Natural History: A Half-Eaten Portrait, an Unrecognizable Landscape, a Still, Still Life
January 25 – March 26, 2020
The exhibition will comprise a full-scale ceramic representation of Candice Lin reclining with her future cat. Lin’s monumental ceramic sculpture references the history of clay sarcophagi, specifically the Etruscan terracotta funerary sculptures from the 9th through 2nd centuries BCE, famously life-sized and often featuring a man and a woman reclining together. Renowned for their naturalistic representations of the human form, Etruscans practiced the tradition of interring the body, with animal companions or objects that held particular significance to the deceased, within a sarcophagus. Lin imagines housing her own decomposing body and that of the cat that she lives with at the time of her death within this sculptural memento mori. In addition to exploring ideas around mortality and interment, Lin’s installation considers existence and futurity from a post-human perspective by linking the longevity of clay—the life-span of fired ceramics can be thousands of years—with other organic life-cycles. Like historical sarcophagi, where the outstretched limbs of the figures would have once held vessels containing foods or precious objects, Lin’s sculpture will portray her and her cat accompanied by vessels containing preserved plants, seeds, and minerals.
Complementing the life-size sarcophagus (self-portrait of Lin and her cat), are a series of illuminated glass aquariums, set onto metal stands. Mimicking museological display cases, these vitrines house colonies of Dermestid “flesh-eating” beetles, which will consume a series of works resembling human bones. These objects have been fabricated from a commercial meat-paste substitute combined with Lin’s own dried skin and fingernails. Used in museums for cleaning bones and carcasses for display and research, these carnivorous insects have been employed by Lin to suggest an effective interspecies collaboration—a subject that underpins much of Lin’s practice. By cultivating this family of beetles, which over generations will learn to survive and thrive on this diet, Lin creates a sub-population predisposed to thrive while her own body decays. Requiring constant caretaking, and the harvesting of her own skin, these beetles serve as active reminders of our mortality.
The materials used by Lin are part of her ongoing research into the histories of colonial trade objects such as porcelain, silk, opium, abortifacient plants, poisons, and cochineal in relation to discourses around whiteness, exoticism, race, and othering. While earlier works focused on the acquisition and exploitation of non-Western botanical and biological processes, this exhibition examines the institutional framing by museums of historical artefacts and organic material—be they sarcophagi or body parts—through their collection and display technologies and by doing so reveals how these systems configure knowledge.
Thursday, Feb 20, 1:45 p.m.
Artist lecture, co-hosted by Ceramics department and Pitzer College Art Galleries
Thursday, February 27 1:45 p.m.
Candice Lin in conversation with Kyla Wazana Tompkins, professor of English and Gender and Women’s Studies at Pomona College