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Michael Lin

13 August, 2010

Over a dinner of fresh caught lobster and striped bass prepared by my inimitable colleague Trevor Smith, a group of us gathered for dinner last night with the installation artist and painter Michael Lin. Michael and his partner Heidi Voet split their time between Shanghai and Brussels; Michael is here to talk about a possible collaboration with the Peabody Essex Museum curated by Trevor. Michael and I had a long talk on Wednesday about a group of glass-plate negatives he found, taken of his family and their home in Taiwan around 1900-1910. It’s a detective story because no one knows exactly who took the pictures or why. My hunch is they were made by a talented relative – there is such intimacy, warmth, and insight to them. But Michael thinks they may have been made by a local professional photographer who came to know the family well.

Michael is best known for the textile-like paintings he and his assistants make on architectural surfaces. During the Winter Olympics he famously mounted large painted panels on the exterior of the Vancouver Art Gallery. In the image above, a student works to complete a floor in the Hague. The large-flower patterns he often uses have a very specific meaning in Taiwan as they were traditionally given as wedding presents and would have been used to cover the matrimonial bed.

Michael has been visiting the DVD markets in Shanghai looking for rare and interesting films. His most recent discovery: Nagisa Oshima’s 1988 movie Max Mon Amour, starring Charlotte Rampling as a wayward wife cheating on her husband with a chimpanzee. The husband comes to accept the wife/chimp relationship, though he resents the tender touches the chimp gives the woman – the gentle caressing of her cheek, the stroking of her hair. As one would.

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