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Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide Ocula Conversation Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide

Ongoing since 2012, the Real DMZ Project interrogates the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea through annual, research-based exhibitions that bring together the works of Korean and international artists. Sunjung Kim, the independent curator behind the project, conceived the idea of exploring the DMZ while curating Japanese artist...

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Frieze Week Lowdown: London Shows to See Ocula Report Frieze Week Lowdown: London Shows to See 20 Sep 2019 : Tessa Moldan for Ocula

London's galleries and museums are gearing up for a lively October, with Frieze London and Frieze Masters running between 3 and 6 October 2019 at Regent's Park, along with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, taking place across the same dates at Somerset House; and the tenth anniversary of the Sunday Art Fair, showcasing new and emerging artists...

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Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum Ocula Insight | Video Mark Bradford’s Call for Unity at Shanghai’s Long Museum 16 August 2019

Mark Bradford walks through Mark Bradford: Los Angeles Mark Bradford: Los Angeles at the Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai (27 July–13 October 2019) is the artist's largest solo exhibition to date in China. In this video for Ocula, Bradford and Diana Nawi, curator of the show, walk through selected works that convey the artist's concerns with...

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Lee Bul

b. 1964, South Korea

Provocative and inventive, Lee Bul (이불) is one of the leading Korean artists of her generation. Though she has worked in performance, sculpture, painting, installation and video, she is most known for her monstrous sculptures, cyborgs and utopian landscapes. Born to dissident parents during the military dictatorship of Park Chung-Hee in South Korea, Lee emerged in the 1990s through works that channelled the emotional impact of political persecution and restrictive gender roles into visual form. Since then, the artist has investigated human desires for perfection and stability and the implications of technology in the contemporary world.

After completing her studies at Hongik University in 1987, Lee embarked on her career as a performance artist on the streets of Korea and Japan. Donning soft wearable sculptures that were described as 'simultaneously alluring and grotesque' by Ikon Gallery, she addressed the themes of political instability and gender roles in a then—and still—very conservative and male-dominated Korean society. In Cravings (1989), Lee transformed herself into a monstrous creature, whose tentacles and externalised internal organs alluded to the anxieties of the artist and her fellow citizens living under conditions fraught with government censorship and civil unrest. The performance later developed into 'Monster' (1998–2011), a series where the wearable sculptures evolved into freestanding statues. Abortion, also performed in 1989, showed the artist hanging upside down from the ceiling and generated controversy for Lee's bold critique of Korean traditions regarding women's bodies and sexuality. Around this time, Lee also participated in the founding of Museum, an underground collective of avant-garde artists, performers and musicians in Seoul whose members are still influential in Korea today.

Lee's work from the 1990s explores the human body in its relation to beauty, life, death and technology. Majestic Splendor (1997)—an installation created for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York—consisted of a decaying fish adorned with sequins, beads and flowers in a glass display case. Although the exhibition closed prematurely due to its smell, curator Harald Szeemann invited Lee to recreate it in the Lyon Biennale that same year. In a powerful visualisation of the metamorphosis from the beautiful to the sickening, Lee highlighted the inevitable cycle of life and death.

Her iconic 'Cyborg' (1997–2011) series, on the other hand, examines the human desire for the perfect body. Cyborg Red and Cyborg Blue, both completed in 1997 as a pair, show silicon casts of female figures based on Greco-Roman statues with machine-like body parts. Because Lee's cyborgs often appear as females, they have been regarded as a critique of the social expectation for women to have idealised bodies. However, the artist has shown that her concerns extend to mankind at large in her karaoke installations, including Gravity Greater than Velocity (1999) and Live Forever (2002). Safely tucked in the empty karaoke capsules and pods, the human body is reduced to its sensory functions—technology may be alluring, but humankind has reason to be alarmed about its advancements.

In the new millennium, Lee shifted away from the body to human desires for utopia. 'Mon grand récit', an ongoing series since 2005, features futuristic ruins and landscapes comprised of small-scale railways, LED signs and architectural structures. Perched on skeletal frameworks, Lee's landscapes are a fragile mass that could collapse in a matter of seconds—as unrealised hopes often do in utopias. Lee has also begun to incorporate reflective materials in her architectural installations, most notably in After Bruno Taut (Devotion to Drift) (2013)—a floating palace of crystal beads, chains and mirrors. Inspired by the futuristic ideals and works of Bruno Taut, a 20th-century German architect and the creator of the Glass Pavilion, Lee uses reflectivity to allude to utopian ideals as well as a means to think about military Korea, now several decades in the past.

Lee has regularly exhibited internationally at venues such as Art Sonje Center, Seoul (2012); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012); Domus Artium 2002, Salamanca (2007); Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2004); the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002); and Musée d'Art Contemporain, Marseille (2002). Her work is also part of many public collections. These include Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; 4Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Yu-un, Obayashi Collection, Tokyo. She has had works included in the Biennale of Sydney (2016), Gwangju Biennale (2014), Taipei Biennial (2006–7) and Venice Biennale (1999). Today, the artist lives and works in Seoul, Korea.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

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Perdu XV - W1, Perdu XV - W2, Perdu XV - W3 by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulPerdu XV - W1, Perdu XV - W2, Perdu XV - W3, 2018 Mother of pearl pigment, acrylic paint on lacquered wood panel, and steel frame
123.3 x 276.9 x 6.6 cm
Lehmann Maupin
Untitled ("Infinity Wall") by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulUntitled ("Infinity Wall"), 2019 Wood, two-way glass mirror, glass mirror, LED, aluminum, cast polyurethane and acrylic paint triptych
190 x 270 x 17.5 cm
PKM Gallery
Untitled (Pantoscopic Sculpture II) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulUntitled (Pantoscopic Sculpture II), 2009 Acrylic on board
32 x 40 cm
PKM Gallery
Untitled (Pantoscopic Sculpture I) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulUntitled (Pantoscopic Sculpture I), 2009 Acrylic on board
32 x 40 cm
PKM Gallery
Untitled (Anagram Leather #5) by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulUntitled (Anagram Leather #5), 2004/2017 Leather covered hand-cut polyurethane panels on aluminum armature, stainless steel, stainless steel wire
43 x 57 x 33 cm
PKM Gallery
Willing To Be Vulnerable - Metalized
Balloon by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulWilling To Be Vulnerable - Metalized Balloon, 2015-2016 Metalized film, transparent film, air blower, approximately
PKM Gallery
Willing to be Vulnerable by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulWilling to be Vulnerable, 2015/2019 Site-specific installation of heavy-duty fabric, metalised film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, and electronic wiring
Lehmann Maupin
Perdu XXI by Lee Bul contemporary artwork
Lee BulPerdu XXI, 2019 Mother of pearl pigment and acrylic paint on lacquered wood base panel with steel frame
163.3 x 113.3 x 6.6 cm
Lehmann Maupin

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future 幽靈維面—電馭叛客在未來之年 at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong
Upcoming
5 October 2019–4 January 2020 Group Exhibition Phantom Plane, Cyberpunk in the Year of the Future 幽靈維面—電馭叛客在未來之年 Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, An Opera for Animals at Para Site, Hong Kong
Closed
22 June–25 August 2019 Group Show An Opera for Animals Para Site, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Lee Bul, Solo Exhibition at Lehmann Maupin, New York
Closed
12 January–11 February 2017 Lee Bul Solo Exhibition Lehmann Maupin, 536 West 22nd Street, New York

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

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Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide Ocula Conversation Sunjung Kim’s Real DMZ Project Interrogates the North and South Korea Divide

Ongoing since 2012, the Real DMZ Project interrogates the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea through annual, research-based exhibitions that bring together the works of Korean and international artists. Sunjung Kim, the independent curator behind the project, conceived the idea of exploring the DMZ while curating Japanese artist...

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‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum Ocula Report ‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum 19 Jul 2019 : Penny Liu for Ocula

An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...

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'Sites Encountered': A Chorus of Five Artists at M+ Pavilion Ocula Report 'Sites Encountered': A Chorus of Five Artists at M+ Pavilion 21 Jun 2019 : Emily Verla Bovino for Ocula

Without punctuation, She Said Why Me, the title of May Fung's 1989 video presents itself as a statement, rather than a question. It suggests a subject who expects no response, a person prepared to make what she can from being chosen though perplexed by the attention. The video follows a blindfolded woman, then unmasked, through late colonial-era...

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Art Basel in Hong Kong 2019: A Post-mortem Ocula Report Art Basel in Hong Kong 2019: A Post-mortem 6 Apr 2019 : Diana d’Arenberg for Ocula

Although Art Basel in Hong Kong is the youngest of the Art Basel fairs, and a relative newcomer to the international art fair circuit, it has now become a major attraction for collectors and galleries from around the world. The seventh edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong saw thousands of art courtesans and benefactors kick off the week with a string...

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In Related Press

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Venice Biennale empowers women, diversity Related Press Venice Biennale empowers women, diversity Korea Times : 12 May 2019

This year, all Koreans at the Venice Biennale are women. The Korean Pavilion is curated by Kim Hyun-jin and three participating artists Jung Eun-young, also known as siren eun young jung, Jane Jin Kaisen and Nam Hwa-yeon. At the main exhibition, the works of three Korean women artists Lee Bul, Suki Seokyeong Kang and Anicka Yi are on view.

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Lee Bul at Hayward Gallery, London Related Press Lee Bul at Hayward Gallery, London ArtReveiw : 10 July 2018

Feminist science-fiction has long played on the idea that women are liberated when humans are confronted with other intelligences.

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Lee Bul’s Intergalactic Feminist World Ignites Hayward Related Press Lee Bul’s Intergalactic Feminist World Ignites Hayward Elephant : 30 May 2018

The sci-fi imagination of Lee Bul literally lit up the Hayward Gallery last night, as one of the artist’s works set on fire just an hour before the private view was scheduled to occur. It was an appropriate moment for the exhibition, as the works look as though they have smashed into the gallery from another cosmos.

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Floating cyborgs and a mutant octopus … the grotesque, gorgeous art of Lee Bul Related Press Floating cyborgs and a mutant octopus … the grotesque, gorgeous art of Lee Bul The Guardian : 28 May 2018

Lee Bul's earliest memories are defined by dust. In a military town outside Seoul, where she lived aged 11, many of the trees had been cut down for fuel, while, under the dictator Park Chung-Hee's modernisation programme, new roads were begun and abandoned. The inhabitants of her neighbourhood's cheap and fragile houses came and went: soldiers,...

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In Video & Audio

2016 artist interview series: Lee Bul Related Video & Audio 2016 artist interview series: Lee Bul Biennale of Sydney : 20 May 2016

Artist Lee Bul reveals her thinking and inspiration behind her site-specific installation at the Turbine Hall of the Industrial Precinct on Cockatoo Island, titled Willing To Be Vulnerable (2015–16) for the Embassy of the Real.

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