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Michael Lin: Relational Art
Michael Lin: Relational Art
Video Transcript

MICHAEL LIN: ‘What is this? Is this art?’ That was a question I was asked a lot. I guess I was more interested in questioning, how art functions, and so I guess I always gravitated towards art that was somehow functional.

A lot of my works are untitled. It’s kind of an open-ended situation. There is a certain kind of liberty to that.

The audience were invited to sit on the work, to lie on there. Some people took their afternoon naps on it. With each of the pillows, I made paintings also. So, kind of somehow bridging the gap. They didn’t feel that kind of distance with the art.

Most of the fabrics I have been using for the last twenty years in my work has come from very popular prints, I would say from the sixties, seventies, all the way up to the eighties maybe, in Taiwan.

Textiles are something quite intimate. Especially these textile designs. [They] were mostly used as the wedding night bed. They were given by the wife’s family as part of the dowry. I discovered that the audience had a very immediate kind of reaction to the patterns. It was important that it was familiar to the people that saw them, and in general most people have a real kind of nostalgia. So, I started to focus more on that idea of, you know, using this collective memory of the past, as a vehicle to kind of have some sort of dialogue about art and exhibition with the audience.

‘Untitled (Cigarette Break)’ was a kind of attempt to make work that the audience really had to be in contact with. If you sat on the chair and the art retain the trace of your interaction and your physical body with it, you know, smoking, or blowing out smoke is kind of a visualisation of your breath. It’s also a form of relaxation. It’s also a kind of break from a routine. So, I think those are all communicated in what’s there. And then the paintings then become some sort of space.

There are five paintings in this work, and they relate directly to the five cushions that make up a chair. So, it’s this kind of expansion of this macro-micro relationship. For me it was about somehow creating a space rather than an object. The work doesn’t end at the object. It was to make work that was difficult to somehow see the edges of the work so that you were immersed, or you were in the work or part of the work. We’re doing something that’s completely outside of the exhibition experience. And I think that that was a provocation.

The audience were invited to sit on the work, to lie on it. Some people took their afternoon naps on it.

Michael Lin

Artist Michael Lin is known for using floral textile patterns in his artwork. His interest lies in how these patterns speak of a particular history within Taiwanese decorative arts and traditions. In Untitled (Cigarette Break) Lin makes a direct statement about the relationship between paintings, installations, and ornamentation. You cannot help but notice the violet-hued floral patterns jumping playfully between the walls and the chairs. His use of space stands out. The domestic textile patterns, typically found in Taiwanese homes, infiltrate a white-walled gallery-like setting.

An installation artwork consisting of two cream-coloured armchairs in a corner with a metal ashtray bin in between them. Five canvases with a graphic print of flowers on a pink background hang on the white walls above them. This print also appears on the side and back of the left armchair, and on the seat cushion of the right armchair. The chairs and ashtray bin sit atop a polished wooden floor.

Michael Lin. Untitled (Cigarette Break), 1999. Sofa chairs, metal ashtray, and emulsion paint on wood. M+, Hong Kong © Michael Lin

Then there’s the ashtray. ‘The one thing that makes the whole installation, or the whole work, a pivotal piece, is the addition of the ashtray,’ says M+ curator Pauline J. Yao. The ashtray carries an element of social interaction that would otherwise be absent. Yao continues: ‘It would be a completely different work if that were not there. It would just be two chairs. And you could still have that dialogue, the two-dimensional vs three-dimensional, the patterns, the different surfaces, but the ashtray puts it on another level. It invites a human presence and social aspect associated with a cigarette break. And I find it fascinating. I love how artists can do that, just with one small addition, twist and change the entire thing.’

Video Credits

Produced by



Jiu Jik Park, Adam Studios

M+ Video Production

Jaye Yau

M+ Curatorial Research

Pauline J. Yao

M+ Text and Subtitle Editing

LW Lam, Amy Leung

Special Thanks

Michael Lin, William Smith, Chris Sullivan, Mimi Cheung, Rachel Chan

Read more about Michael Lin’s Untitled (Cigarette Break) in M+ Magazine.

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