Judson-Morrissey 2023 Fellow: Michael Luo

Michael Luo(he/him) is a game maker & artist. Born as an anchor baby in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in Southwestern China, he spends his time making computer games based on hunches about diaspora, hallucination, vulgarity, crudeness, roughness, and anything else that doesn't fit with the gamer culture. He seeks to confuse, provoke, and undermine the status quo by making short, eccentric, mildly interesting projects. He also promises that there will be no armored knights in his work. He's a member of UCLA GAME LAB and a current MFA candidate in Media Arts at UCLA.

Michael Luo(he/him) is a game maker & artist. Born as an anchor baby in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in Southwestern China, he spends his time making computer games based on hunches about diaspora, hallucination, vulgarity, crudeness, roughness, and anything else that doesn’t fit with the gamer culture. He seeks to confuse, provoke, and undermine the status quo by making short, eccentric, mildly interesting projects. He also promises that there will be no armored knights in his work. He’s a member of UCLA GAME LAB and a current MFA candidate in Media Arts at UCLA.

Tell us a little about your background and your trajectory as an artist/ scholar.*

My works explore different aesthetics and alternatives to video game art. I am working with computation, randomness, software, and hardware and taking inspiration from the internet, film, photography, and literature. I create game art that exists beyond the gallery, on the fringes of media art, directly into people’s screens. Screens are where most of the consumption happens in this century, and there is space for thought and reflection, more intimate than cold white walls. I’ve been dabbling in the field of media arts and game art only for a few years, but I like to experiment and write a lot. Every piece of work needs to be a new process for me into uncharted territories and hopefully chasing the sublime. I’ve spent most of my artist life at UCLA’s Design Media Arts department, and as a resident of the UCLA Game Lab where we push the boundaries of what is considered a video game. I will be teaching at Oxy College’s MAC program after I finish my MFA.

What are some of your main influences?

My influences are wide to say the least. For Juvenoia, it was inspired by the most recent album Inside The Cable Temple by a Chinese band called Omnipotent Youth Society. The album talks a lot about digital dystopia and a unreal nostalgia for a brighter past that never existed. This study on nostalgia and my personal experiences as a first-gen immigrant from China’s countryside to Los Angeles led me to Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia. Writers like Mo Yan, George Saunders, and Toni Morrison with their fantastical writings helps me to imagine the aesthetics of the work. More generally in my practice, I follow the ethos of weird, queer game makers and artists like Nathalie Lawhead and Anna Anthropy.

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a experimental video game called Cyberside Picnic. Cyberside Picnic is a eulogy for the cyberian commonplace that just eluded us. A love letter to a lost future of alternative video games, delete and overwrite. Cyberside Picnic contains games within a game within games in this digital lethargy interlinked. Splintering and reconfiguring a decaying library of video games, you explore the fragmented terrain of our collective cyberspace. Uncovering who or what is really behind the algorithm, and the trauma you and the computer share by navigating a multitude of “updated” nostalgic games and shifting text adventures.