Michael Lin

01.18.11

Views of “The Colour Is Bright the Beauty Is Generous," 2010. (Photos: Massimo Listri)


Michael Lin’s exhibition at the Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato, Italy, features forty-one works from twenty-four different projects created over the past fifteen years––including his floral patterned architectural interventions and his prior installations that have been cited by critics as early examples of relational aesthetics. For the show, which is on view until February 13, Lin collaborated with the architectural firm Atelier Bow Wow to create a new work, Book Metropolis.

“THE COLOUR IS BRIGHT THE BEAUTY IS GENEROUS,” the title of the exhibition, was taken from a packaging label for a night-light that I bought from my neighborhood electrician in Shanghai. Statistically, Prato has the densest population of Chinese outside of China relative to its own population. One out of five people in Prato is Chinese, and this is a reality the center and Felix Schober, the show’s curator, wanted to address.

For me, the show provided an opportunity to present a comprehensive overview of my practice, which was quite a challenge due to the ephemeral quality of my early projects. To cite one example: Imported, from 1998, consists of three large round tables and stools, six hundred bottles of Taiwan beer, and two hundred cartons of Long Life cigarettes that are distributed to the visitors throughout the duration of the exhibition. There are also two large billboards advertising the products.

I’ve always thought of my practice in terms of hospitality rather than gift. This gesture of generosity proposes an art experience as a social interaction rather than a solitary experience. Hospitality is a relational act that takes into account a recipient/visitor; there are hosts and guests. Hospitality is open-ended, and unlike the idea of the gift it does not necessitate reciprocity. The host opens his doors and welcomes his guest in. Once invited in, there are questions of customs, traditions, and habits. The first room of the exhibition is a work from 1996 that consists of three carpets from my home, a CD player, a selection of CDs, and a statement of welcome from the host: PLEASE REMOVE YOUR SHOES BEFORE STEPPING ON TO THE CARPET, FEEL FREE TO CHOOSE FROM THE SELECTION OF MUSIC. This statement is presented on the wall in large letters.

The insertion of appropriated floral patterns from traditional bedding linen into architectural spaces proposes a continuity with tradition and also facilitates the renegotiation of the position of art and public. Over the past fifteen years I have probed numerous applications of these patterned coverings, from large facades of buildings to interior spaces and furniture to book covers to a tennis court.

I was introduced to Atelier Bow Wow while working on a project in Tokyo in 2007. I was already impressed by their research and practice of what I understand to be architecture for a real place. I share their questioning of what they call “the misalignment of the positions of user and creator.” Our collaboration spawned a dialogue that traversed great distances; the discussion started in Tokyo, we worked on the model in Venice, and we went into production in Italy while communicating between Brussels and Tokyo.

The general layout of the exhibition was discussed regarding every spatial division and wall. Atelier Bow Wow proposed many interesting and elegant solutions, such as an inverse triangular wall that functioned perfectly to resolve the division between two different lighting conditions and at the same time blended seamlessly into the architecture of the museum, with its diagonal support beams that normally complicated the openings and positions of walls. Their main contribution is Book Metropolis, a freestanding structure made up of twenty-three interconnected bookshelves that form an octagon. It is designed specifically to fit in my home, and the shelves are filled with the books from my personal library––nearly one thousand volumes, including magazines and journals––that can be read in the museum.

— As told to Arthur Ou