The Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery presents an exhibition featuring one of the most acclaimed contemporary artists from Asia, Lee Bul from South Korea.
The exhibition bring together over 100 works from the 1980s up to the present day, the artist’s early performances often included appearing in public spaces, such as airports, wearing large soft-fabric forms with appendages. Through these tactics, Lee Bul attempted to address many important issues including the oppression of women in Korean society, and the ways in which popular culture in both the East and West shapes and manipulates our understanding of ‘feminine’ beauty.
Some of the costumes from this period are suspended from the ceiling alongside some figures from the artist’s Cyborg series that was first exhibited in New York in 1998. Whilst the artist is strongly influenced by South Korea’s political past, since 2000 she has explored utopian theories rooted in a number of areas including science fiction, folklore, urbanism, futurism and architecture.
Crashing includes sculptural works from the Cyborg and Anagram series which question the merging of humans and machines.
Dominating the first room is Civatis Solis II which creates a large reflective landscape with flame like lights flickering, the work is influenced by ‘City of the Sun’ written by 16th century writer Tommaso Campanella.
Room three has a seedy oversized bathtub filled with dark ink surrounded by images of snowy mountains. The work entitled Heaven and Earth (2007) references the tragic death of a student protestor who was murdered in a bathtub and the struggles of Korea to find solutions to its political problems.
Another work, Bunker (2007/12) creates a cave like sculpture in which visitors enter into a soundscape. Other works are influenced by utopian ideals of transforming more natural worlds into artificial cities, some made of fragile substances like glass.
The theme of how technology can bring benefits but also disaster is carried on in the upstairs galleries which is dominated by Willing To Be Vulnerable (2015-16), which features a giant foil Hindenburg Zeppelin.
In the final room, the main work is Via Negativa II (2014) which is a mirrored labyrinth is which people’s appearances are fragmented in endless ways.
This fascinating exhibition explores many strands of utopian ideas, Lee Bul’s works offer a curious collection of objects that asks the question ‘what would utopia look like?’ Many utopian writers have offered some answers but there is always the nagging doubt that rather than finding utopia it is likely to be a form of dystopia.
This utopia/dystopia paradox is one of the main themes of the exhibition and has a particular relevance for many of the questions about artificial intelligence and bioengineering that we face today.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information , visit the Southbank Centre website here
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