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The Korean artist’s sculptures and installations explore the processes that form representations of femininity, questioning the myth of technological perfection.
In works like Majestic Splendor (1997), would you consider yourself to be constructing or deconstructing definitions of beauty and aesthetics?
My general approach in making art is to convey questions through sensorial mechanisms. In turn, the audience starts to ask the same questions while experiencing my work.
How do you balance the thinking you’ve borrowed from such figures as Bruno Taut and Jorge Luis Borges against your interest in Japanese pop culture?
Let me quote from the interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist published in the catalogue Cyborgs and Silicone, which describes the use of high and low cultures employing the “Cyborg” series as an example: “I am interested in how concepts and representations of femininity proliferate through various channels in the culture at large, whether it be high or low; and also the processes of their formation and function, which seem to coexist and converge in high and low cultures, as you see in art history and also in popular media images of women.” It continues:
“[For the ‘Cyborg’ series,] there are two currents of thought. The first is that it references and elaborates on popular imagery borrowed from cyborgs in animations and films but my cyborgs are all missing organs or limbs, so they are incomplete bodies in a sense, questioning the myth of technological perfection. The other idea is to invoke archetypal images of women and representations of felinity, particularly in Western art history—the Pietà, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus or Manet’s Olympia by rendering these cyborgs in those timeless, iconic, feminine poses.“
You utilize a large amount of materials that are shiny, glossy, have mirror or mirror-like finish. What does this kind of materials represent to you?
It could be seen as an allegory to something from the “past,” if we can say all present ideologies, history, things that constitute culture and so on have been accumulated from what came before.
Lee Bul (Korean, b. 1964) is an artist who lives and works in Seoul. She is represented by Galerie Thaddeaus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg; Lehmann Maupin, New York/Hong Kong; and PKM Gallery, Seoul.
Khairuddin Hori is the Deputy Director of Artistic Programming at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris.
Image: Lee Bul, Cyborg W1, 1998, Courtesy of the artist, Photo credit: Yoon Hyung-moon