On the climb to the top floor of a nine story walk-up, Lin explains that he lives on a mountain peak. His apartment is well appointed, with a balcony and a view. He denies that he is middle class. Aside from the apartment fixtures, he has few possessions.
The apartment belongs to his employer, an interior design company, but he expects to buy it soon. Until recently all dwellings were owned by companies and leased to employees at a nominal rent. Trouble with the boss meant loss of salary and home.
One estimate claims over fifty percent of homes have been bought by the people living in them. This is a giant step in unleashing China's labor force.
Millions of apartments are being sold yearly, maybe monthly, truly an amazing social transformation.
Lin is a wall artist. No, he does not make paintings or artifacts to hang on a wall; he does the wall.
Wall (the big picture)
At the time, Lin scarcely understood the meaning of "installation." The 1980's had opened China to a flood of western art, but Lin's quick scan of twentieth century art left him confused. He resolved to begin with a concept, and develop it.
Lin put together the architectural structure Wall without any help from construction workers. He hauled all the bricks himself, taking them from the rubble of demolished buildings. Lin put a great deal of effort in his Wall, and it is powerful.
Wall (a section)
"Wall" as a concept holds special significance in China - the Great Wall, the wall around the Forbidden City where the dynasts lived. But walls are everywhere, walls of silence, walled up emotions, the Berlin wall, governmental walls.
After feeling the power in the wall he built, Lin applied his energy to moving walls, to physically transporting them.
Block by block Lin moves the wall across the street. For foreigners shocked by the chaos of bicycle, motorcycle, and automobile traffic, Lin's way of crossing the street seems like a practical idea.
Safely across Lin He Street
The power of a wall is founded on its stability. If a wall moves, the power resides in the mover, not the wall. In a series of moving wall performances, Lin showed the power a person can acquire by moving a wall. In Hong Kong, during the nervous run-up to the transfer of the territory back to China, the authorities rejected his demonstration and forced him to curtail his performance.
The Wall Itself
The winter Lin spent in Europe, he found the materials unfamiliar and he could not get them to work for him. His installations displeased him, until he returned to his root concept, a wall, and found a commonality between China's bricks and Europe's bricks.
Detail, The Wall Itself
A full figure self portrait
The vibrators inserted in the bricks are there to give the wall a back massage. Has Lin eased up and become an ironic commentator on the cartoon generation? Or is he cracking jokes because there is less and less to laugh about?