Headlands Center for the Arts

Livien Yin

california | visual
Graduate Fellowship Program 2019—2020, Stanford University

Artist Statement

I examine artifacts that unsettle the distribution of power among humans and the natural resources we strive to control. Victorian objects, Wardian cases, scientific terms such as Batesian mimicry, and organisms ranging from coral snakes to bark beetles to dry rot fungus inform my work. My sculptures reimagine the containers used to transport plants in a web of global trade and colonial enterprise. Photo-based works are composed with the intrusive water stains found on surveys of Chinese treaty ports. The intimacies between botanical expeditions, migration, and the stories of “coolie” laborers permeate my assemblages of materials. Within these narratives, I confront the imperial legacies transmitted alongside goods such as tea, silk, porcelain, and opium. 

While at Headlands

While at Headlands, I plan to research the joint exploitation of labor and land beginning with the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. I will use research from local archives including the California Historical Society and UC Berkeley’s East Asian Library. Focal points for visual reference will include photographs of the Chinese coolie laborers who worked on the railroad, San Francisco’s Chinatown following the 1906 earthquake, and Chinese shrimping boats near Sausalito. I will examine the correlation between migration and environmental transformation through the visual language of art conservation. My work at Headlands will synthesize this research into sculpture, painting, and digital composites using scans of anthropological surveys.

Selected Works

Personal Website

http://www.livienyin.com