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Home Events & Trade News Space/Time on the Bund
Space/Time on the Bund
Event & Exhibition

Upon entering the Shanghai Gallery of Art from the rather wet and mind-numbing cold on the Bund, I was grateful to receive a warm greeting by enthusiastic Art Director Mr. David Chan, who then offered an insightful tour of Lin Yilin's solo show, "A Spatio-temporal Tunnel."

Chinese born artist Yilin, now currently living in New York, started as a performance artist, taking his pieces to the streets of Guangzhou. In the southern city, he co-founded the collective "Big Tail Elephant," which undertook radical and confrontational performance art dealing with modernization in the urban space. In one work, a builder engaged in the act of building, tearing down and rebuilding a brick wall in the middle of a busy street in Guangzhou. The piece is intended as commentary against the frenzied pace and commercialization of the city scape. The directly confrontational nature of the piece, as well as the themes of modernization and the transformation of urban space, are elements which resurface in Yilin's solo show at the SGA.

Yilin's solo exhibit at the SGA, entitled "A Spatio-temporal tunnel," stages a tunnel that critically investigates the artist's interest with time and space, and features work he has produced over the past two years. His first works on display are 10 video monitors entitled "Problem," filmed with students while the artist was in Norway. Each presents a strange situation in a public setting, and are quite mesmerizing. One screen depicts Yilin and an accomplice at a subway station permanently facing away from the platform as trains come and go. Rebellion against the flow of life one might ask? I'm still unsure, but the image is arresting. "Participation is important in Yilin's work," stresses Mr. Chan, "having people in his work give it meaning."

After the video display, a giant sculpture of the famous Chinese cartoon character "San Mao" next captures the attention. Situated in the centre of the gallery, painted in white and glistening in the sunlight pouring in from the atrium, San Mao, the cheeky little orphan, is holding a pair of wings and looking up towards to sky. Sadly, this image of hopeful freedom, seems cocooned by metal bars. From this confinement, out beyond San Mao, is a large video projector depicting scenes from Shanghai. The video had been produced especially for the SGA and presents the different aspects of life around the Bund. With a camera in hand, Yilin walks in a figure 8 formation weaving from one side to the other using the underground pedestrian tunnels, filming everything he sees along the way. On one side, the Bund is filmed at night and as has he walks slowly down the tunnels we see images of the homeless lying lifeless on the floor. As he walks past them and up the stairs again, it is daylight on the Bund with scores of people rushing their way through town. Hard-hitting stuff. Perhaps purposefully iconoclastic as well, when one considers the location of the gallery housing his work, Three on the Bund, the emblematic cradle of wealth, privilege and status in Shanghai's recent economic boom.

Another very striking piece is entitled "One Day," inspired from Yilin's real life experience where he witnessed a man escorted by the police, cuffed from his wrist to his own ankle. Yilin re-captures this experience in a video installation, where he films a Chinese man crouched over, hobbling through the streets of Hainan. "According to Yilin, very few people actually took notice and simply carried on with their busy lives," says Mr. Chan. As we watch this poor shackled man attempting to keep up with the hectic life around him, it seems to quite poignantly resemble the many people in this world who are desperately trying to keep up with the fierce rate of globalisation. Yilin is "very conscious of all that is happening around him," says Mr. Chan, who is clearly proud to display the work of a man who is both locally and internationally well respected. "I want to give him the opportunity to reorganize his thinking process and hope this show will help him find his next direction of topics to explore."

For someone who has not always been the first in line to visit an art gallery, I found myself admiring each piece of work. Although Yilin's work is overtly didactic and seeks to communicate a social message on the ill effects of modernization in the urban space, there was still enough leeway to interpret the works for myself and develop my own ideas about the material.

"A Spatio-temporal Tunnel" runs from Jan. 13 to Feb. 25 at the Shanghai Art Gallery.

Shanghai Gallery of Art
Phone: 021-6321 5757 or 6323 4549
Address: 3F, 3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, 3 on the Bund near Guangdong Road