Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Wrathful King Kong Core
  • Lu Yang
    born 1984
    active: China
  • Wrathful King Kong Core, 2011
  • Where object was made: Shanghai, China
  • single-channel video, 14 minutes 48 seconds
  • Courtesty of the artist and Beijing Commune Gallery, Beijing, China
  • Not on display
  • EL2016.004
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Temporal Turn: Art and Speculation in Contemporary Asia", 11-Nov-2016
This computer-generated animation by Lu Yang questions Buddhist cosmology from a biological perspective. In particular, the animation analyzes Yamāntaka or “Destroyer of Death,” the bull-headed manifestation of the bodhisattva of wisdom Mañjuśrī (Chinese: 文殊, Wenshu). According to legend, Yamāntaka assumes this wrathful appearance as he vanquishes Yama, the god of death, in his quest to defeat the cycle of birth and rebirth, or samsara.
Lu’s animation begins by detailing the sacred ritual objects held in Yamāntaka’s thirty-seven arms, which symbolize the thirty-seven factors pertaining to enlightenment. This is followed by a neurophysiological analysis of the nine-headed deity’s brain. By analyzing the neurological responses to anger and the physiological means by which Yamāntaka assumes a wrathful form, Lu demystifies the bodhisattva’s intimidating appearance.
The title of the animation in Chinese translates to English literally as Wrathful King Kong Core (忿怒金剛核, fennu jingang he). The first two characters of the title, fennu (忿怒), can be understood as “anger” or “wrath,” and the last word, he (核), means “core.” How is it that “King Kong” appears in Lu’s scientific examination of Buddhism? The answer rests in the double meaning of jingang (金剛), which can be understood as an abbreviation of the Chinese translation of Yamāntaka (大威德金剛, Da Weide Jingang) and also as the translation of the 1933 American film classic King Kong.