Nobody Knows I was There,Nobody Knows I was not There: Public Memory No.1 


by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine)

Lin Jingjing’s work “Public Memory ″ is an impressive panel of 88 photographs, each one measuring 46 by 38 centimeters (18 by 14 3/8 inches).  The photos themselves resemble black and white prints of familiar moments throughout one’s life, from current events to film stills, with various solid colors poured in to wash out the whitespace.  From afar, the piece serves as a collective, somewhat blurred compilation of famous memories stored in one’s head, shaken out onto a large canvas for visual consumption.

A closer look, however, reveals a modern-day Impressionist twist, as select portions of photographic subjects are actually neatly stitched through with thread, obscured by tiny dashes forming horizontal lines.  They represent the idea of how the public recalls, visualizes and even distorts memories over time, and that those fleeting events eventually succumb to color blindness and loss of detail.  Internet immortality aside, there is a bit of a chilling realization when one deduces that this inability to remember 100 percent of publicly-known events could also figure into private personal experiences as time passes.

Nobody Knows I was There,Nobody Knows I was not There: Public Memory No.2  1620 x 405 cm     2015 de Sarthe Gallery, Beijing


Nobody Knows I was there, Nobody Knows I was not There: Private Memory                       Installation   2009


Nobody Knows I was There,Nobody Knows I was not There: Public Memory(details)


Mizhuang: I’ve noticed that in some of your installations from 2008 and 2009 you used a large amount of film photographs. Is there a certain intent behind this?

Lin: Yes. I really like the texture and material properties of film photographs, especially those that have a bit of age. The passage of time yellows them, warps the colors and damages them. Cracks, folds, fingerprints, stains and moisture change them beyond recognition; moments in time become ashes.

Mizhuang: That’s right. I noticed that you used this particular type of photograph in your installation work “Nobody know I was there , Nobody knows I was not there : Private Memory " . Whose photographs are these?

Lin: These are family photographs, including pictures of my great grandparents, my brothers, my grandparents and my parents’ family members. The photographs span from 1900 to 2000, a century of private photographs.


Mizhuang: I distinctly remember my impressions from seeing this work in the exhibition hall. The exhibition space was very large, and I spotted it from across the room. From afar, my first impression was that it was expansive and poetic, but as I approached it and took in the details, I suddenly tensed up and felt a tingling sensation. I saw all life within those empty outlines, encompassing myself, my family, my sadness and perplexity.

Lin: A photograph is very fragile, yet these fragile carrier bears the weight of infinite meaning.

It is fleeting, yet it serves as the most irrefutable evidence of a certain form of existence;

It is extant evidence, yet it is vanishing evidence;

It affirms a gathering but alludes to parting;

It stores memories and cherishes the past but it also brings injury;

It relieves loneliness and also increases it;

It reminds us of our connections to the past and to others, while also reminding us of the impossibility of connecting with the past and with others;

It chooses our viewing method, yet it does not see our viewing method;

It is touching and yet untouched;

It provides both comfort and discomfort; it is both urgent and indefinite;

It explains the self but is not of the self;

It inserts impossibility and unfamiliarity within the real and familiar; behind that which is not real lays the unobservable truth;

It has powerful virtual authority; it documents and witnesses the ruthlessness of time and the impermanence of life;

It reminds us of the unavoidability of loss, the incurability of suffering; with a sincere profound suffering, it gathers all the scattered people;

From Urgent and Indefinite: the method of paradox    Interview with Mi Zhuang

Nobody Knows I was there, Nobody Knows I was not There: CCTV News    2009

Mizhuang: In your work, the paradox formed by ‘presence’ and ‘absence’ gives viewers a powerful mental contrast.

In the work " Nobody knows i was there, Nobody knows I was not there : CCTV News " is from the same series, are the hundreds of photographs from the news?

Lin: Yes, they are all news photographs from CCTV.

I have done much thinking about the concept of ‘news’. One day when I was 30, I was watching the CCTV daily news broadcast, and I suddenly came to the realization that the world does not belong to me, or to anyone for that matter. The world does not and cannot belong to anyone.

In news, there doesn’t have to be any connection between one second and the next. It is in these absurd, seemingly unconnected moments that the world itself becomes connected. If a person’s life is understood through connecting with others, and if this only connection becomes exceedingly strange, then what kind of understanding will result?

Through years of education, Marxism has taught me that human development is inevitable, but every news event I see seems to be completely by chance.

Always at the moment we’re least prepared, the news uses very calm tones to speak of the most terrifying disasters.

This is just like the ruthlessness of life. Who is prepared for the moment when they lose a loved one?

In front of the news, we all become survivors, witnesses to violence, tragedy and disaster. Behind every disaster there is a greater disaster. Each instance of suffering eventually becomes a record of numbers. Every journalist who has reported on a disaster or tragedy moves on to waiting for and discovering the next disaster or tragedy. Who has time to linger on yesterday’s tragedy, even the shocking news from a second ago?

Have you noticed? News reports are so short in every corner of the world, as if the reporters have all undergone the same exact training. It makes us accept tragedy with familiarity, just as we accept celebrations. The news anticipates celebrations and tragedies in the same way, not even placing one before the other. They are watched together by countless viewers before rapidly disappearing, as if they never happened.

Compared to ‘what is happening now’, things like ‘what we have to say’ and ‘what we say’ seem much more important.

Disasters are like culture; they are something we share. This is geography in the truest sense.

Mizhuang: Perhaps our problem is that we don’t know ‘what we have to say’ or even ‘what we can say’.

Lin: Right. On the one hand, it is modern industrial civilization’s endless pursuit of the material, and on the other hand it is the ‘objectification’ of people caused by modern civilization. Materialism has expanded mankind’s interference with the environment beyond its limits, leading to ecological paralysis. The ‘objectification’ of people leads mankind deep into a crisis of meaning.

Massive changes in social ideology and the rise of the internet have led us to separate ‘life’ from the living world. Another side of ‘objectification’ is that it has caused us to separate ‘love’ from the object of our love. Each individual in modern society is haplessly and totally controlled by commercial society, emerging as consumer products which are produced, packaged and sold on a massive scale.

What is the essence of the consumer product? It has been replaced and discarded. Therefore, ‘objectified’ people live in constant fear of ‘falling behind and being discarded’.

Interactions between people have turned into exchanges between objects.

As consumption grows more opulent and diverse, people in an ‘objectified’ society gain more in terms of such factors as self-value, spiritual sense of belonging and sex life, but our emotions grow increasingly empty. Modern civilization and society provide modern people with all kinds of illusory possibilities while misleading them about these possibilities. It provides a consumerist worldview but overturns consumer values. Cruelty can don a glamorous mask, while good intentions get pushed down the road of neglect.


Paradoxes are everywhere.

Mizhuang: That is true. Paradoxes are everywhere. In the installation work " Never Apart ", we see the illusion of coming together and the reality of isolation. Coming together is transient, while isolation is permanent. But the titles take us back to utopia.

Lin: I hope that my artwork can raise issues through paradox and dislocation methods, seeking out the real power of the self’s internal yearnings from the artificial interior of the artwork.

Mizhuang: Let’s return to " Nobody knows I was there, Nobody knows I was not there : CCTV News " . The closest, most central figure in the image is completely empty. It is the ‘self’ in the image, but in actuality, this ‘self’ can be any one of the indistinguishable people in the background. Just as in " Private Memory "  , the ‘self’ is not necessarily the artist. Likewise, in the installation work " I want to be with you forever ", the ‘self’ can be the one who is embracing an empty lover, or the empty, embraced ‘self’. ‘You’ can be a person, a country, an object, anything.

Lin: Right. As I see it, art is not about expressing self-experience. This is a very common misconception that people have about art. Art is the thinking that artists reach through their individual experiences. It is a question the artist raises to the self and to the world.

We don’t have to understand our lives or even ourselves, but I think that people must seek out the way in which their lives come together.

By discussing experience, apparently valuable thinking and content that embodies that thought can finally exist independently of the individual.

-- From Urgent and Indefinite: the method of paradox    Interview with Mi Zhuang

Nobody Knows I was there, Nobody Knows I was not There Project exhibited @

Songzhuang Art Museum,Beijing, China

White Box Art Museum, Beijing, China

3rd Biennale Italy-China , Dublin, Italy

Galerie Herold,Bremen, Germany

de Sarthe Gallery,Beijing

de Sarthe Gallery Hong Kong

Art Basel Hong Kong

Chile National Art Museum, Santiago, Chile