Holograms and Humanity
Lin Shu Min creates lightboxes and video installations but his most unusual contribution to the international art scene lies in his explorations of holographic art. Destabilising signifiers conventionally separating the real from the unreal, his works are influenced by Buddhism, in particularly the concept of reincarnation and explore themes of rebirth, humanity, humility and universality.
‘How we observe the next life depends largely on what we do in this life. We may come out white, black, yellow, male or female, or even animal. We all continue in another life. We simply use a different body.’
Lin Shu Min renders tangible the Buddhist conception of reincarnation in striking works of art which seek to destabilise the signifiers conventionally separating the real from the unreal, the existing from the non-existing. Aiming to substitute ‘original’ objects with fictitious holographic images, he specialises in creating illusions that can never be destroyed. Though the artist has used lightboxes in works such as ‘X-ray God: St Buzz Lightyear’ (1999), or ‘X-ray God: St Barbie’ (1999) and has recently begun using video installations, his most unusual contribution to the international art scene undoubtedly lies in his explorations of holographic art.
During experimentation with holographic techniques, Lin discovered new approaches, which have enabled him to create moving multi-exposure images rather than the traditional single, static image associated with holograms. In his works, images now disappear and reappear as the viewer alters his or her spatial position. The viewer thus travels in between these images, only to find himself or herself becoming part of the narrative that is under construction. The speed and transience of life is simulated in the fast emergence and disappearance of holographic images.
One of Lin’s key works is ‘Glass Ceiling’ (1996 to present), in which scores of hologram panels are inset in an aluminium-tiled platform in a gallery space. As one walks across particular areas of this slightly raised flooring, holograms light up, showing the faces of men and women staring up from individual tiles on the floor. It’s an unnerving experience. Some of the people give us dirty looks or adversarial glares; elsewhere men and women look up in bewilderment or fear. One man peers up, stretching his palms out either side of his head as if he were at the bottom of a well trying to see a long way up to the surface; a woman nearby knits her brow in anger and confusion – she cannot even look us in the eye.
Whether we tiptoe tentatively or tread steadfastly across the faces of these trapped people beneath our feet, we are cast into the uncomfortable role of repressor. Through a literal translation into space, Lin makes us painfully aware of the dynamics of unequal relations of power that transform people into underdogs everyday. As the artist himself puts it, the work ‘confronts the audience with a kind of negation of the other, which occurs in human behaviour on a physical, as well as on a psychological level’. It shows, further, how the act of eliminating the other may be unintentional or result from unthinkingness, and hints at all the possibilities along the scale to outright and purposeful dehumanisation: in this work, we tread upon people not only as their images light up in front of us, for behind us too, our shadows obscure yet more faces.
The title of this work, ‘Glass Ceiling’, uses a phrase commonly employed to refer to the barriers facing women and other minorities in the working world. However, depicting the faces of people from more than forty different countries, of both sexes and of all ages between seven and eighty-one, Lin’s installation suggests that the downtrodden appear anywhere and everywhere, regardless of the specifics of gender, race, class or age.
It is interesting to note the formal similarities between this work and one of Lin Shu-min´s latest pieces, ‘Transmigration’ (2002). A two-level red container leads the viewer through a claustrophobic space which opens onto a floor projection. The projection shows a series of cardboard boxes packed tightly next to one another. The lids of the boxes slowly open, revealing human cargo, the naked bodies of men and women of different backgrounds, squashed in with foam packaging. Once again the grid format is employed and people are trapped in individual units. Curled up naked, the men and women are vulnerable goods carted around the world; with the sounds of babies emitted, this work evokes rebirth and the movement of people across the globe as a part of human life.
Sources include: ´Dream 02´ catalogue, Red Mansion Foundation, London, 2002 and artist´s website
Lin Shu-Min was born in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1963. He moved to Canada and studied at the Vancouver Community College from 1989 and then went on to study at the New York Institute of Technology, graduating with a BA in 1990 and an MA in 1991. He originally worked in advertising design, but then began research in holographic art, which is now a central part of his practice. He has also concentrated on developing digital art, and collaborated with others to produce ´An Investigation into Digital Art in Australia, Germany and Holland´. He represented Taiwan in the 2001 Venice Biennale and since 1993 has exhibited over 70 times, both in Taiwan and abroad. He currently teaches as an Associate Professor in the Department of Art, New York Institute of Technology. Along with his teaching and his creative work, he also curates exhibitions.
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Exhibition / Installation,
2002 ‘Dream 02’, The Red Mansion Foundation, the.gallery@oxo and the Bargehouse, London, UK
2002 10th Yugoslavia Biennial
2001 49th Venice Biennale, Italy
2001 Kaoshiung International Container Arts Festival, Kaoshiung, Taiwan
2001 ‘Silence of the City’, Gwangju, Korea
2000 The Luminous Image V’ Newark Museum, New ark, USA
2000 ‘High Touch, Low Tech’, Refusalon Gallery, San Francisco, USA
2000 ‘The Sparkling City’, Dimension Endowment of Art, Panchiao, Taiwan
2000 Taipei International Fotofest
1999 ‘Kangastus Mirage’, toured Rauma Art Museum, Finland; Salo Art Museum, Finland; Kuopio Art Museum, Finland; Norrtlje Konsthall Art Museum, Sweden; MARCO–Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Finland
1999 ‘Magnetic Writing, Marching Ideas’, IT Park, Taipei, Taiwan
1999 ‘Taipei TRTS Public Art’, Society of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan
1998 ‘Inside Out: New Chinese Art
1998 ‘The Luminous Image III’, Torino, Italy
1998 ‘Sexuality object’, New Century Artists Gallery, New York, USA
1997 ‘ARTEC ’97: 5th International Biennale Open Competition and Exhibition’
SELECTED SOLO SHOWS
Exhibition / Installation,
2002 Stephen Gang Gallery, New York, USA
2000 Stephen Gang Gallery, New York, USA
2000 Edward Carter Gallery, New York, USA
1998 The Alternative Museum, New York, USA
2002 First Prize at The Open Competition, Museum of Public Art, Taiwan
2000 First Prize at The Open Competition for Public Art, Panchiao Station, Panchiao, Taiwan
1997 Second Prize for the Artist of Excellence, 5th ARTEC International Biennial Open Competition, Japan
1995 Third Prize for the Artist of Excellence, 3rd ARTEC International Biennial Open Competition, Japan
1995 Shearwater Foundation Award for Creative Holography, USA