Kiborški romantizam; utopija kristalnih ruševina; emocije lancima, zrcalima i protetičkim spolnim organima povezane u beskrajni dvorac napučen karaoke-životima.
"Nothing's perfect, but that doesn't stop us chasing the dream – a Catch-22 that has long fascinated Korean artist Lee Bul. In the 1990s, her cyborg sculptures took an obsession with prosthetics and plastic surgery to a gleaming conclusion: ideal robot women. More recently, she's turned to the futuristic architectural fantasies of the early 20th century. Elaborate sculptures and installations are crafted from twisted metal, decked in crystal beads and chains, set in mirrored boxes or hung from the ceiling like castles in the air. Hectic and gorgeous, they suggest another kind of post-human world, where shimmering modernist buildings lie in seductive ruin.
Bul was born in 1964 in a remote South Korean village where her dissident parents were in hiding from the oppressive government. Something of a renegade in the Korean artworld, she made her mark in the late 1980s through outlandish street performances. Her first sculptures were designed to be worn: covered in freakish protrusions and decked in sequins, they suggested a metamorphosis that was both grotesque and sensual. In the late 1990s her sci-fi inspired, mutant cyber-women, with missing heads and limbs like the female torsos of Renaissance sculpture, established Bul's international reputation. As with the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson, her work pointed to a terrifying future where technology is less freeing than debilitating.
The past five years have seen Bul make a break with this aesthetic, though beauty gone mad remains an abiding theme. Her 2007 series, Sternbau , was inspired by visionary architect Bruno Taut's proposals for a crystalline city in the Alps, which date from 1917; darkly sparkling, chandelier-like hanging sculptures sprawl outwards, laden with out-of-control décor. An installation from the same year, Heaven and Earth, explores her own country's embattled modernisation: in a scruffy, white-tiled bathroom resembling a torture chamber, a bath is filled to the brim with foul-smelling black goop. Reflected in this well of horrors is an ice-white sculpture of Baekdu mountain, the mythical birthplace of the Korean nation. Luxurious and sinister, Bul's art mines a terrible beauty that seems to stretch endlessly into past and future, grimly dehumanising and forever compelling.
Why we like her: Bul's karaoke pods, shown at New York's New Museum in 2002, looked like a cross between a space-age race car and a coffin: sound-proofed, self-enclosed worlds where gallerygoers could belt out a tune, all alone.
Smell of success: Bul's New York debut at the prestigious Moma was forced to close after just a few days when staff complained about the pong – her work was composed from be-sequinned dead fish.
Renaissance girl: The artist attributes her mix of art and science tothe experiments of Leonardo da Vinci, whose work she claims she first encountered when she was six. - Skye Sherwin
"Widely recognized as one of the leading Korean artists of her generation, Lee will present an installation of sculptural works, along with related studies and drawings, comprising a wide range of materials, visual elements, and references.
Anchoring the exhibition is a large, grotto-like sculpture entitled Bunker -- M. Bakhtin. The work invites visitors inside to experience what the artist describes as a "sonic simulacrum" of architectural spaces and landscapes; interwoven is a layered narrative of modernity and historical memory emerging from the complex relationship between Korea and Japan in the 20th century. Situated within a mirrored environment that is at once brilliant and disorienting, Bunker -- M. Bakhtin is paired with an obsessively intricate structure made of glass, crystals, and aluminum suspended in midair—an homage to the visionary Weimar architect Bruno Taut, whose "peculiar fusion of futurist fantasia, utopian manifesto, and private obsessions," in the artist's words, seems to preside over the exhibition as a whole. Other works in the exhibition include wall pieces and a gridded platform on the floor making use of two-way mirrors to create the illusion of fragmentary architectural structures repeating and receding into infinite space."
"Lee Bul's futuristic installations explore how the notions of beauty and the monstrous are at play in contemporary culture. Her deformed bodies and cyborgs suggest a world in transformation and the possibilities of bio-technological innovation. She pulls apart and re-engineers the body, questioning our faith in technology and its claim to right human imperfection.
Her trilogy of karaoke video installation investigates further our relationships with mass culture and technology. The pod-like capsules are soundproof, lined with leather and foam, and equipped with karaoke machine which visitors can enter, one at a time, to sing along to their favourite pop songs without fear of intrusion.
Lee's use of karaoke conveys her notion that everyone's life has a soundtrack that evokes a mixture of memory and desire that is distinctly individual, though also composed of elements of mass production and public consumption.
Lee Bul work will take part to Uneasy Nature, at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina. The exhibtion brings together artists (Bryan Crockett, Roxy Paine, Patricia Piccinini, Alyson Shotz and Jennifer Steinkamp) whose works reflect on the evolving perception of nature in contemporary culture."
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