Misread Signs

Audiovisual performance featuring projected animation, animatronic sculptures, music, and movement.


Misread Signs

Duration: 16 minutes
Performance and visuals by Yuliya Lanina
Original music by José Martínez
Choreography by Andrea Ariel
Technical support by Theodore Johnson and Michael McKellar

"Misread Signs" is a multimedia performance by Yuliya Lanina featuring animatronic sculptures, three channel projected animation, music, and movement. It explores the effects of trauma on human psyche.

Dressed as one of her feathered creatures with antlers, Lanina performs in front of the projected animations, accompanied by her animatronic sculptures. She is illuminated by only two light sources: her stop-motion hand-painted animations and the sculptures – plastic anthropomorphic skeleton birds with human baby heads and lights shining out of their pupils. Each animation is projected onto the adjacent walls, creating a seamless immersive story.

In the course of the performance, we see the artist desperate, but unable to tell us something. Based on her personal experience of surviving brutal rape and becoming mute for five days afterward, this piece examines the inability for someone who just went through a traumatic experience to express or even connect with how they feel.

In the projected animation, Lanina’s collaborator, composer José Martinez uses recordings of Lanina’s voice as his audio material, rendering her deeply personal text and songs beyond recognition while transforming her voice to the extreme in order to convey the urgency of expression.

Lanina’s images are inspired by the Surrealist and Dada approach to creating images, with the subconscious taking the lead and leaving analytical thinking behind and by embracing the nonsensical and surprising. By exploring the life of fantastic and bizarre creatures, the artist is able to reach places unavailable to the rational self, inviting the audience to do the same. In this piece, most of the characters on the screen are masked. At first, they are aloof, unmoved by Lanina’s pleas; later, they urge her to “let go of the past”, a sentiment re-addressed by Lanina to the audience.

The piece transcends the particulars of the artist’s painful life experience into a universal story of perseverance and asks us to reflect on our connection to ourselves, our past and to each other.

This project is supported in part by Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department and The Center of Women and Their Work Inc. 

Work in progress video/audio link

Photos by Scott David Gordon