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Sculpture: Plastic, Gundam, canvas on Plastic, Canvas.
The exchange and offset of symbols
- On Chun-Pin, Lin’s series of symbol operation with Gundam model party
Written by Sheng-hwa, Cheng
藝術家林俊彬近年來擅長以鋼彈模型零件為素材，幾乎原封不動地（以美術史的用語就是「現成物」（Ready-made, 或 found object）的概念），將這些材料予以重新組裝，但重組的結果並不是鋼彈模型，而是經典名畫、市場商標、漫畫或著名景點等等富含文化象徵的圖像。本文主要以他這系列的作品為對象，試論其背後的創作意涵與其衍生的思考。
In recent years, artist Chun-Pin, Lin takes Gundam model parts as base material, and reassemble such materials (in history of arts terminology, the concept of ‘ready-made’ or ‘found’ objects) without putting much changes into such model parts. The results of such actions are not reassembled as Gundam models, but images of cultural symbols such as classic paintings, market logos, comics or famous attractions. This article will focus on this series of works, and explore the meaning and philosophy behind his unique creations.
How are ‘ready-made objects’ used?
It is easy to see that Lin’s series is created by using Gundam model parts as paints. The sequences of the original materials (aka the original system of symbols) are removed and reconstructed, organized and configurated. In fact, the so-called painting, is also a way of configuration and arrangement of paints. However, such an explanation is not always completely accurate.
First, paints are regarded as some sort of a neutral or transparent media. The existence of which is to respond to the emotions and intentions of creators. The configuration of paints can thus only be regarded as the final collective results; However, the particularity of Lin’s Gundam model parts are deliberately preserved, which include the original molding, colors and textures, etc. According to Lin, such preservation is meaningful for the form of creation by presenting the symbol of these Gundam model parts as carriers of their original cultural symbols for their original form. The referential relationship between the two systems of the new symbol and the original symbol is the main clue for the understanding of the series of work.
Second, the reorganization of paints is generally deemed results of artists’ display of creativity; However, in Lin’s case, instead of creating, he merely converted a cultural symbol (Gundam model parts) into another symbol. The differences between the two cases lay in the fact that the former aims to create a new image, while the latter aims to mimic an existing image.
For these reasons, the Gundam model parts in Lin’s works shall not be considered equal to paints in paintings. Therefore, to understand Lin’s series of works, one must not decode which with only a formalistic approach, in which the deeper meaning of such series would only go amiss. However, it must be recognized that what is special about Lin is not that he is the first artist to create using Gundam model parts, but that he is the first artist to bring the potential of Gundam model parts to its fullest. The unique characteristics of model parts are given an alternative twist in his works (such as ‘Fake mountain landscape that surpassed the reality’ and ‘Montage mountain landscape’), and the meticulous design and diverse color are what makes his works attractive to viewers.
The artist view Gundam model parts as a symbol by intention. Through his works, Lin connect such symbol with other cultural symbols. For example, he reconstructs Japanese Gundam model parts into classic images of the history of arts, or pop culture logos of the USA. Such an act not only recognizes the material itself as a symbol, but also preserves the relationship between the material and the symbol system of the symbol at the same time, as well as the active ideology within.
Apparently, the artist understands that the preservation of the symbol (or material) is also the embezzlement of the overall system of which. By refuting one with its own way, the actual presentation of the two different cultural symbols, or ideologies, clashes with the dialectical image, thereby making the seemingly normal and familiar objects ‘problematic’.
The necessary cost
The axis of capitalism is mass production and the consumption that follows. Pure consumption, not those unrelated to practicability, necessity, and the maintenance of life, or even those for entertainment and stimulation of desires. Today, the highest form of consumption is glamorous but purposeless consumption, such as the creation and fanaticism of imaginary images, strongest link by empty reference, and mass asexual reproduction of infertile livings.
Gundam and its models, are a form of consumption simulation. Gundam models are born for the fate of mass production and replication, but also represents a ‘new icon’ of joyful, mysterious and magical powers.
華麗耗費的邏輯完全體現在林俊彬的創作過程中，為了這系列的作品，藝術家向日本原廠訂購了上千盒不同等級的鋼彈模型零件，主要是HG（High Grade：高級）與RG（Real Grade：擬真級）等級，（請注意，不同等級的區分意味著另一個優位次序，同時模型零件的分色與組件細節會因為等級而有所不同）每盒約五百到八百元新台幣。也就是說，光材料費就高達至少六十萬元左右。當然，如果就上流社會的消費標準來看，這個金額並不算太高，然而真正的揮霍的是，這些零組件不用在「正常」的目的，而是拼湊成無目的性的華麗耗費。
The concept of glamorous consumption can be easily found in Lin’s creative process. For the series of works, the artist ordered thousands of boxes of Gundam model parts of different levels from the Japanese manufacturer. These parts mainly belong to the HG (High Grade) and RG (Real Grade) level (please note that the differentiation of different levels implies the presence of another priority order, as the color differentiation and details of model parts may differentiate for the different levels). Each box cost around NTD 500 to 800, which means that the material fee of the series alone may reach at least around NTD 600 thousand. Nonetheless, by standards of upper-class consumption, NTD 600 thousand is not much. However, the squandering fact behind such glamorous consumption is that these parts are not used for a ‘normal’ purpose, but for purposeless patchworks.
It is true that real consumption shall not be determined by its price, but by the sense of rebellion and damage for an excessive scale of which. ‘Consumption’ breaks down existing rules for operation, destroy original function and goal, leaving cracks in traditional mindsets for one to realize the existence of another possibility. From which, men may peek into the limits of life, and experience another world.
Since ancient time, limitless glamorous consumption is not only a way for human to reach sacredness, but also one of the many things that capitalism is good at, as the two share many similarities.
Sculpturing, or ‘de-sculpturing’
Lin’s series of works is a seemingly effortless, casual and consumption entertaining hunt of symbols. In fact, it arises out of serious consideration of the nature of art.
Having graduated from the Department of Sculpture, Lin is familiar with threads of thoughts of the history of arts. The series of works also originates from creative experiences upon reconsideration of the essences of sculptures. If the so-called sculpture refers to the ‘addition’ (engraving) and ‘removal’ (sculpting) an artist inflicts upon a certain material, then Lin sets out to answer traditional sculpture propositions in the ‘de-sculpturing’ approach. In other words, it may also refer to ‘sculpturing’ without additions or removals to the material. For which, Lin mentioned a previous key work by him. He came across and purchased many copies of African sculptures one day. He then dissembled the batch into scraps, and reassembled which into an ‘engraved’ and ‘sculpted’ sculpture without having to add or remove parts of the original material.
From the ‘de-sculpturing’ approach, Lin came to think outside of the box of stereotypical sculptures. His later creations were no longer limited by material, category and classification. He even took part in various forms of creative arts such as performance arts and documentations in very early stages of his career.
However, in consideration of his background and source of creative thinking, we may further review his more recent series of works. At first glance, the Gundam parts series of works are simulations of two-dimensional images. However, examining which from a fundamental point of view, we may realize that all these works are three-dimensional. The artist reassembles and uses these model parts in consideration of not only the colors of materials, but also the three-dimensional modelling of which (which is often what Lin is most passionate about). In fact, these model parts are not in two-dimensional to begin with. Even if his works are only copies of Van Gogh’s paintings (such as ‘Van Gogh’s battlefield in sunflowers’, ‘Van Gogh’s battlefield in the starry sky’, etc.), Lin would first expand the originally two-dimensional painting into a three-dimensional space with embossed-like effects, or should we say, sculpturing effects. The transition from a two-dimensional plane to a three-dimensional space, and the conversion of the connection of one symbol to another symbol system, is the essence of arts Lin explores upon reconsideration. It is also the problematic field of symbol translation.
Conclusion: The constantly self-imitating fractal symbol
Overall, maybe the subject for hunt and imitation by artist Jun-bin, Lin, is not the simple existing object, image or cultural logo, but the mode of operation of the consumer society and the operating logic behind capitalism, including simulations, replications, attributes, the relationship between production and consumption, etc. These are the fundamental elements of the whole Gundam model parts series of works. It can be concluded that the borrowing and imitation of images can be easily achieved, while the unseen framework for thinking is often inappreciable.
Gundam models are excellent medias for the idea of creation. The artist chose to take Gundam model parts as materials not for his frantic passion towards Gundam, but for the necessity and awareness of creation as they present a lingering sense of capitalist consumption. From the creation point of view, the series of works reflect upon the disabled problem of modern consumer society through constant simulation and imitation. Or in other words, through squandering of excessive consumption, the artist tries to create a form of termination of functions, offset of meanings, and self-disintegration of symbols.
According to fractal theories, every self-imitating fractal may present the overall form. In other words, every Gundam model part holds the potential overall form of the consumer society. In the transaction and connection of fractals and cultural symbols, as well as in the breathtaking illusion of a new icon, not only the theories of consumer culture are emphasized, even the easily neglected potential problems are magnified.
Size: 52 W x 55.9 H x 12.6 in