My work visualizes climate change as a product of human nature. Combining elements of scientific investigation and studio practice, I make sculptures and installations that incorporate familiar objects that interact in an unfamiliar way to encourage one to question the materiality of our everyday world. Experimental play transforms into thoughtful contemplation as I embed organic materials, such as teeth, brain coral, and sensitive plants, within a synthetic world of hand sanitizers, polystyrene, and the magenta glow of LED grow lamps to render the science fiction reality that we inhabit. More than interested in the poetics of re-contextualization than representation, I obsessively collect, deconstruct, and recombine materials to create chimeras that speak of the current human condition of environmental anxiety. These ephemeral time-based sculptures allude to their impermanence and, by proxy, our own.
Christopher Lin is a Brooklyn based conceptual artist and educator with a background in research science. Fueled by a lifelong obsession with fossils, his experimental installations, sculptures, and performances question the world we inhabit and envision the one we will leave behind.
After receiving a BA from Yale University and an MFA from Hunter College, Christopher was awarded the C12 Emerging Artist Fellowship in 2016. He currently teaches at Hunter College and is a member of the research-based artist collective Sprechgesang Institute.
Images courtesy the artist.
Interview questions developed by 2020 AIM Curatorial Intern Victoria Sperotto.
Cicada moltings, resin, and gold leaf
12 x 5 x 5 in.
Sandalwood incense, glass bell jar, rope, and pedestal
Q&A with Christopher Lin
In your opinion, what role does art play in 2020 amidst the events of the past year?
I think art has the power to process what is at the core of these powerful events into something poignant. This year has certainly been a difficult one, and I have been meditating on the time and distance needed to provide a meaningful perspective on all of this. There has certainly been a lot to dwell on from the resurgence and renaissance of Black Lives Matter due to the tragic killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, to the pandemic of Covid-19 and ensuing lockdown, to the barrage of absurd election year news cycle in the United States. Much of what an artist does requires a slow processing of these acute instances that we experience so closely in our daily lives into something strange and unfamiliar so that we can again see them more truthfully. While the role of an artist is to make, it is also to combine and to recontextualize, which takes time and distance.
What has been your most recent artistic concern?
Recently, I have been experimenting with and exploring ideas within small, closed environments such as aquariums, terrariums, vivariums, and jarrariums, perhaps as a way to gain some perspective on the experience of quarantine and lockdown. As a form, the closed ecosystem requires a knowledge and understanding of biological systems and the balance of elements needed to create a stable equilibrium--both topics deeply relevant to our current climate crisis. With the coronavirus outbreak, another layer of meaning has emerged within this form complicating it through our shared experience of cabin fever and claustrophobia.
By showing the common rawness of the human body through the exhibition of hair, teeth and the importance of breathing, in what ways do you want to change the viewers perspective of themselves and their humanity?
In Where we begin and end (2015) I was interested in exploring the impermanence of the body and the permeability of what we consider ourselves through our detritus, that which we leave behind. These bodily materials, hair, teeth, and skin cells, which were at one point us, once sloughed off, become a part of the world, reabsorbed and reconstituted. We ourselves recombine molecules from others--plants, animals, salts, and minerals--to rebuild and replace the parts of us that are damaged. I am most interested in this paradox: As individual as we would like to see ourselves, we in fact are as woven into the fabric of the physical world as any other grouping of living matter, only temporarily held together by the strange, runaway chemical reaction called life.
What do you call the world?
LED grow lights, peace lilies (Spathiphyllum wallisii), soil, wood, steel, iron piping, buckets, paint, clock, wood, and reference documents
In your project What do you call world?, you mention how “the boundaries of our reality are more blurred than ever with technology and the internet age connecting distant strangers instantaneously and spawning infinite digital worlds while our personal spheres shrink to ever smaller, concrete and isolated spaces.” In a society where people were forced to further isolate and rely on technology because of a pandemic, do you think these boundaries will continue to be blurred or will people question their definition of ‘world’?
Yes, certainly this feeling has been heightened to new, unimaginable levels due to the pandemic, as the internet has proven to be one of the only means for reaching out safely into this new world. Since March, I have almost exclusively met with others and taught through video conferencing applications, conversing with nameplates and low resolution thumbnails as stand ins for human interaction. For me, this has created a latent feeling of disconnected connectivity, a strange contemporary oxymoron. While our personal spheres shrink ever smaller in isolation, our excursions to the outer world have become laden with fear and necessity, charging a previously mundane reality.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming months and 2021?
In the next few months I am most looking forward to seeing where my recent investigations and meditations will take me. This year has been full of time for reflection and that has revealed new paths for my development that I’m excited to follow. I’m also looking forward to a return to some normalcy in the future, whenever it may come.
Where we begin and end
Ink, soap, plastic vials and bubble wands, end table, soil, and sensitive plants (Mimosa pudica)
Bleached sand dollars and brain coral on wooden desk and chair