Exploring physical installation and digital space, Li Yao likens modernity to the experience of an abusive relationship. Through his work Li draws on inter-cultural references to reflect on the familial and educational system in which he grew up in 1990s and early 2000s China.
Among his many projects, Suspension deals with an incident of digital surveillance among family members. Warden/Prisoner presents an architectural inquiry into Li’s obsession with designing prisons during his formal education in China. Red Oil Wonton plays on the loss of meaning in digital iteration and linguistic translation. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? uses water torture as a physical metaphor for familial obligation.
In more recent projects, titled Bunker and Perfect Melon respectively, Li departs from autobiographical references to focus on alternate manifestations of claustrophobic space. Bunker is an architectural fantasy bridging revolutionary references from 18th century France to the 20th century US to 21st century China. It’s meant to let viewers contemplate on revolution and peace maintained by destruction of self and others. Perfect Melon is a VR installation and performance that incarnates a fictional corporation that claims to use its melon-flavor beverage to reconnect consumers to a romanticized idea of nature.