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Lin Tianmiao: Back to the Original “Consciousness”

李静茹 Jelly Lee 2018-11-23 16:55

Renowned curator Pi Li once made remark on Lin Tianmiao and her works, “Lin is a critical and distinctive icon in contemporary art by Chinese women. Every single piece of hers is situated within the deduction and evolution of language, sophistication and coherency. They are not works from an assembly line, but the fruit of meticulous consideration. Furthermore, Lin”s works show her respect to the art of handicraft.”


One of the best well-known installation artists in China, the 57-year-old Lin Tianmiao was born in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, but lives and works in Beijing. Her works have been collected by a numerous art galleries and museums including MoMA New York, Brooklyn Museum, Australia National Gallery, MoMA San Francisco, M+ Hong Kong and Centre Georges Pompidou. Lin studied in Department of Fine Arts in Capital Normal University in her earlier years. At the age of 28, her experience in the Art Students League of New York enriched her with more avant-garde feministic art concepts. She was influenced by Ann Hamilton, Barbara Kruger, Kiki Smith, resulting in a keen interest in presenting the female reflection of chores through the entanglement, binding and reinstallation of daily items. 


In 2017, she made a bold decision in adopting the brand-new, artificially synthesized glass in her new artworks. Lin Tianmiao began her collaboration with Shanghai Museum of Glass: she first learned the character of the material, then the related techniques, and finally began experimenting in materialising the idea of “mechanism” with social symbols, in a searching foe the balance between science, art and the further exploration of dimensions. 


Lin”s debut exhibition in Shanghai, Systems, covers her twenty years of representative installation artworks, and several interactive glass devices she created since 2017, the latter of which have never been exhibited before. The whole exhibition is a project infused with the idea of “consciousness,” and divided into several parts including “individual consciousness,” “collective consciousness,” “public consciousness” and “ultimate consciousness.” The works are distributed evenly in the museum, starting from the exhibition hall on the second floor up to the sixth floor. 


As the artist intentionally designed, visitors are given the ticket to tour around in “consciousness.” Entering the main hall on the second floor is a gigantic interactive device, Reaction. Approaching it, audiences will see a futuristic white cave-like installation and start a personal experience by putting their wrists on the sensor for 5 to 10 seconds, after which the blue, luminous fluid will drop from the spiral plates according to your pulses. Through this way audience can see, feel and even hear the motion of their “blood.” This is the so-called reaction between human and machine, where the true self and simulated self meet in a set environment. Next to it is Day-Dreamer, constituted by the common and easy-to-get white cotton threads. The human shape through the crossings of threads is the self-deconstruction of the artist, and the formation of her identity. 


The third floor is featured by Warm Currents, a unique structure made of different laboratory flasks vertically connected on a huge wheel attached to the wall, a piece that discusses the collective consciousness and lifestyle of human beings. The massive installation, My Garden, on the fourth floor takes the entire space to provide an immersive environment mixed with gardening, science and technologies, and bold artistic imaginations. Here we see the floor is carpeted in pink, while the pink flowerpots of different sizes are inserted with plant-like glass tubes, in which flow unknown green fluids… Audiences can tell from the labels of the plants on the glass tubes, like the nail dye flower (Lawsonia inermis). Interestingly, the common and Latin names of it feature a kind of political discourse – the difference is just so obvious and dominant. 



Lost and Gain on the fifth floor is the highlight of the exhibition: rising from individual, collective, public and finally to the ultimate consciousness. Visitors become aware of the value the artist places on material and method, as well as an artistic practice filled with a tactile deftness and vitality. The sixth floor is the epilogue. Visitors can see the manuscripts by Lin in the atrium space, including elevation, plan and section graphs. Each piece is an accurate engineering blueprint, reflecting the comprehensive process of her creations. 

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