A Different Light: Candice Lin's Sensual Elsewhere

Questioning the way that we interact with violent colonial histories at Portikus, Frankfurt

‘A Hard White Body, a Soft White Worm’, Candice Lin’s solo exhibition at Portikus, drops us into a sensual elsewhere, the space dim, humid and heavy with the odour of vegetation. We are, it seems, underwater: a dark plastic sheet marked with floral motifs stretches overhead, while another shimmers beneath projected lights, like the surface of the sea. Throughout the space are several low-rise archipelagos of bricks, wood and cardboard. Lit by faint bulbs, they function as makeshift display platforms for texts, objects, fluids, organisms and other materials associated with colonial history.

On one such display, an underlined passage in an open book reads: ‘Life in that room seemed to be occurring underwater.’ The extract is from James Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room (1956), which revolves around precarity, social alienation and the politics of race, class and sexuality. Baldwin’s text inspired this show’s previous iteration, which was presented at Bétonsalon in Paris last year, and included a bed of unfired porcelain (A Hard White Body, 2017). Porcelain sustains Lin’s interest in multilayered inscriptions of colonial legacy, attached as it is to a history of exoticism, Western desire and global trade. 

web_candice_lin05.jpg

Candice Lin, 2018, installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt. Courtesy: Portikus, Frankfurt; photograph: Helena Schlichting

This bed re-emerges at Portikus, although here it has been fired, broken into pieces and scattered. Its hard, white body is now fragmented, thereby conjuring the longing and loss of Baldwin’s novel, as well as the fear of a life that will never comprise a whole. Within this same display is a drawing, Here They Drown Algerians (2017), based on a photograph of graffiti scrawled on the St Michel Bridge in Paris, which denounces the bloody repression of peaceful Algerian demonstrations in 1961. Amid the ambiance of the show, such affinities of intimate, isolated questioning and covert violence appear even more suffocating.

Other characters are summoned through texts, drawings and objects, such as Jeanne Baret: expert botanist, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe and another who, like Baldwin, was entangled in complex negotiations of power. A draft text, co-written by Baldwin and Bobby Seale in 1975, proposes the publication of a ‘fantastic, analytical, almost blasphemous dialogue’ on topics connected to black liberation, women’s liberation, sexuality and pan-Africanism. Despite his politically active role, Baldwin was dismissed by the Black Panther Party for his homosexuality. Baret, in turn, was forced to borrow identity and dress as a man, as women were forbidden from boarding French naval ships. Her botanical knowledge was overshadowed by that of fellow botanist Philibert Commerson, both her employer and lover.

web_candice_lin06-b.jpg

Candice Lin, 2018, installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt. Courtesy: Portikus, Frankfurt; photograph: Helena Schlichting

Lin questions the way that we interact with the past, something visualized by the video The Beloved (2017), which comprises images captured by the artist in various museums. History, here, is usurped by speculation, and additional components further stretch the potential of the exhibition as an apparatus to produce new genealogies. In one corner, a detox herbal tea is boiling, linking the idea of purity of body to race and class. Silkworms, another colonial good that in the 19th century fell victim to a disease that threatened to destroy one of the major French industries, crawl everywhere, raising a whole ecosystem that is in need of constant maintenance.

Lin places a high level of importance upon cycles, accentuating constant exchange between environments and bodies while simultaneously forbidding hierarchies and classifications. ‘People are out there today,’ reads an exhibited text, which goes on to claim that a drowning body will never make it to the seafloor intact, as it will be eaten and processed, again and again. While such exchanges might prove as perilous as they are potentially supportive, presented here, within Lin’s world of questioning, they bring solace. They suggest that, in spite of everything, dominant structures will continue to be challenged; that speculative thinking will forever represent a sensual elsewhere within which we can assess things in a different light.

'Candice Lin: A Hard White Body, a Soft White Worm' in on view at Portikus, Frankfurt until 8 April.

Main image: Candice Lin, 2018, installation view, Portikus, Frankfurt. Courtesy: Portikus, Frankfurt; photograph: Helena Schlichting

Viktoria Draganova is an author and curator living between Frankfurt and Sofia, where she is the director of the project space Swimming Pool.

Issue 194

First published in Issue 194

April 2018

Most Read

The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
The punk activist-artists have been charged with disruption after they charged the field during the France vs Croatia...
27 educators are taking the London gallery to an employment tribunal, demanding that they be recognized as employees
In further news: Glasgow School of Art to be rebuilt; Philadelphia Museum of Art gets a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant
Highlights from Condo New York 2018 and Commonwealth and Council at 47 Canal: the summer shows to see
Knussen’s music laid out each component as ‘precarious, vulnerable, exposed’ – and his conducting similarly worked from...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018