Since her performance of 'Lost Dream' in her underwear at the 2003 Venice Biennale, Nancy Lang was introduced to Korea, and she quickly appeared in magazines, on TV and on the Internet. Her showbiz philosophy that she would make money with art shouting "Cutie! Sexy! Kitty!" and "I Love Dollars" has raised controversy among art circles as well as the public.
Lang played the violin in the middle of a street wearing Victoria Secret lingerie and red high heels with kabuki style makeup. Her childhood dream was to become a violinist. And she realized the dream through art. Once, at the San Marco Piazza in Venice, she was held by the police for four hours, after which she became popular. Her performances thereafter continued to stand out. The New York born ethnic Korean is a US citizen. She only attended an international high school in Manila but her mannerisms and accent bear the hallmarks of a third generation Korean-American. Her Korean name is Park Hye-ryeong. But eyeing the world as her stage, she strategically changed her last name through help from a lawyer. "Lang" was the final choice among several names as it visually looked nice in typographic terms. Born into a well-to-do family, Lang however went through difficult times when her father died during her college years and her mother fell sick. At times, she couldn't pay her tuition. But through the trials, she developed a clear sense of life and living.
The evolving Taboo Yogini
Multi-talented Lang's unconventional character and provocative performances have grabbed the attention of the art, fashion and entertainment circles alike. In her trademark series 'Taboo Yogini,' characters such as a woman with a huge courtesan wig or a figure with a body of a robot and a head of a girl, rooster or dog appear. And invariably held in their hand is a powerful gun or a Louis Vuitton bag. In the backdrop is a car, a Chanel lipstick and other luxury brand logos. "Yogini" means an angel or a devil in the dictionary. Taboo Yogini, representing both good and bad, is a ceaselessly resurrecting spiritual being due to its persistent power and life energy. It is the symbol of Lang herself, her dreams, her wounds and her fight. The self-proclaimed 'walking pop art' doesn't hide her love for brand name and elite goods. Last year at the Seoul Arts Center, the bikini clad Lang asked audience members to put oil on her body before going on to sing 'Purple Scent' to the tune of a karaoke machine. She pulled off another eccentric performance "Nancy Lang's autograph session" during which she autographed her posterior as the inaugural artist of the Gwangju Biennale. The Taboo Yogini series is expected to evolve even more. In pursuit of breaking apart and assembling robots, Lang has only yet gathered the parts, and during the process she can let go of past regrets. Her work these days in fact show glimpses of her severing chains with the past and moving toward a fantastic future, portrayed by a wounded yogini and a guardian angel robot. If yogini was Peter Pan to Lang, the robot would be her Tinker Bell. It may be that she is inviting someone she can rely on in the future into her world filled with luxury goods.
Dreaming of Korea's Takashi Murakami
Her work and lifestyle and her brutally candid and daring speech and actions invite criticism at times. But she doesn't care. She confidently argues that, like a racehorse, she only runs toward a clear goal. She has firmly established herself as an artist reaching out to the public. Few others see art as showbiz as much as she does. But approaching show business with new ideas and works is a whole different realm. Her role model is Takashi Murakami, who successfully turned his character creations into art based on the animation, comics and games culture. Most of her works sell well and her name once topped the top online search word list. She knows what she wants, "I will become a world renowned artist who can influence the general public, and based on that foundation, I want to gain wealth and fame." We wonder what she will show us next, as she brings along issues and controversies wherever she goes with her art.