Sun, Aug 23, 2009 - Page 13 News List

Bad ‘Apple’

A recent newspaper article publicized accusations of fraud that could tarnish a well-known art figure’s reputation and potentially ruin her career

By Blake Carter  /  STAFF REPORTER

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Tunghai University Department of Fine Arts head Lin Ping (林平) recently spent nearly two weeks carefully preparing what looks like a 27-page crash course in contemporary art. “I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep ... It’s a disaster in my life,” she said late last month.

The paper covers subjects ranging from “appropriation” and “found objects” to conceptual art, and includes references to American assemblage pioneer Joseph Cornell, 1996 Turner Prize-winner Douglas Gordon and Taiwanese artist Mei Dean-E (梅丁衍).

Although these terms and artists would probably be covered in undergraduate contemporary art history courses in Taiwan, the essay wasn’t written for any of the classes Lin has taught during her 11 years at the university in Taichung, nor was it intended for publication.

Professorial Candidate’s Reply to Allegations is aimed at eight anonymous art professors tasked with deciding whether Lin fraudulently copied work by well-known Western artists as well as a group work by National Kaohsiung Normal University (NKNU) students. If deemed guilty, the 53-year-old’s application to become a full-fledged professor will be rejected, she will be barred from re-applying for at least five years and she could be fired.

Lin says that since applying for professorship last September, she has fulfilled all the usual criteria but one: a final review originally scheduled for June 19, at which Tunghai’s university-level evaluation committee was supposed to rate her on “teaching” and “service to the school and students.” As she had already passed crucial college and university-level evaluations of her artwork by professors outside Tunghai, Lin thought the meeting would end her eight-year tenure as an associate professor.

Tree of knowledge

Although Lin Ping (林平) said she was unable to reach Apple Daily investigative reporter Tseng Wei-min (曾維民) after their phone interview, the Taipei Times found his cellphone number easily using an online search engine. The following are excerpts from Blake Carter’s phone conversation with Tseng:

During the 13-minute call, Tseng said repeatedly: “These are strange questions. Is your article directed against the Apple Daily?”

“My question is about the Apple Daily article’s use of quotation marks,” I said. “Did or did not Ho Huai-shuo (何懷碩) directly tell you that Lin Ping’s (林平) work fraudulently copied Western artists?”

“I’m not going to tell you,” Tseng said.

“What about the accusing party quoted in the article? Did you speak directly?”

“That’s a strange question,” Tseng said. “I’m not going to tell you.”

“Although you’ve said you won’t tell me who wrote the article, I imagine you’re familiar with it,” I said. “When the article uses quotes attributed to the accuser, does that mean the accuser spoke with Apple Daily?”

“Quotation marks mean that somebody said something,” Tseng said.

“Said something to you or the Apple Daily directly?” I asked.

“That’s a strange question,” Tseng said. “I’m not going to tell you.”


But two days before the meeting she received a phone call: A report had been submitted to the committee saying Lin’s artwork was suspiciously similar to that of other artists. The evaluation process would be delayed while the report was investigated.

A week later, Lin says she was given copies of the original report as well as another more detailed accusation submitted by the same party, whose name(s) had been blanked out by the committee. According to the accusation, she had copied concepts and works from French artist Christian Boltanski, other Western artists and a group of NKNU students. She was given 15 days to prepare a defense that would be sent, along with the accusation, to be re-evaluated by the same eight outside professors who had previously approved her application at the college and university levels. For obvious reasons — word spreads fast in Taiwan’s incestuous art circle — the names of the outside professors aren’t disclosed to applicants.

Lin said that by this time, however, she had heard from colleagues who the accusing party was, but could only speculate as to why she was being targeted. She wrote a 27-page defense and submitted it several days ahead of the July 10 deadline.

Enter Apple Daily.

According to Lin, Apple journalist Tseng Wei-min (曾維民) called her on July 18 and asked her to defend herself against accusations of copying other artists. When she said her application was being re-evaluated and that she would hold a press conference after the decision had been made, Tseng “was not satisfied with this. He told me that I better have more to say.”

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