Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Mementoes frozen in a vacuum

A difficult conceptual show from Debbie Lin looks at memories and dolls

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Debbie Lin uses dolls to comment on identity, memory, space and time.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TFAM

Because we mentally don't have access to the entire film reel that could be our memory, our minds seem to grasp certain moments in life and hold these frames somewhere in the fore of our minds to influence us in our everyday lives. Sometimes these memories are of dramatic events, but they're just as likely to be superficially unremarkable moments -- like the chance sighting of something a bit strange, or a sunrise, or a meal shared with friends, anything that wasn't pivotal in our lives, but which we can recall with perfect clarity.

Debbie Lin (林采玄) calls these moments "punctum" and makes them the starting point for an exploration of the twin themes of memory and identity in three works currently on exhibit at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

In all three pieces Lin makes use of the same cartoon toy doll as a manifestation of the body, which is then manipulated in various ways to communicate its connection to our minds. In the series of lithographs titled Punctum images derived from the artist's memory are superimposed on the body of the doll, coupling a projection of the mind to the body. The images suggest traces of tradition, which may allude to the strong influence Lin's grandmother held over her while growing up. Despite the obvious cultural and generational divides in the overlapping images of the doll and, for example, Buddha, the result is presented as a harmonious amalgamation that defies the popular concept of a clash between tradition and modernity, or between generations in Taiwan.

The installation piece Blinking/Projection takes a more violent tack in facing these same themes. Dismembered pieces of the doll are placed inside rows of aluminum cans, most of which are closed, but some of which have been opened and have the body parts appearing to pull themselves out of the can. As a reflection of Lin's years spent abroad, this piece shows a sharp discomfort with the separation of the body from the location of one's memories.

The most impressive piece in this small exhibit is Vacuum-Impressional Temperature located in a curtained-off adjoining room. Unfortunately, many visitors to the show miss this room because it's so dark it seems like an off-limits switch room. The pulsing lights opposite the door are, in fact, a jumble of optical wires that are threaded through glass versions of the same dolls used in the previous two pieces. The dolls are all arranged facing toward a center from which the cables all emerge and pulse like a creepy nerve center in a sci-fi movie. The eerie silence in the dark and the cold create an unnerving impression of isolation that helps explain the title of this show Vacuum State.

As an uncomfortable experience of space, darkness and temperature, Vacuum-Impressional Temperature has a far greater impact than Punctum or Blinking/Projection, almost to the point where these two seem out of place.

Vacuum State will be on exhibit until Dec. 7. The Taipei Fine Arts Museum is located at 181 Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 3, Taipei (台北市中山北路3181). The museum is closed on Mondays.

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