Upcoming Show: Username or Password Incorrect at The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
San Jose, California
Feb 22-June 21, 2020
The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) will present a solo exhibition of work by the Beijing- and New York-based contemporary Chinese artist Lin Jingjing. Username or Password Incorrect will showcase new and past multimedia work from Lin’s projects Take Off, Lov-Lov, and A New Dawn For America.
Take Off adopts a methodology of paradox, discussing the intrinsic uncertainty, repressed anxieties and the loss of individuality in contemporary society. The title refers to the structure of the exhibition itself which will transform the gallery space into an international Imagined airport in the imagined nation of the People's Republic of Dreamland (PRD). Elaborating on a theory established by the French anthropologist Marc Augé (1935-), Lin Jingjing explores the current and future ramifications of airports and their facilities as "Non-Places," where identity as an independent individual becomes utterly insignificant. She submerges audiences into her absurdist and imagined future airport where, despite extravagances and leaps in technology, troubling reflections on our current world are laid bare.
Through a carefully weaved series of connections, artworks function in relation to one another and collectively produce a powerfully critical narrative.
Arrival and Departure boards are LED displays that show laden words such as “commitment” and “collusion” commenting on current issues in society, as well as the human emotions they engender, such as “fear” and “frustration”. The artist says, “Our emotions are in flux, just as they are on the boards as they appear, disappear and reappear and in their random sequence, they remain linked, and cross the boundary between reality and our states of mind.”
The boards, with the deluge of changing information, is ultimately a commentary about the uneasy, unpredictable state of the world we live in today, and how we struggle to make sense of what is going on. In the artist’s statement about the work, she notes: “Incredulous political speech has diminished our ability to discern between right and wrong, and the ever escalating threat of war has undermined our trust in the possibility of peace. We have lost our cultural identities, and have become anxious and confused about the security of our respective homelands.”
‘Take Off’ pushes the viewer to think about their own disquieting experiences at the airport as a reflection of super modern living, exposing overly optimistic portrayals of reality by bringing to the surface feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and loss of individuality in society today. “The technological advancements have a multi-faceted impact on our lives, with some industries made redundant forever, and with big data, there are some capabilities that are being abused or allowed to become stronger in a limitless way, and engenders a debate about one’s identity, rights, privacy,” says the artist. “Whether our future is something to be excited about, or to be feared and deeply concerned about, we have to rethink the meaning of human existence and where it’s going.”
The materials that Lin uses help to convey her ideas as well. The title work Username or Password Incorrect is made up of 50 passports represented by real covers from different countries. “The purpose of the passport is to prove the holder’s identity, in particular the legality of the identity, its recognition and its traceability. It needs to indicate friendliness and prove that the holder is not a dangerous person in order that he or she is allowed to pass through customs,” says Lin.
Marble has been chosen for its representative characteristics. “Marble is heavy, cold, untraceable, unmovable, even uncooperative,” state Lin. “Using marble to recreate passports is a form of extreme paradox, to present how one’s identity is in real terms, not provable and distinguishable from the next in today’s society where the individual has essentially been erased. There is no better metaphor than in the hordes of visitors at customs who become faceless strangers to the officer as they get processed to be given or denied entry into the country.”
“The purpose of the passport is to prove the holder’s identity, in particular the legality of the identity, its recognition and its traceability. It needs to indicate friendliness and prove that the holder is not a dangerous person in order that he or she is allowed to pass through customs,” says the artist.
The artist has chosen marble for its representative characteristics. “Marble is heavy, cold, untraceable, unmovable, even uncooperative,” says the artist. “Using marble to recreate passports is a form of extreme paradox, to present how one’s identity is in real terms, not provable and distinguishable from the next in today’s society where the individual has essentially been erased. There is no better metaphor than in the hordes of visitors at customs who become faceless strangers to the officer as they get processed to be given or denied entry into the country.”
A quietly terrifying component of the show is the advertisement for a completely fabricated, but not unimaginably powerful mobile phone application. Presented as a light-box identical to ones found in airports across the world, Superzoom publicizes an app that is highly recommended by—and in fact produced by—the PRD government. It promises to assist an individual with quicker passage through customs and to make new friends as well as business connections. However, this is achieved only at the cost of forfeiting the entirety of your private information. Through Superzoom Lin makes it clear that although the information age has allowed access to incredible new experiences, it also has exposed our personal information unreservedly, making it easy for private information to be stolen and violated, rendering the individual defenseless.
In response to Superzoom there is a more discretely presented advertisement for an app called Perfect ID. Produced by a company called My Quality Life LLC, Perfect ID is a crack for the Superzoom app. It prevents monitoring and forges relevant information to compromise attempts at data gathering. It promises to provide technology that disrupts Superzoom at any time. However, as the app interferes with government attempts to gather information, My Quality Life LLC must not advertise their app explicitly. They are forced to publicize in more subtle ways and this includes sponsoring public service advertising.
There are public service advertisements sponsored by My Quality Life LLC, the advert appears to encourage positive social thinking, yet it is also a veiled criticism of the Superzoom app. Once viewers piece together that the promotional message is linked with Perfect ID, they realize that the system at work is similar to the commercial interests and ideals of our current social reality, where despite clear rules and cultural understandings, there is a long standing series of unspoken rules that govern business and politics.
The largest artwork in the show is comprised of twelve colorful, transparent, and hollow boxes made of acrylic glass that are arranged in a line to form a row of rainbow-like colors. Titled This Is the Beginning of My Desperation, the boxes have texts from twelve self-help and motivational books cut out of their fronts and backs. The text includes the names of the books, authors, and publishing houses, as well as attractive promotional messages. Referencing the astounding quantity of self-help publications produced, Lin prompts viewers to contemplate the extent to which we yearn for joy and happiness, and to also consider the deep helplessness many feel. The urgent nature of the texts on the colorful boxes and the emptiness of the boxes themselves form a paradox that Lin Jingling hopes exposes larger ideas regarding contemporary society and identity.