Museum exhibition

Lin May Saeed: Djamil

LULU Artspace, Mexico-City, Mexico
30 September - 18 November 2017

Lulu is very proud to present a solo exhibition by the German, Berlin-based sculptor Lin May Saeed.

Lin May Saeed makes sculptures, sculptural reliefs, drawings, works on paper and video. Known to use non-traditional materials, such as and especially styrofoam, Saeed’s work is directly linked to and thematically informed by her interest in animals and her commitment to animal activism. Her work deals with the exploitation of animals, their depiction, liberation, and potentially harmonious relationship with human beings, and the self-seeking meanness of the latter. Saeed’s iconographic frame of reference is rich and varied. It includes Egyptian statuary, Greco-Roman sculpture, and scientific and natural history museum displays, among other things. She is a sculptor in the truest sense of the term. By which is meant that her work critically interrogates what a sculpture can be, both materially and conceptually, and how it relates to three-dimensional representations of orders of knowledge. Generally eschewing noble materials, such as marble and wood, she is drawn to styrofoam precisely because it is an essentially ugly and difficult material, which she seeks to aesthetically redeem, despite and because of its essentially ruinous use of and impact upon nature. Generally speaking, the work becomes especially relevant in our post-enlightenment, anthropocene paradigm, where the relationship between the so-called natural world and humanity is being radically re-evaluated. Apparently naïve and enchanting, her colorful representations of animal life are nevertheless suffused with a scientific understanding of her subject and aim for an identifiable likeness. Her's is a sculpture in which there is virtually no gap between her political convictions and the formal and conceptual considerations of her medium.

For her exhibition at Lulu, Saeed presents an entirely new body of work, which includes reliefs, free-standing sculpture, a wall-drawing and a new video. The exhibition will be accompanied by the artist’s first extensive monograph published by Mousse publishing. The book which will feature an essay by Lulu co-founder Chris Sharp, a selection of texts by the artist, as well as an interview between Saeed and the German artist Jochen Lempert.

For more information please visit LULU Artspace.

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Lin May Saeed

by Owen Duffy, Frieze*

Lulu, Mexico City, Mexico

In the aftermath of Mexico City’s deadly 19 September earthquake, Frida, an endearing rescue labrador, became a beacon of hope for many locals. Anthropomorphized with goggles and all-terrain boots, Frida found dozens of victims trapped in the rubble, earning public adulation in the way only non-human companions do. Sometimes, tragic circumstances call for species interdependence, a theme that courses through Lin May Saeed’s alluring exhibition at Lulu.

Saeed’s charcoal Mural (all works 2017), commissioned for Lulu’s front space, has a formal naïveté redolent of paintings by Henri Rousseau. It depicts an imaginative ecosystem: a kneeling beekeeper and a few members of her swarm join a bull that balances an ostrich egg on its tail, a big cat and a bipedal hybrid with cloven hooves. They seem to peacefully coexist in the mural’s foreground, huddled together on a path of linear perspective, under spotlights that beam scribbled rays. There is an implausibility to this gathering: for what reasons do a human, animals, and a being-in-between commune? The mural’s harmonious procession seems almost biblical, somehow before and after our time.

Charm abounds in this show, though Saeed addresses brutal subjects. In Mammoth relief, two humans with spears butcher a fresh elephantine kill, while a third seems to embrace the dead creature, a dramatic scene scratched into relief on a polystyrene tablet coated with black paint. The words ‘Minding Animals Conference Mexico City 2018’ hover over the tragic tableau, a reference to an activist and academic group that seeks to establish legal protections for non-humans, a cause that Saeed shares. Eschewing the surrealist intensity of Alexis Rockman, for example, Saeed’s style softens the drama at hand, and encourages a sense of empathy between her non-human subjects and very human viewers. Installed in front of Mammoth relief, Djamil sculpture – small Bactrian camel carved from polystyrene, coated with chunky white gypsum and daubed with brown paint – trots atop a pedestal crowned with newspaper, folded to reveal an image of faithful Frida. Saeed ascribes dignity to humble materials and noble animals alike.

The use of synthetic matter, light and buoyant particulate that so easily crumbles and chips, poetically gestures toward the precarity of natural ecosystems. In Lulu’s back gallery, floors painted the pale colour of silica sand lend the work a beachy touch. A styrofoam seahorse floats, fragile and elegant against a background of desert beige and aquamarine (Teneen Albaher Relief III). Can this creature survive the anthropocene? We might wonder the same about Saeed’s Lobster, sculpted from copper tubing and tarnished black with welding tacks, which sits atop copies of an essay about animal freedom by writer and theorist Melanie Bujok, stacked up to form a low plinth. We look down on this crustacean, but Bujok demands us to elevate its status: in her essay, she argues that animals should be free from murder and exploitation. Back on the stormy surface of the sea, we witness the violent ways of humans once again: in Saeed’s Djamil Relief, another painted polystyrene low-relief, an ominous ship helmed by humans fires a volley of arrows at another vessel, captained by a lone camel. We need animals more than they need us – though we may not realize it until it’s too late.

*read original Frieze article, January - February 2018, Issue 192

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