Interview via email with Deva Eveland translated by Jacques Qu
DE: What role does theatricality play in your work?
LL: In my work, the role of theatricality is to escape from reality. The social problems in China’s reality are everywhere and there is no way to avoid them. But I think excessive concern about social problems would harm the freedom and diversity of art. Nowadays many Chinese artists are hijacked by social problems. I hope to find in my art an approach of mythology and prophecy, which is linked to reality, too, but not without a proper distance.
DE: What about the grotesque?
LL: I don’t think my works are grotesque. All my works are from personal experiences in my real life. There experiences altogether form my creation. So there is no intention to be create something grotesque.
DE: Are the different parts of Savage Garden linked by a common theme or narrative? Or is each rabbit hole its own little world?
LL: Actually the eight boxes belong to the same theme, but it’s not obvious due to the loose arrangement in the expression. The theme is about the birth of a life and the confinement of the life by the social system, as well as the rebirth of a new life once the system collapses.
DE: Both Savage Garden and the piece with the school desks have an Alice in Wonderland-like quality. There's a rich interior world hidden behind a mundane façade. Can you discuss this?
LL: Many friends also say that this work looks like Alice In Wonderland. But when I first had the idea, it was like Decameron, expressing the same theme with various styles. I like giving people surprises. The appearance and the meaning of the work are in two completely different styles. Each box differs from all others in its style, but they are telling the same story. The peep from under the bed is the beginning of the story and the birth of a life. Mushrooms growing on the electric appliances are the end of a story, but also represent the rebirth of new lives.
DE: Your work has a lot of mushrooms growing out of it. What do they mean to you?
LL: Different from other plants, mushrooms contain a unique meaning. Normal plants get energy from the sunshine, but mushrooms get energy from the dark, so it is most suitable for the theme of death and rebirth.
DE: When I visited your studio, it was hard not to notice the shelves of neatly organized animal skulls and the plastic containers stuffed with little bones. When you work with them, do you have a sense of holding in your hand something that was once a living creature? Or does it become just like any kind of material a sculptor might use?
LL: In my eyes, they’re a material representing life and death. I don’t think too much about the lives that once inhabited in them.
DE: Is it awkward to purchase large numbers of cat and dog skulls? Do you have to explain what you’re doing with them?
LL: Actually I’m more passive in choosing animal bones. I use whatever I can find for my work, and I hope these bones are from dead animals.
DE: I think you mentioned you have done some of your own taxidermy, though we were communicating half in gestures due to the language difference. Is that right? If so, I want to know more!
LL: Probably it’s due to the language difference. I bought the bones from specialists of taxidermy. I don’t make them myself. But I did make the mushroom by myself.
DE: Your artist statement mentions that your work is more connected to concepts like dreams, the subconscious and mythology rather than social reality. What draws you to these fantastic themes?
LL: What I meant was I didn’t show social reality directly, but rather established the linkage between myself and reality through dreams, subconscious and mythology. The themes of my work originated from some very private experiences, and also some inspiration from movie scenes.
DE: I’d love to have dreams that take place in Savage Garden. Do you ever dream about your art?
LL: I guess I never did. To me, creation is a conscious process. Every scene is constructed through a lot of design work and experimentation.
Li Linlin can look deep into the microscopic world, such as mushrooms, to comprehend it. She does not look at the world only by the size of a single piece, but also by how they interrelate and how the shifting structures present continuously. That is the reason why she hopes to make a work about "different stories". The artists said, she likes to arrange a drama stage. However, everything that happened are all true. A play is an event, and you cannot assume one of them is illusory while another is concrete reality. In other words, everything in the world is a mixture of reality and illusion. The complexity of life experiences affects people's understanding. To organize a drama scene and guide people to look into it, that becomes the focal center of Li Linlin. Although, once the show began, the show does not belong to you. The audience’s psychological reaction begins to be manipulated and guided by the artwork, even the artist herself goes deep into the works and becomes one of the character.