It is a deafening voice, a lively battle, and also a thing that leading the audience together fighting our bloody way out . Finally, it is also a declaration of a person to the world, a majestic statement, and a way for an individual to gain power in the crevices of society.

Art is to some extent the “most useless” thing and also the “most useful” thing. This is similar to the binary opposition of “Tai Chi”, “LiangYi”, and “Heaven and Earth” in the ancient Chinese philosophy of the universe. I believe that even if future society becomes completely artificial intelligence-based and AI surpasses human intelligence in some ways, art and imagination will still exist within humans. They are the only advantages that are almost god-like and can never.


By using breast milk, does your work aim to communicate any thoughts on motherhood

If you only see the motherhood or femininity – congratulations, you’re trapped! Firstly, I do not want people to regard me just as a woman, but rather not influenced by gender expectations, to consider me as an independent person. Because the established understanding of gender can become both an obstacle for the viewer and an obstacle for me.

I often say that “being alive” is like sitting on an uneven bench, constantly adjusting your posture to
find momentary comfort in your physical body. The process of adjusting your posture is also a process of mobilizing imagination and creating possibilities, regardless of gender. Secondly, every piece of artistic creation is a fragment of my complete life, with different experiences from different periods of
life, not all of me.

Such as my work “Fountain”, itself is just like a reflection and portrait of my own life. It was a life full of sparks splashing, starting with grandeur and vitality, constantly thinking like a fountain water gushing out, creating frequent peaks, and continuously spraying until the oil ran out and the lamp dried up, forming a perfect cycle. Beyond the beautiful and spectacular scenery, comes the sadness of life.

Regarding this work that once left me in a whirlpool, opponents denounced it as “pornographic exposure” and “immoral”; Supporters say that it is a great art of the human body, an extension and transformation of “Fountain” in the history of art, and a “grenade thrown openly at deep-seated cultural taboos”. However, in any case, these diverse views from a multitude of viewers are not precisely art as an opportunity for people to rethink things in the face of things? Compared to this question asking what my work aim to, the discussion it brings to people is to some extent more meaningful.


Encouraging freedom of expression through art is integral to what we do at The Sovereign Art Foundation. In what way has art positively impacted your life?

Regarding answering this question, citing the content of a recent public speech on art healing that I just completed at the Central Academy of Fine Arts which titled ‘I was born to do this’, it is in line
with this question——It is difficult to truly appreciate the fact that art can heal wounds without real experience.

Previously, when I heard others talk about the healing effects of art, I thought it was just a high-level gimmick or at best a way to divert attention. Later on, when I felt the powerful healing and conceptual transformation ability of art, it was through the process of truly engaging in artistic creation that I discovered it with hindsight. So much so that later on, I realized that artistic creation was not actually my “profession”, and “artist” was not my “title”, but became a natural survival instinct, just like “I Was
Born To Do This”.

The original intention of my creation was because I have smelt the imperfections, social chronic illness and pain in the depths of life, in today’s world, the majority’s beliefs and cognition are the result of being manipulated by a powerful minority. I refuse to be trapped by the so-called “standards” created by others, I don’t want my soul being flowed along with the inertia. So, doing art is a form of self rescue.

In addition, I believe that healing is just one of the many functions of art. There are many magical and great functions of art, such as helping to rebuild the ability and habits of independent thinking, removing habitual thinking that echo the views of others and “Borrowlism”, removing the patterned cognition of things obtained from the homogenization and assembly line education from childhood to adulthood, and even allowing you to perceive something almost divine – the infinite (super container) of human imagination, even crazy ideas that believe you dreams of changing the world to some extent have emerged.

Does it sound like I’m making an exaggerated endorsement for artistic healing? No, in fact, art not only has magical healing properties, but the healing duration can even be long-lasting, lasting for a lifetime. Sometimes it can not only solve one’s own trauma problems, but also bring strength and motivation to more people in a butterfly effect. It is not only self saving, but also saving others. Tigers are naturally fierce, but if you can tame the tiger and harness its bravery, incorporating it into your bloodstream, turn a tiger into your own riding seat(In ancient Chinese mythology and legends, immortals have their own animals to ride on),it can work for you instead. At that moment, you turn yourself into a tiger. And art,is such an miraculous ancient artifact that can turn yourself into a tiger.

For example, since I was young, I was despised by the family because I was a girl. When I injected all this energy and doubt into the work “Everything Left Behind”, it was like a Warcraft (monster) in a movie, suddenly turned to ashes after being stabbed. This not only no longer troubles me, but also allows everyone around me to see a powerful transformation ability, thereby changing their impression of me. Besides crossing this threshold myself, this work has also influenced many women. I remember when I was a child, my mother used to use chopsticks to clip my nose bridge because she thought it was too low and unsightly.

The innate beauty of face is the the competition of creativity by parents’ gene, but before we were born, they had finished their competition. As I grew up, I found it meaningless to compete for “that heights” that I couldn’t even participate in. In today’s era where most people value the so-called “good looking” so much, I realize that my innate race track was not arranged in terms of appearance, but for artistic creativity. I often say that talent is a ‘divine stroke’, if God draw this stroke on your face, it is calls ‘good looking’ but it is called ‘talent’ when he draw this stroke in your mind. I believe that God has once drawn a stroke for everyone, but can you pinpoint where that stroke is located? Find it, unearth your unique potential, then unleash it to the fullest extreme. Let’s just take off our high heels and run like a fugitive/prison breaker, artist is always looking for the way of unexpectedly rescued from a desperate situation. In fact, we can definitely be “Sun Wukong, Monkey King, Qi Tian Da Sheng” in Journey to the West, and “Superman” in movies.