Human-Virus relationships

Pei-Ying Lin is an artist / designer from Taiwan and currently based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Her main focus is on the combination of science and human society through artistic methods and is particularly interested in building a common discussion ground for different cultural perspectives regarding elements that construct our individual perception of the world.

Richard Bright: Can we begin by you saying something about your background?

Pei-Ying Lin: I’m an artist/designer from Taiwan, currently living in the Netherlands. Although my highest degree was in Design, my current practice is mainly sitting within the art field, and I was trained as a scientist / engineer up to Bachelor level. I have a MA degree in Design Interactions from Royal College of Art, and a BSc in Life Science, with a minor in Computer Science and a minor in Humanities and Social sciences. Therefore, my practice is often the mixture of art, science, and design.

RB: Have there been any particular influences to your art practice?

P-YL: Yes. To be trained in different disciplinaries at the same time made me aware of how the same subject can be explored differently with different paradigms. The mysterious beauty of changing perspectives and how the structure of knowledge could influence the interpretation of ‘facts’, and how switching between different perspectives can yield an in-depth, fruitful understanding of concepts that are yet to be accommodate by different disciplines. Most often Art tends to be the only discipline that provides the flexibility.

RB: What is the underlying focus of your work?

P-YL: What does the progression of our knowledge of the world – be it scientific, or cultural, or any other possibilities – influence ourselves and then further influence our search of knowledge. In simple words, it is the interaction between human beings and their creations. How can we redefine ourselves through the exploration of the world? What mechanisms exists at the edge of our knowledge and the unknown, and our emotional reactions to it. So far, it’s been manifested in my works around the topic of human-virus relationship, maybe sometimes around human-microbes, but there are also other aspects like language, emotions, etc.

Smallpox Syndrome – Vaccine Beauty

RB: Your project Smallpox Syndrome considers the smallpox vaccine both historically and speculatively in its future use from the perspective of co-evolution between smallpox and humans. Can you say something more about this project?

P-YL: In Smallpox Syndrome, the co-evolution is perhaps more about how humans use our biotechnology to boost our immune system, but taking smallpox as a reminiscent symbol – the visible indication of the current version of vaccine the person has been updated with. The storyline starts with more of a research into how smallpox has shaped the human society and how it has played an important part for our decisions. Later on, where the fictional company Vaccine Beauty creates a service that provides its customers immediate or monthly updated vaccines depends on how much the customer pays so that they can stay protected from the novel pathogens in a world plagued by communicative diseases. By revealing whether the person is vaccinated, it also starts the trend of considering the vaccinated sign as the indication of ‘beauty’. Therefore, the vaccine is not just a vaccine but also a makeup/accessory.

Smallpox Syndrome – Vaccine Beauty


RB: In your project, Tame is to Tame, you ask the questions “Can we tame the viruses? Can viruses tame us?”  What conclusions did you reach in this project?


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All images copyright and courtesy of Pei-Ying Lin

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