Candice Lin

Candice Lin (b. 1979 Concord, MA) is an artist based in Los Angeles, CA. Candice received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2004, and her BFA from Brown University in 2001. Lin’s work has been shown at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy, and Matter of Art Biennale, Prague, Czech Republic among many other group exhibitions. Candice has had solo exhibitions at Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA; Spike Island, Bristol, UK; Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and many others. 
October 17, 2023
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Tell us about your practice.
In my practice, I am driven by my curiosity about materials—their history, how they are used, and how they are produced. I continually keep myself engaged in creative exploration by acquiring new material skills, which often lead me to jump down rabbit holes. For example, my research into lithium, a salt utilized in ceramic glazing and medicine, as well as an ingredient in contemporary battery production and other electronic industrial products, got me to experiment with blending and testing new ceramic glazes while delving into the historical applications of lithium in the medical, scientific, and industrial sectors. This exploration has led me to my current research into other minerals that are mined, extracted, and employed in ceramics, such as cobalt and manganese. In the past, I explored dye materials like cochineal and indigo, delving into various dyeing techniques and delving into the histories of these insects and plants, along with how they were processed, and traded; and the colonial and plantation economies they fostered through their production.
The exhibition was inspired by a story that you have written, which has recently been published by Triple Canopy. Can you share a bit about the process of moving from the written text to creating the physical installation?
I try to push back on my tendency to be too literal and illustrative in translating imagery from the story, which came first in this case, into the physical objects in the installation. However, there are moments where such a direct translation occurs, as seen in the textiles and animations, which depict illustrative scenes from the story. Other aspects of the story are more mood-driven and are evoked in the installation through lighting, sound, and tactile sensations.
How has the theme of surveillance in manufacturing and labor been explored in your work and within this exhibition or short story?
Contemplating power dynamics, visibility, and one’s involvement within these systems are elements I explore in my installations. This exploration doesn’t always take the form of something as explicit as a surveillance platform. In an older work from 2017, “A Hard White Body/un corps blanc exquis,” the windows were blacked out with silhouette drawings and white powder, with small windows for viewing the show from outside. In the first window, you could observe a urinal and sometimes could peep at someone pissing there, generously contributing their urine to the installation. This urine was then distilled and used to create mist, maintaining the moisture of the porcelain sculpture of a bedroom. This piece primarily revolved around the communal effort of preserving marginalized archives and stories in circulation. It also delved into the idea that acts of storytelling can simultaneously involve both minor destruction and creation. Without the intimacy and participation of the visitors, the piece would dry out and crack.
Another work, System for a Stain (2016), had certain colonial goods that were part of the trade between the Americas, England, and Asia – porcelain, cochineal, tea, sugar, etc. – circulating in a fluid basin surrounded by sculptures and distilling and fermenting apparatuses. In another room not visible from the first room where this system sculpture boiled, fermented, distilled, and pumped a blood red liquid, this liquid was slowly seeping out drip by drip and creating a big stain. In some later installations of this work, the stain was visible only at the other end of the whole exhibition. But conceptually, the stain is always separate visually from the system part of the sculpture and speaks to the ways that power separates our awareness and connection with the labor that produces our daily lives as liberal, “free” subjects and consumers. 
Can you speak on the significance of lithium in the context of the exhibition?
In the context of my narrative and installation, lithium serves as a time-traveling device that bridges the gap between the realm of demons and that of humans. It has the ability to slow down time for humans and speed it up for demons, enabling them, usually coexisting in the same space but separated by distinct temporal dimensions, to suddenly see each other. This phenomenon, where both entities mutually ingest lithium, is referred to as demonic possession. According to the demons’ theory, lithium, being a mineral salt, acts as a conduit for translating life force energy into material form. This is akin to how gasoline is derived from the ancient decayed remains of plants, plankton, and sea animals, which have undergone metamorphosis under the earth’s pressure and heat. 
My fascination with ceramics is deeply rooted in the way it seamlessly blends the mythological and the scientific. I find it endlessly interesting to contemplate the transformation of living beings into these supposedly inanimate forms of stone or oil, which we then harness to give life into modern existence. 
The workstations within the installation are designed to resemble pseudo-lithium battery assembly workstations, drawing inspiration from photos of actual lithium battery factory workstations and the items found on them. The ceramic “computers” on these workstations are coated with a custom-made glaze rich in lithium, specifically crafted for this installation.
The exhibition, Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory, is a co-commission between Canal Projects and the 14th Gwangju Biennale. How did the initial exhibition at the Gwangju Biennial inform the current exhibition at Canal Projects?
The installation at Canal Projects is an expanded version of the “Lithium Sex Demons in the Factory” installation that was previously featured in Gwangju. At Canal Projects, we had the opportunity to construct the manager’s platform as a self-supporting structure, enabling me to approach it more as a monumental, architecturally scaled sculpture. This allowed us to establish the atmosphere of the red-lit underworld, where offerings to the demons are presented beneath the manager’s platform, and to fully develop it as an immersive space that visitors can enter and spend time in.
What has been inspiring you?
Mostly I am too tired and overworked to be inspired, but in preparing for my ceramics classes I get very fascinated thinking about other types of experiments I want to do in the ceramics lab. Right now I’ve been looking into modifying paper and textile marbling techniques into the medium of clay. I am also looking at ways clay, plant ash, stones, and metals can be melted and combined with the heat of the kiln.

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