Lin Tianmiao Rockbund Art Museum / Shanghai

August 21, 2018

Many of the parts are rudimentary: tools, bones, a garden, a heartbeat. In Lin Tianmiao’s solo show, these constituents of life and of evolution are overwhelmed by ornate technologies.

To monitor one’s pulse in Reaction (2018), visitors follow a strict procedure monitored by gallery staff. The audience must line up, deposit their belongings, and read a sheet of rules before taking their turn inside a white, egg-shaped pod. There, the viewer’s arm is cradled in a device, and the rhythm of their blood becomes synchronized with a sound effect and a throb felt through the floor. Meanwhile blue droplets, formed in a coil of glass, fall into a round pool. The work represents life as an arcane feedback loop.

Day-Dreamer (1999) is similarly baroque in conception. A loom with millions of cotton filaments ties a levitating image of an androgynous figure to a bed. The strands suggest a perversely labor-intensive system for tethering a pure spirit. In High!!! (1999–2018), the artist’s head is projected. Another congregation of fibers stretches from the screen to the back of the gallery. A deep sound, rising in pitch, is so loud it sets the threads twitching and causes a subtle change in the image. The color is drained and, with it, all signs of gender. The residue is more schema than individual.

Lin Tianmiao, My Garden, 2018
Lin Tianmiao, My Garden, 2018. Courtesy of Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai.

Occupying an entire floor of the museum, My Garden (2018)  transmogrifies flora and fecundity into a crazy laboratory of monstrous inverted test tubes, up to five meters tall and engraved with Latin botanical names. According to an unknown taxonomy, these are grouped into cylinders covered in pink carpet that continues across the floor. Pumping equipment regularly surges into life, sending green fountains into the tubes.

On a balcony overlooking this scene, a group of one hundred and twenty assemblages make up Loss and Gain (2014). These seem to be the relics of obscure, experimental attempts to hybridize hand tools and biological material. In the narrative of Lin’s exhibition they suggest votive objects in a primordial union with technology, where nature and humanity are merely messy details within inhuman systems.

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