Why did Michael Lin install a complete house on a roof in Shanghai?

Michael Lin – Model Home, 2012, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China
Michael Lin – Model Home, 2012, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China

Introduction

Model Home – A Proposition by Michael Lin was an exhibition of new conceptual work, made by Michael Lin. For the exhibition, he installed a temporary structure on top of the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, China.

Michael Lin - Worker's House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 929.6 x 240 x 529.6 cm (366 x 94 1/2 x 208 1/2 in), installation view, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
Michael Lin – Worker’s House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 929.6 x 240 x 529.6 cm (366 x 94 1/2 x 208 1/2 in), installation view, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai

The exhibition has been created in collaboration with building workers, furniture makers and musicians, filmmakers, and urban studies researchers based in Shanghai. It is an experiment in composite creative work, combining various mediums, including painting, sculpture, installation, music, film and performance.

Michael Lin - Worker's House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 929.6 x 240 x 529.6 cm (366 x 94 1/2 x 208 1/2 in), installation view, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
Michael Lin – Worker’s House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 929.6 x 240 x 529.6 cm (366 x 94 1/2 x 208 1/2 in), installation view, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai

Inspiration: Bauhaus & Russian Structuralism

Inspiration has been drawn from the history of the Rockbund Art Museum itself and events that occurred at the same time as the building the gallery is housed in was constructed in the early years of the twentieth century. Lin was also inspired by the Bauhaus manifesto with its emphasis on the social functions of art.

Michael Lin - Worker's House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 929.6 x 240 x 529.6 cm (366 x 94 1/2 x 208 1/2 in), installation view, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai
Michael Lin – Worker’s House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 929.6 x 240 x 529.6 cm (366 x 94 1/2 x 208 1/2 in), installation view, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai

The artist hopes to respond to the Bauhaus call for architecture to be a vehicle for multi-media art and their advocacy of the combination of architecture, painting and sculpture as a single unit that is suited to the cultural context of contemporary Shanghai and the Rockbund Art Museum.

By referencing Bauhaus & Russian Structuralism, Lin connects his work to a rich history of art that strived to harmonize form and function, art and utility, reflecting the evolving role of the artist in the societal and industrial transformations of their times.

Michael Lin - Worker's House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 9.3 x 2.4 x 5.3m each
Michael Lin – Worker’s House, 2012, steel, wood, insulation board, 9.3 x 2.4 x 5.3m each, installation view, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai

The artist said:

The basic concept of this exhibition comes from Russian structuralism and Bauhaus theory. In that era, artists faced huge changes in the entire world, from industrialization to the creation of a socialist social model. At this turning point in history, the artist tried to find his own position while also participating in and questioning these changes.

Through a range of art experiments rooted in cross-disciplinary collaboration, Lin also intends to inspire a debate about the modes of production and social practice of art, the relationship between site-specificity and the cultural landscape of its given locale and creation-as-dialogue and the public sphere.

Michael Lin – Model Home, 2012, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China
Michael Lin – Model Home, 2012, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China

Social & urban context

Model Home poignantly mirrors the urban landscape of Shanghai, shedding light on the day-to-day realities of workers in many of China’s bustling cities. By transplanting elements typical of workers’ temporary housing into an art setting, Lin creates a vivid dialogue between art, urban development, and the lived experiences of the working class.

This context offers a critical lens through which to view the exhibition, not just as an art installation but as a commentary on societal structures and the disparities within.

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Michael Lin – Model Home, 2012, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China

Public Interaction & Worker’s Club

One of the most innovative aspects of Lin’s exhibition is the transformation of the museum into an interactive and socially dynamic space. The creation of the Worker’s Club, drawing inspiration from Alexander Rodchenko’s concept, stands as a testament to this.

By introducing elements typically found in street markets and everyday life, Lin blurs the line between high art and popular culture, turning the museum into a living microcosm that reflects broader social realities.

Utopian aspects & Soviet influences

Lin’s exhibition is imbued with utopian ideals and Soviet influences, particularly evident in the emphasis on shared public spaces and the pursuit of egalitarianism. These aspects hark back to a time when art and architecture aspired to reshape society. Lin’s project revisits these ideals, proposing a contemporary interpretation that addresses the complexities of modern Chinese urbanization and its social implications.

Well-known curator Hou Hanrou said:

Michael Lin, while working with architects, artists and musicians, also emphasizes the importance of direct involvements of the construction workers coming from the countryside. It is here that Michael Lin’s decision to give up the decision making power to the workers during the realization of the project appears to be extraordinary.

Video: Interview with Michael Lin

2 min 41 sec

Michael Lin’s work

Michael Lin is an artist living and working in Taipei, Shanghai, and Brussels. Lin turns away from painting as an object of contemplation toward painting as a bounded, physical space, one we can settle into and inhabit. Lin orchestrates monumental painting installations that re-conceptualize and reconfigure public spaces.

Transforming the institutional architecture of the public museum, his unconventional paintings invite visitors to reconsider their usual perception of those spaces and become an integral part of the work, giving meaning to its potential as an area for interaction, encounter, and re-creation.

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Michael Lin – Model Home, 2012, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China

Hou Hanrou wrote:

Therefore, the whole museum now is turned into a machine to generate utopian ideals for dwelling, working and sharing. Here, one can learn how to live with each other, with those who have been too often mutually overlooked.

Using patterns and designs appropriated from traditional Taiwanese textiles, his works have been exhibited in major institutions and international Biennials around the world, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, 2007, UCCA, Beijing, 2008, The Lyon Biennial 2009, The Vancouver Art Gallery, 2010, the Singapore Biennial and the Towada Art Center.

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Michael Lin – Model Home, 2012, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China

 

All images by Michael Lin unless otherwise noted.

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