For this edition of our ongoing series introducing you to some of our favorite Los Angeles artists, we meet Peter Wu, a witty conceptualist and a science fiction–obsessed polymath whose video- and sculpture-based installations interrogate the ways in which mythologies about the future are already fully operational in the present.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
PETER WU: I grew up in an insular Canadian town of 3,000 people where I frequently escaped to my imagination, but I think I really wanted to become an artist during the first year of undergrad at the University of Windsor, where I was introduced to conceptual art. I remember going to the library one summer and checking out as many books as I could around the subject. This was when I realized art could be an intellectual pursuit.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I make sci-fi–based video installations revolving around the ideas of artificial intelligence, future identities, and how technology is altering our perception of reality (or dick sculptures — depending on who I’m talking to).
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I always dreamt of being a musician and performing in a band. I guess it’s never too late to be the Asian Brian Eno. #bodyrats
Did you go to art school? Why/why not?
When applying for my MFA, I remember all these schools sending me these huge glossy color catalogs, whereas the San Francisco Art Institute sent me this shitty, 8½-by-11-inch, black-and-white booklet. Without visiting the school, and solely based on their scrappy vibe, I decided to go there. It was my ticket out of my hometown and one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I grew up in Canada, so living through another winter was no longer tolerable. When I first moved to sunny Los Angeles, the art scene was much smaller and there was (and still is) a very supportive community. It’s a place where you can focus on your work without the guilty distractions of having to always be “seen” or the pressures of crushing rent. It is a slow-burning fire here (depending on the season).
When was your first show?
I guess my breakout show was with Patrick Painter Gallery in 2005 but I’ve had many chapters since then. We are an accumulation of transformations.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I was recently awarded the COLA Individual Artist Fellowship from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, which will culminate in a group show opening on May 19 at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Art Park.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
I feel like this is similar to the “what’s your favorite movie” question, which I always have a difficult time answering. So I’ll just say Future Me.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Depending on the project, I’ll go through obsessive music phases in the studio. One solid year I only listened to Nick Cave.
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