© linyilin 2018

Beyond the Wall

Richard Vine

In an exhibition at two sites in Thailand, Chinese artist Lin Yilin challenged the legitimacy of all official barriers.

SOMETHING THERE IS that doesn't love a wall, /That wants it down, "Robert Frost famously wrote. That implicit urge runs as a motif through the work of Chinese performance and installation artist Lin Yilin. Born in 1964,  Lin emerged as a member of the Big-Tailed Elephant group in his native Guangzhou. The four artists—all graduates of the art academy in that southern metropolis, anchor of the then rapidly industrializing Pearl River Delta—gained critical notice with self-curated activities, such as the 1994 "No Room" exhibition in a deserted house, designed to comment on China's frenetic urban transformations. (This occurred during the same period that Zhang Huan, Ma Liuming and other experimental artists, first daring to go semipublic again after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crack-down, were staging their guerrilla events in Beijing's East Village.)

For The Result of 1,000 Pieces (1994), Lin literally stood in a wall—becoming at once part of the lifeless barrier and, conversely, its living defiance—as he occupied a body-shaped niche among bricks that looked ready to fall in and crush him if anyone attempted to pull out the paper money stuck here and there in the mortarless seams. The next year, in Maneuvering Across Linhe Road, he moved a wall, one cement   block