Triumph, 2009 (video still), video, 15:45 minutes, sound, courtesy of the artist
The origin of Lin Yilin's performance-based photographic project is in an event he witnessed in 2006 in a city in South China; an event which shocked him deeply: A young man walked down the street, his hand cuffed to his ankle. A plain clothes police officer walked behind him. The man was apparently caught, just a short time earlier, committing an offence, and the policeman was escorting him into custody. The cruelty of the scene shook Yilin, and he decided to reenact the walk. He did it twice: once in Beijing and again in Paris. In each of the cities the handcuffed walk stirred different responses: In Beijing people watched the hunched man in horror; in Paris, most of the spectators were indifferent to the scene, as if it was a routine event.
The walk in Paris, along the straight line of the Champs Élysées toward the Arc de Triomphe, gains symbolic meaning which is related both to the city and its history, and to the encounter between East and West: the straight line of the modern city absorbs the hunched Asian man into itself as if it were simply another exotic street act. Ostensibly, everything is overpowered by the straight line that leads safely to the Arc de Triomphe, which glorifies the French Revolution and Napoleon's victories. But when looking at the pictures, it seems that the troubling presence of the handcuffed man does, nonetheless, manage to crack something in the straight and trusting complacency of the most beautiful of cities, and in one of the most famous and attractive avenues of the free and democratic West.
Born in China, 1964; lives and works in New York and Beijing