East Contemporary

Rockbund Art Museum: Lin Tianmiao林天苗 “Systems“

Shanghai, June 26 – August 26, 2018, 上海外滩美术馆, http://www.rockbundartmuseum.org/en/

After some years, I visited the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) again. The atmosphere was still very pleasant, as I remembered from my prior visits. The visitor experience, as well as the artworks, are shaped by the unique multi floor space where visitors ascend and see the exhibition in a sequential, narrative order. This presents a certain limitation, but it also serves as a stable and well-functioning structure within which stories can be told.

After seeing a number of exhibitions at RAM, I noted that the curatorial concept tends to fall into a certain pattern according to which the floors are filled: creating both an introduction and a strong first impression on the 2nd floor, building up the tension on the 3rd floor, climaxing on the 4rd floor, with the 4th floor balcony and 5th floor used for supplementary works and background documentation. Lin Tianmiao’s setup also fitted into this pattern.

I enjoyed the opportunity to meet this artist through her works. The type of works contained a certain softness and femininity, but they were also strongly shaped by the Chinese consumption/production economics, which is on the other hand something very masculine. It is so easy to “produce” in China. Lin made used of glass producers to source an array of objects from this material. Some looked custom ordered, other looked like standard lab products assembled into new shapes. The colors of the circulating liquids were bright and covered close to the whole rainbow range: Blue drops steered by visitors’ heartbeat, pink liquid in a moving circular lab-tube assemblage, giant green geyser ejaculations enclosed in humungous glass phalluses, etc.

The glass-and-liquid works were complemented by video installations, which had an autobiographic emotional feel as they showed bodies and faces, maybe of the artist. Furthermore one floor was dedicated to sculptural objects that combined human bones with human-used working tools. This exhibit had a surrealist touch, and I could not really connect it well with the other works in terms of scale, material and motive. The “human” scale of the work made it as one of the most accessible works for me. The large scale installations felt like a fashion store interior design to some extent.  But that’s how it is in China, so I will not be surprised to see this at one of the local shopping malls soon.

Lastly, I found it a nice coincidence to compare Lin’s “climax” piece, large green fountains enclosed in oversized glass tubes and surrounded by pink fur, with an 2012 exhibit of Paola Pivi in the same space where water, red wine, orange juice, black ink, glycerin, mint syrup, espresso coffee, almond syrup and facial tonic flow in huge few meter tall reverse ‘fountains’. Both of the works contained a similar megalomaniac approach made possible by the seemingly overabundant availability of resources in a post-/ultra-capitalist world: Let the resources, money, people, anything flow. Keep everything under control. Maintain harmony.

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