Clapping with One Hand? Fragmentary Notes on Possible Realities (excerpt)
“Bang!!!” A basketball is dropped by a drone from the dome of the Guggenheim’s rotunda atrium and falls six stories to the ground, sending a resounding echo through the empty building. The next moment, a viewer wearing virtual reality headgear encounters a virtual image of Jeremy Lin, the NBA basketball star of Chinese or in fact Taiwanese origin. Lin’s image has only just appeared when the viewer is transformed into the ball itself and shot at the basket. Off to the side, the artist, lying exactly where the ball hit the ground, starts rolling up the ramp of the rotunda, straining against gravity to reach the highest point of the building. Seemingly happening all at once, everything is swept up in a swirl of confusion. Although initially disconnected, the ball, artist, and viewer are gradually pulled together, like the elements in a chain reaction, into an inexorable dynamic. This is the scene Lin Yilin envisions in his proposal for One hand Clapping, the final exhibition of new commissions for The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Chinese Art initiative at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Lin’s scenario recalls the story about Galileo Galilei dropping two spheres of differing masses from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to demonstrate the law of free fall – a heroic legend of a lonely warrior challenging the religious, ideological, and political authorities of the time in pursuit of truth. Lin himself says his action is inspired by G. W. Leibniz’s “Monadology,” which proposes that the “simple substances,” or “monads,” that constitute the universe each have their own perfection or self-sufficiency while also reflecting an aspect of the universe.2 A Chinese immigrant artist struggling to survive and build his career in the United States, Lin