WING SHYA X ANGELA SU
Life after death is the overarching theme of photographer Wing Shya’s collaboration with artist Angela Su. Using performance and prosthetics, the duo contemplate the transition from this realm to the other
Both Wing and Angela are, in their own ways, fascinated by death. In Angela’s biological drawings of plants, insects and human bodies, which are done with scientific precision, there is a preoccupation with notions of decomposition and regeneration. Wing, famous for his evocative, cinematic portraits (he was film director Wong Kar-wai’s exclusive set photographer and recently collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a book of photography about Shanghai), is drawn to the idea of an afterlife, and the transition from this realm to the other. “Over the years I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve interviewed people who have died then come back to life,” says Wing. During his first meeting with Angela, he told his creative partner of a person he knew who had died in a plane crash then, 20 minutes later—and with medical assistance—came back to life. “I’ve been told that when you die, time ceases to exist. There is no sound, no images; it’s all about a feeling. You enter this other dimension.”
It’s no wonder, then, that when presented with the challenge of exploring an uncharted territory, they chose the transition from the earthly realm to the afterlife. “Our work is all about the journey from death to the underworld, and the cycle of decomposition and regeneration,” says Angela.
How can they turn such an abstract concept into an artwork? The pair have engaged a Hollywood prosthetics expert to help them bring their vision to life. The prosthetics wizard will create a mould of Angela’s torso and a collection of artificial organs, which will be placed inside the cast. It will then be decorated with plants, flowers and butterflies. “These will symbolise the journey of going back to nature,” says Angela, who will wear the piece so it appears to the viewer that they can see inside her body. Wing will take a series of photographs of Angela wearing this cast, which will become the final work.
They are adamant that the piece won’t be gory or frightening. “It’s not intended to shock,” says Wing. “I want it to look real but I don’t want it to be scary. I want it to be beautiful, as if Angela’s corpse is springing new life.” Does the work intend to convey a message? Wing pauses and contemplates the question. “Death is not scary. It’s just a process. It’s an experience. For me, it is not the end of the road.”