Perhaps the best introduction to Candice Lin’s work grappling with landscapes as sites of toxicity, conflict, and militarization is Mel Y. Chen and Jih-Fei Cheng’s characterization of it as “ecologies of trauma and resistance.” Lin brings into play the interdependence of living and nonliving systems and surveys the circuits of extraction and trade of pigments, microorganisms, and intoxicants: at once opaque objects that resist investigation and components of wider ecosystems imbricated within human life and broader natural and political histories. The alchemical transmutations created by Lin’s installations reveal the will of plants, fungi, and viruses, distilling narratives that expose the racial undertones of the birth of virology, the colonial history and sexualization of cochineal and other red colorants, or the dark aura of conflict and militarization that surrounds poisons and substances like mercury and opium.
Verdant Curtain (2021) is a tapestry representing an imagined landscape of the demilitarized zone in which Lin collaged rare flora and fauna drawn from scientific reports commissioned by the DMZ Ecology Research Institute and visitors’ pictures from the Peace and Life Zone (PLZ), a buffer area along the DMZ that has been rebranded as an ecotourist attraction. According to South Korea’s Ministry of Environment, more than 5,097 species of plants and animals, 106 of which are rare and protected, have been found in the DMZ, including Siberian musk deer, white-naped and red-crowned cranes, Asiatic black bear, Amur leopard, Siberian tiger, cinereous vulture, and long-tailed goral, a kind of wild goat. Interrogating the second nature of the DMZ as an “accidental nature preserve” is for Lin an attempt to think through interspecies relationships and the toxic landscape humanity has created, mapping an entanglement of relations, historical and natural processes of contamination, cooperation, and survival.