Arts & Culture

Candice Lin’s Walker Exhibit Explores Animalism

Trin Whitesel, staff writer

Blue fabric draped like a tent, held up by statues of men. Two are visible. The fabric has white designs of cats on it, and the words "sleeping, rotting, resting, weeping." Through the flap in the middle one can see little cat statues on the floor.
A photo of Candice Lin’s art installation, Seeping, Rotting, Resting, Weeping at the Walker Art Center, taken by Trin Whitesel on September 12, 2021.

A circle of ceramic cats, gathered inside of a tent adorned with the designs of mythical creatures, stare intently at a small box TV. They’re entranced by the demonic cat on the screen, who tells the animalistic and demented story of his own life. The many cats who prowl the surrounding gallery space are not an inviting presence – they are grotesque, mischievous, intriguing and surreal. Candice Lin’s new art installation, Seeping, Rotting, Resting, Weeping uses these cats as a focal point for the viewer to see a perspective where humans are not central, and where animals reign. 

The exhibit is a collaboration between Lin, a Los Angeles based virtual and visual artist, the Walker Art Center and the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. It explores colonialism, racism, and sexism through tapestry, video, sculpture and tactile instruments – and many cats. 

Lin composed this installation while in quarantine, during which she shut herself in her studio and became committed to creating a hands-on nature to her work. This hands-on experience is brought to visitors of the installation who can experience multi-sensory experiences through touching the textiles, sculptures, and moving along with guided stretches. Throughout the gallery is imagery of circulatory systems along with trade routes, layered historical representations, cross-cultural imagery, use of plants and material used heavily during trade routes and an abundance of cats.

The installation begins with a nomadic tent and quasi-religious structure, which was draped in a dark indigo fabric decorated with designs of cats, geometric patterns, abstract figures of man and nature and imagery of European royalty. Lin hand-drew and hand-dyed these fabrics herself through shibori, a traditional Japanese technique, and used a deep indigo color that was once a global commodity with a complex history of British colonialism in Nigeria. 

Standing guard at all four structural points of the shelter are large ceramic sculptures. These sculpted figures are a reference of various Chinese and European artifacts and resemble figures of cats, humans and other creatures in addition to containing elements of nature and abstract designs. The sculptures were inspired by ancient Zhenmushushou tomb guardians, from the Tang Dynasty, which protected the deceased from evil. She also drew inspiration from a devil statue created by George Psalmanazar. 

Throughout Lin’s installation there are several tactile stations or “tactile theaters” where visitors can play with large game board-like, ceramic sculptures with different lines, human-like shapes and multi-sensory patches. The tactile, multi-sensory character of this installation was intended for participants to reconnect with their personal sense of touch and with one another through shared experience. 

Altogether, Lin’s installation achieves her goal of encouraging viewers to question our present, rethink our future, and find a new understanding of the world around us.

Candice Lin’s Seeping, Rotting, Resting, Weeping will be installed at the Walker Art Center until January 2nd, 2022.