MICHAEL LINOne of 15 pedicabs roaming outside the exhibition “Locomotion” at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Manila, 2016. Featured on the tarpaulin is the print design from Lin’s painting Dragon’s Fury (2016). Courtesy the artist.


Michael Lin

Taiwan Philippines
Also available in:  Chinese  Arabic

Bright flowers, bike peddlers and brash flagpoles come together in a playful and interactive show by Michael Lin, set in the stunning space of Manila’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Design (MCAD). Curated by MCAD director Joselina Cruz, “Locomotion” is a visual journey that involves exchanges between the museum and its surrounding neighborhood. In his numerous exhibitions, Lin’s installations have been at the nexus of public space and art, often involving monumental interpretations of traditional textile prints from his native Taiwan. Such was the case for “Locomotion,” Lin’s first solo show in Southeast Asia, for which he wrapped the generous walls of MCAD in bright flowered prints.

For the exhibition, Lin has also extended the floral motif beyond the confines of the gallery, presenting his prints in the form of tarpaulin covers on pedicabs, a popular form of transport in Manila. In MCAD’s main gallery space, the flower motif is further reproduced across the surfaces of 240 low wooden stools—ubiquitous on Southeast Asian sidewalks—in Untitled Gathering, Manila (all works 2016). The stools are a giant puzzle, assembled and disassembled by each visitor interaction, creating ever new interpretations of the otherwise static wall print. Along the center of the ground floor, three flag poles (Barangay 752, Barangay 733 and Barangay 730) showcase checkered patchworks made from the original tarpaulins of the redecorated pedicabs. Meanwhile, three new pedicabs outfitted with Lin’s prints—Dominga, Singalong and Arellano—are also on display on the museum’s mezzanine level.

The exhibition’s venue, MCAD, is housed in the De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde’s School of Design and Arts in Malate, where streets overflow with students by day and light up with go-go bars by night. For a collaborative installation, Lin reached out to three neighborhood barangays, which is the smallest governance unit in the Philippines. An avid biker, Lin invited pedicab drivers registered with each of the three barangays to exchange their respective vehicle’s tarpaulin covers with those made from his prints. Each barangay was given one of three versions of the flower print, which, at the museum, are also spread across the gallery walls and windows: a yellow-and-white base with flower and leaf contours (Autumn Gold); a version of the first with added tropical colors of orange, green and red (Deep Ravine); and finally a combination of the two flourished with white details of flower pistils and leaf veins (Dragon’s Fury). Also, embroideries and drawings taken from the pedicabs’ old tarps have been transformed into three large checkered banners. Filipino pedicab drivers are known for outfitting their rides with motifs from pop culture and religious iconography, such as Mickey Mouse, a marijuana leaf or the Virgin Mary. Presented on flagpoles, the banners, one for each barangay, create art out of the pedicab drivers’ decorative practice.

While Lin has worked in the past with a Tokyo-based architecture studio as well as Shanghainese construction workers in realizing his projects, he further blurs the boundaries between art and public space in this Malate community collaboration. On a daily basis since the exhibition’s opening, the massive steel garage door of the museum has dramatically rolled up to let pedicab drivers into the gallery space. “I saw that large garage door opening into the gallery and couldn’t resist the idea,” Lin explained to ArtAsiaPacific. “It was the perfect bridge to the outside world.” The pedicabs circulate around the gallery space, pick up visitors and exit through a parking lot into the busy city streets. “For many pedicab drivers, this was their first time entering the museum, a contemporary building which looms large in this neighborhood,” said curator Cruz. This initiative represents a loosening of artistic control for Lin, as his work not only leaves the exhibition space in the form of pedicabs, but also evolves over time, as the drivers will no doubt personalize the artist’s flowered patterns. In this bright and inclusive show, encounters of all kinds take place, between the museum and the street, visual art and craftsmanship, and among visitors, passengers and cyclists—who make the artwork their own experience.