the instagram artist turning her social media addiction into art

From temporary tattoos of Twitter handles to iPhone charger shoelaces, Yuyi John examines the politics of identity through the tropes of mass culture.

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Feb 21 2018, 12:42pm

Exploring ideas of selfhood, identity, mass culture and social media, Yuyi John’s work is a biting commentary of youth culture today. Like most of her generation, the 27-year-old artist is obsessed with social media. When she’s not sifting through feeds of selfies, she’s mining the platform’s visual tropes to turn into art, which she then posts back on social media to her 100K followers, and the cycle begins again. But it’s not just her followers and fellow social media addicts who can’t get enough; last year, Yuyi was tapped by Gucci to take part in the brand’s #tfwGucci meme project, for which she reimagined her trademark temporary tattoo designs in the botanical style of Gucci.

Born and raised in Taipei, Yuyi spent her youth channeling her artistic sensibilities with painting and sketching in traditional Chinese design. After graduating from Shih Chien University with a degree in fashion, she launched her own swimwear line, a surreal collection of one pieces, featuring clay-made models printed on lycra.

Though fashion still plays a huge part in her overall practice, right now she’s focusing on her art. Playful, unexpected, and curious, her work involves disrupting the nude female form (mostly hers) with temporary tattoos that she creates using the iconography of social media: Twitter handles, follow count, the like button -- you swipe it she’s got. Elsewhere, she looks to the tropes of mass culture to create iconic designs and functional everyday pieces. Think instant noodle jewellery and USB cable shoelaces.

With her work existing so far solely online, Yuyi is thrilled to announce her very own IRL exhibition: The Next Gen: John Yuyi, which opens today at The Art Vacancy in New York.

“For me, this solo show is like a dream come true,” she tells i-D. “I came from nowhere, with nothing. I never thought I could make it this far. I recently feel like I'm living in an episode of Black Mirror, like I'm some fictional character living within the digital world of social media. How people view me, via my work online and the persona I create on social media, is different to who I am in reality. I want to be able to bring all this to life in one space.”

Ahead of the show, Yuyi picks her top five works of all time.

“This is a signature work of mine. It says, “I love you" in Chinese, which is the message that I want to tell myself, especially when I feel insecure about who I am.”

“I still love this so much, this is a nude picture of me, my skin tattooed onto pork skin. I like the cyclical nature of it."

“This is a work I made in Tokyo. As a Taiwanese country, we are influenced by Japanese culture a lot, because we were once colonised by Japan. This girl is called Natsumi, her unique look makes this piece so amazing.”

“This is from my Face Post project, where I put tattoos of social media tropes on my friend Julia’s face.”

“For this piece, I collaborated with an artist couple from Korea, who are known for their Half and Half work, which they make as a couple.”