Lin Juin-Ting: of Memory and Time
“The real world is a reflection of a spirit world.” To transcend this duality, by connecting reality with virtuality, is at the core of the artist. In the piece on view, LIN JIUN-TING has chosen a classical theme—the goldfish, an aquatic living gem—to convey his ideal world—a world hidden deep inside the mind—and to connect with the audience viewing and interacting with the artwork.
Lin works in new-media—rich with themes of memory, history, and perception. His practice investigates interactive art and installation; the core inspirations being Humanist and Taoist, from which he derives his signature artistic style and motifs.
Lin (b.1970, Taipei) exhibits regularly at galleries and institutions in China, Korea, Japan, Finland, Australia, Taiwan and the U.S. He is an assistant professor of Visual Communication Design at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. He holds the 2012 MUSE Award for Interpretive Interactive Installations from the American Association of Museums for his work at the National Palace Museum. He currently lives and works in Shanghai.
The Goldfish motif plays a major role in Chinese mythology. First developed from carp, these fascinating fish have bulging eyes, raspberry-like head growths, round fluid-filled eye sacks, elaborate nostrils, and flowing fins. Goldfish aren’t only in gold hues, but also in various colors such as striking reds, yellows, purples, blues, blacks, and whites. Ancient Chinese kept goldfish in large ornamental bowls and ponds. The combination of the color, shape, size of the goldfish and ponds reflecting the owner’s personality and tastes.
The association of goldfish with good fortune is reinforced in some legends by its connection with the mysterious dragon, and homophonic puns in Mandarin Chinese. “Jin-Yu Man-Tang,” the title of this new media artwork, Jin-yu (goldfish) is also a common pun on yu (fish) meaning a surplus of gold (jin), and therefore of wealth and a token of an incorruptible nature. The word for “fish,” yu is a homophone for “abundance” and “affluence.” The caption of “Jin-Yu man-tang” originated in the sage Lao-Zi’s text the “Dao de Jing”: “Gold (jin) and jade (yu) fill (man) your hall (tang).”
The use of the goldfish motif arose out of the popular thirst for imagery that embraced auspicious themes during Shanghai’s early economic rise with artists such as Ren Yi (1840–1895) and the monk Xugu (1823–1896). Such work portrayed both an auspicious meaning and hope for talismanic power. Hence, the motif is especially relevant in its parallel between China’s contemporary economic position and the time of this Motifs first popularization.
The period of late Qing Dynasty adoption of popular imagery in Chinese art exposed a split between newly influential tastes of the growing coterie of merchants and the till then unchallenged tastes of scholar-painters. The colorful goldfish motif arose outside the scholar-painter appreciation of monochrome expression above literal representation or an immediately attractive surface beauty. As such, Lin’s use of the popular image for spiritual connection makes co-option of the motif that is in the spirit of the most influential art of that time. In this way, Lin’s fluid subtly of his imagery and spirituality make a universal connection.
There is a natural parallel between the perception of the physical and spiritual worlds to the haptic world of touch and the invented world of virtual reality. However, the all too common simulacrum of virtuality, like representation for its own ends, leaves the viewer alienated. In the world Lin invents for us, blurring the line between reality and perception has a satisfying reward.
The space created by the virtual arena LIN creates is a liminal environment where a ceremonial interaction triggers people’s mythological thinking. Once aroused we are in his grasp, LIN is able to draw on our most contemplative dispositions. In the case of “Jin-Yu man-tang”, he guides us to engage with thoughts and ideas of the past. Escaping cultural tensions inherent in our own time, we awaken to contemplate the metaphor and our universal hopes for the future in parallel with hopes of our forebears. Connecting us spiritually with histories and thoughts that are otherwise remote. The exchange with his work gives us a momentary escape from the alienation of time.
Blurring the line between reality and perception has always been a powerful strategy of art and Lin’s new media is particularly well adapted to this function. It opens our expectations with its dreamlike worlds. It creates a fluid mental space where a cultural exchange between the past and present contemporary. As we hope for the truth of the exchange, our own creative powers are engaged in making our own personal connection.
Spanning the past twenty years, Lin’s work has been adept at exploring evocations of time and memory. The co-option of popular and historical iconography—Carousels, butterflies, windows, architecture—for his own ends makes for evocative richly layered landscapes of meaning. His work using cross-cultural subjects for institutions such as the Rauma Museum, Finland, and the National Palace Museum feeds all of his work with a uniquely grounded vocabulary. The poetic immersive environments he creates help us escape our individual viewpoints. Lin invites us into a lyrical and intuitive connection with a universal understanding of contemporary society.