*Social Currency | Interview
No one does social convention quite like John Yuyi. The Taiwanese-born, New York-based artist is known for her custom temporary tattoos of social currency: a ‘like,’ a ‘retweet,’ a ‘match,’ a ‘follow,’ a ‘read’ receipt, the unnerving ellipses that appear just as fast as they disappear, etc. Instead of being confined to a screen, they are displayed on parts of the body for the world to see.
Her rendering of other status symbols, including Gucci’s green-red stripes, the LV monogram, the Nike swish, and two very famous interlocking “C’s,” has introduced us to a new type of logomania. Inspired by her own life, family, friends, strangers, and social media,
Yuyi is proving that sometimes connectedness is only a ‘follow’ away.
written + interview Hannah Rose Prendergast
Le Mile: Would you like people to view your work as more of a reflection on youth culture or a commentary?
John Yuyi: I don't think about that too much. I think when I create my work, I don't anticipate what people will see. I recently kind of found out that my work is like my dairy, so maybe I give people the vibe of youth culture. I don't really mind how they define the works.
Le Mile: Do you have an affinity for all these luxury brands, logos, and social media or an aversion?
John Yuyi: I think both because I'm a really contradictory person; I'm positive, but I'm depressed. I'm sensitive, but I'm super chill about somethings people can't be chill about. I love social media, I see the positive and beneficial side of it, but I also feel kidnapped by it. Sometimes I just want to delete every account. So I think all the brands, logos, and social media things for me, of course, I love it, I love those things people love, but at the same time I’m thinking about the contrasting side to this stuff. Sometimes it makes me feel excitement, sometimes it make me feel emptiness. I guess I am always like that. I always feel really bipolar: at either two extremes.
Le mile: As a fashion design graduate, what was it like being commissioned by Gucci for Le Marche Des Merveilles collection last year?
John Yuyi: It's the craziest thing; I never thought it would happen in my life. As a fashion design graduate in Taiwan, I thought the only relationship you could have with Gucci was to buy a product in store or maybe work with one during a magazine editorial shoot. But I never thought that I could work as the individual, John Yuyi, with [Gucci] HQ. The project is global, it's really insane. Some people say I am so easy to buy, I'm capitalism, but I'm fashion design majored, so tell me the reason why I'd say no to this dream project.
Le Mile: Your resume also includes graphic design, photography, styling, and modelling. Do you ever feel pressure to pick one? Or do you see your work as more of a collective effort?
John Yuyi: I think nowadays, people all require multiple skills or multiple identities. Yes, I feel pressure to pick one because I'm not a professional full time model, I'm not a professional full time stylist, graphic designer, etc. But I got different jobs doing different things, so I used to call myself a freelancer since I didn't know how to introduce myself. When I create my work, I’m doing a lot of different things, so I guess everything is involved a little bit.
Le mile: Do you think art and fashion can be the same thing?
John Yuyi: I think art includes a lot of things, and fashion is art. It's definitely art!
Le Mile: You’ve referenced Hokusai Katsushika in your 2016 works: “Megumu's browser” and “Ukiyo-e.” Is he someone that inspires you?
John Yuyi: Yes! He is amazing and timeless. I definitely got inspired by his work. One of my favourite dresses has his art on it. But he’s not the only artist that has inspired my life theory.
Le Mile: Do you believe that sex sells and is it something that you agree with? Talk a little bit about your “Skin on Skin” project (2016), was your intention to portray the oversexualization of women?
John Yuyi: No, I just wanted to play with a fake "skin on skin" cycle. But a lot of people told me that they think it's a reflection of the objectification of a woman’s body. I like that people have an unlimited imagination when it comes to what it means; it's the most interesting part for me. When I was at my solo show opening, one boy came up to me and told me his thoughts on "Julia's Twitter." He told me that her tongue, stuck out with a “Following” tattoo, indicated that she would do anything for a ‘follow.’ I was so surprised! I am so in love with people telling me how they see my work!
Le Mile: You’ve mentioned in the past that your work helped you cope with anxiety and depression. Is this something you still struggle with today?
John Yuyi: Yes, I still do. Sometimes I feel better, but sometimes I feel that I’m getting worse.
I work because I feel anxious, and when I work too much I feel stressed. When I finally can take a rest, I feel guilty for not working hard. It’s kind of become a bad cycle for me.
Le Mile: What was it like doing the latest campaign for Nike Air Max with Lauren Tsai?
John Yuyi: It's a celebration of Nike Air Max. Hypebeast found a few artists to do the artwork. I'm glad I was chosen as one of the artists, but Lauren and I worked on the project individually, so I didn’t get a chance to work directly with her. But she's so pretty and talented all in one. I'd like to work with more talented Asian women in different fields in the future!
Le Mile: How has your work evolved since you started in 2015?
John Yuyi: I don't know, I just keep feeling like it's all about luck. I keep walking this journey, but unpredictable things keep happening to me. I feel flattered and I feel small at the same time. I need to push myself to move faster than what I've got.
Le Mile: Who did you last follow on Instagram?
I think it's @mylesloftin. I'm not sure, but the latest one that I remember is him! He’s the photographer that shot me during the Gucci Wooster opening in New York.
works_ © + The Artist: John Yuyi
© + Courtesy Artist