Lin Yilin: Golden Journey at San Francisco Art Institute's Walter & McBean Galleries documents new site-specific performances by Lin Yilin, a leader of the Chinese avant-garde art world, that were created for SFAI and with SFAI students during his San Francisco residency with Kadist.
Lin Yilin is a versatile and internationally significant artist whose work has been marked strongly by his provocative urban interventions—an approach with deep resonance given the increasing attention to the politics of space and insurgent actions in the climate of the Occupy movement.
Golden Journey presents the artist’s interactions with the city of San Francisco and the local arts community. After researching San Francisco in the fall of 2011, Lin developed a series of site-specific performances that explore the urban histories of migration and immigration, with particular focus on their political implications. Working with SFAI students, Lin created works in which he undertook actions such as slowly rolling down Lombard Street, playing cards under an American flag next to the Golden Gate Bridge, and dragging a costume dragon head through Chinatown. By disrupting the normal order of daily life, Lin creatively explores the complex relationships between humans and the built environment, the materialization of the body, and its social impacts.
As Lin describes one work, Golden Bridge: “When I walked on the Golden Gate Bridge, I looked down to the fascinating ocean, but reason prevented me from jumping. Then, I decided to slowly roll down the bridge on the pavement. Fighter planes repetitively flew over my head. I became aware that they were supervising me. At the end, the U.S. Navy understood: This was art. They became the greatest audience of my work.”
Born in 1964, Lin is a native of Guangzhou—a city that was a laboratory of China’s modernization, exposed early to the outside forces of globalization and problems of accelerating industrialization and urbanization. In 1990, he co-founded the Big-Tail-Elephant Group, a Guangzhou-based artistic collaborative with which SFAI curator Hou Hanru has a long history, including selecting their work for the 2003 Venice Biennale. After moving to the United States in 2001, Lin’s experience as an immigrant shed new light on his ideas of economic globalization and geopolitical conflicts. These areas of focus align Golden Journey with two axes of the Walter and McBean Galleries’ multi-faceted programming structure: “Global Figures” and “Acting Out in the City.”