John Yuyi, Airplane Mode

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Dashwood Books (here). Softcover (5.25 x 8 inches), 20 pages, with 15 color photographs. There are no texts or essays included. In an edition of 300 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: John Yuyi is a Taiwanese-born, New York-based multimedia artist, who represents a new digital generation. Her work digs deep into layers of social media consumption, digital identity, and the post-internet world, and she often uses her own body as the medium.

Yuyi first entered the spotlight in 2015 with a small personal project “Face-Post”, in which she and her friend put temporary tattoos of social media posts on their bodies and then reposted the images back on social media. The tattoos spelled out twitter handles, instagram messages, the “like” thumbs up, email alerts, retweet arrows, and printed and stuck to the artist’s face, tongue, ears, back and neck, they provided a clever and effective metaphor for our obsession with and addiction to social media and the internet, and the enormous amount of content we consume daily. These tattoos became Yuyi’s signature, with physical and virtual becoming inseparable. Yuyi has a wide presence online and on Instagram, and has amassed over two hundred thousand followers. Yuyi names her collaboration in 2017 with Gucci and The New York Times commission for “Welcome to the Post-Text Future” as her breakthrough moments. In 2018 she was included in the Forbes “30 Under 30 Asia” list.   

A selection of photographs from Yuyi’s ongoing series “Naked Selfie On Airplane” was recently published as part of the Dashwood Books zine series and titled Airplane Mode. In this series, artists are encouraged to submit the work they have already produced, but haven’t yet had a chance to publish. All of the zines have the same format, but the content is generally open. Just as the title suggests, Yuyi takes a naked selfie in the airplane bathroom every time she flies. The project was a way to turn a long flight from New York City to Taipei into something playful. This series of selfies continues to examine the idea of selfhood and self-expression.

Airplane Mode is a small zine with color photographs printed full bleed. The photograph on the cover is a full body selfie taken in an airplane bathroom. We immediately recognize the familiar tight space, the flat basic colors, the signage, and the toilet. Yuyi poses in front of the mirror using a roll of toilet paper to cover her eyes, as she snaps a photo with her iPhone. There is no text or any other design elements on the cover or inside.

Yuyi’s work is a stylized performance in front of the camera, where she is both the photographer and the subject. All of the photographs are taken with an iPhone, which appears visible in all images. In these portraits, she simply poses in front of the mirror, not shying away from including the intimate parts of her body. Here again Yuyi uses her body as the canvas for her creativity.

Her images are raw, provocative, narcissistic, and feminine. They are also unapologetic. She takes off her clothes and brings into play the random items she finds in the bathroom. In one shot, she uses the paper toilet seat cover to frame her face, and in the image next to it, she brings in a poster with her own portrait with a similar circular cut out. In another image, her body is covered with temporary tattoos and two paper cups are styled on her head. As she takes these photographs, Yuyi only spends the same amount of time as an average bathroom break. She uses photography as a way to observe and study herself. Her snapshots combine intimacy with a sense of natural playfulness and inventiveness, given the constraints of her cramped setting, and the images also bring her private moments into public view, putting us into a voyeuristic position.

Airplane Mode is a small, self-contained small project, well matched to the zine format. The publication is at once mundane, provocative, and even hilarious. Yuyi offers the confident voice of a young female artist who, with her often immodest images, explores and reclaims her own body and identity. Yuyi clearly has a unique vision and a risk taking creative point of view. While she is still in the early stages of her artistic career, it will be exciting to see which direction she pursues next. 

Collector’s POV: John Yuyi does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her Instagram page (linked in the sidebar)

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One comment

  1. Charles Johnstone /

    Love this Zine and love this girl . She has style , substance and humor. Not easy to pull off when you have a toilet seat protector wrapped around your head. I should have gone to the signing but anyway I am getting two copies, lol!

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