Atelier Michael Lin


Joselina Cruz

For Michael Lin: Locomotion, the artist transforms MCAD’s space to the extent that entering it equates stepping into a painting. The commissioned work begins from its barely legible initial sketches on the white wall, flowing into a print study across glass windows, towards experimentation with scale, then colour, to its final form and design. Interested in involving pedicab drivers with his project in Manila, Lin met with the local community through their barangay representatives and suggested a swap. In exchange for their old pedicab hoods and tarps —some personalized over the years with motifs and emblems of ownership, many tattered and on their last legs—a new one with his printed design on it, upholstered on to their pedicab frame as they saw fit. For Lin, the exchange is not simply symbolic, but a sustained participation with the community, one that went far beyond the axis of the museum and the college, and even the dates of the exhibition. While Model Home in Rockbund engaged construction workers who worked within the museum to produce the work, Lin, for Locomotion, cedes ownership of his artwork to the pedicab drivers who get to create the patchwork design for their side car’s frame; each pedicab will have a different pattern.

Fifteen pedicabs, now art objects decked with Lin’s prints, become geographical indices pedaling through the interstices of the city, tracing a line of art along the streets of Manila. Once a day, they enter the museum to pick up a passenger or two, and for that moment while inside the museum, their pedicab tarps hone in on the central image found within before it rides out back to the streets. Another work in the exhibition, Untitled: Gathering, (2016), a painting cut to create 240 little stools, on the other hand is a passive receptacle for social gatherings, a place where one can sit and rest, listen talk and be still. Locomotion is, unless parked, moving, taking people from point to point. With the pedicab, maps are thwarted, and enters areas unknown to art and vise versa. The wall patterns that travel from interior wall to exterior geography are like a slice of the art world moving through streets. Michel de Certeau writes that maps organize cities to establish power, a guide to ‘read’ the city, and in this way, own it: as far as the eye can see. This ‘reading’ loses efficacy once on the ground, the city becomes opaque needing someone to weave across its terrain for places to open up again.