The air was chilly as Lin Yilin stepped into the Victoria Park pool in November 1997, and the water was not much warmer. But Lin hung on, teeth chattering as he lay sheets of paper printed with Hong Kong’s Basic Law on the surface of the water to create a white backdrop upon which he would float in a performance entitled Sharkproof Web. Named after the netting that protects Hong Kong swimmers in the ocean, this work, along with Drive Shaft (1996), which involved moving a cinderblock wall inscribed with names of politicians and various government departments through the streets of Wan Chai, represent two landmark performances by the artist conducted in Hong Kong at a moment of deep uncertainty. Then a resident of Guangzhou and a nearby witness to Hong Kong’s handover, these works convey Lin’s ongoing curiosity towards local politics, with the Basic Law acting as a powerful metaphor of Hong Kong’s future.Lin, who is currently based in Beijing, employs a variety of strategies for his performances, which almost always occur in public space. He relies on his own body movements, interacting with others and facilitating collective actions. For Mobile M+: Live Art, he again mobilises the Basic Law, this time not as the blueprint of Hong Kong’s future but rather as a cornerstone of the present. In this new work, Twenty, pages of the Basic Law have been woven into a massive rope, the centrepiece in a publicly staged tug-of-war. Like many of Lin’s works, Twenty hints at political uncertainties while adopting a playful and light-hearted attitude.
Lin Yilin (Chinese, born 1964)
Lin Yilin began his career in Guangzhou, where he was a founding member of Big Tail Elephant Group, an important Chinese avant-garde artist group of the 1990s. Big Tail Elephant members were especially interested in responding to the modernisation and urban transformation happening around them in Guangzhou. It was during this time that Lin created his seminal work Safely Maneuvering Across Lin He Road, a performance involving moving a temporary wall from one side of a traffic-filled street to the other, one cinderblock at a time. Lin has since become known for his site-specific installations, public artworks, and performances using his body and at times construction materials such as cinderblocks, bricks, and weights to intervene in urban space. He lives and works in New York and Beijing.