Lin himself was once one of these prisoners. In 1998, he was accused of opposition activity by Myanmar's authoritarian government, arrested, and detained. During his nearly seven-year-long incarceration, he made art using the materials available to him, including cotton prison uniforms and cigarette lighters, and also organized performances with his fellow prisoners.
A Show of Hands offered Lin a way to continue and expand his art of social engagement after his release and return to Myanmar following a period of exile in London. Ultimately, the work is a kind of performance, in which volunteers are asked to “show their hands” and identify themselves as part of a community of survivors of human rights abuses. The installation of these hands transforms white plaster—long used to make casts of classical sculptures—into a material that helps make these important stories visible.