Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
26 Nov 2004 to 27 Feb 2005
Lee Bul is a leading figure in the contemporary Korean art world. For her first Australian solo exhibition, Lee presented a selection of works from the late 1990s to 2004, as well as contextual video footage of performances from 1989 to 1996. Featuring her monster and cyborg sculptures, recent paintings and one of her interactive karaoke ‘pods’, the exhibition reflected key developments in the artist’s practice to date.
Lee Bul’s extraordinary creations sit between the realms of reality and fantasy. Encompassing sculpture and installation, as well as painting, drawing, performance and video, they draw upon the human form, which is extended and re-configured to new ends.
An artist practicing in Seoul, Korea since the late 1980s, Lee has achieved international recognition for her works that explore the extremes of perfection and its opposite, through the figures of the cyborg and the monster. Inspired by the characters of myth, film and art history, these potent forms suggested a world in transformation and the possibilities of bio-technological innovation.
Other works continued the artist’s fascination with technology and its human interface, via the global phenomenon of karaoke. In these works moving imagery, sound and interactivity combined to illustrate the contrasting worlds of private experience and popular culture. Lee suggests that music is ever-present in our lives, popular songs forming an ongoing ‘soundtrack’ to which we record pivotal moments in our individual and collective memory. Her karaoke works comprised of singular enclosures which viewers were invited to enter, to sing along to their favourite tunes. Like dancing in front of a mirror, the experience of these works became a performance for the self.
Lee’s artworks are characterised by their focus on finish. Meticulously crafted in industrial materials including plastic and rubber, her sculptures have a smooth, polished appearance that belies their laborious manual construction. This fascination with surface and ornamentation was extended by her delicate oil paintings upon silk and iridescent panels that feature mother-of-pearl inlay. In her most recent work in this exhibition, made especially for the MCA, the delicate beauty of crystal and glass beading was counteracted by the monstrous body from which it sprung.