Magazine article Artforum International

Lee Bul: Museum of Contemporary Art

Magazine article Artforum International

Lee Bul: Museum of Contemporary Art

Article excerpt

Art is conditioned by other visual phenomena, and Lee Bul's creepy sculptures owe debts that this, her first solo exhibition in Australia, can't acknowledge. The ideal Lee survey would own up to the vertiginous array of fashion, painting, cinema, and architecture that underlies her intensely memorable sculptures rather than repeating lazy, dead words like "subversion" and "cyborg." For even if avatar presences started out as Lee's basic modus operandi in works with titles like Cyborg W4, 1998, the most interesting aspect of her practice has long since been its genuine affinity with cinema: her ability to create extraordinary props and mise-en-scenes from high-tech polyurethane panels with aluminum armatures strung across deep space in the simulation of computer-generated imagery. These certainly aren't best read as illustrations of the previous generation's body-theory seminars. Lee's sprawling sculpture, Amaryllis, 1999, looks admirably single-coded, like the repellent alien of Ridley Scott's 1979 film. In common with Alien's extraterrestrial intruder, Amaryllis is memorable for suspense rather than for presence and for its sheer mobility and chaotic affect.

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Looking at sculptures informed by such glamorous image histories and so many visual collisions between semimoving parts, our attention shifts on three fronts: from theory to disembodied experience; from the spooky icon to the calligraphic mark in space; from the posthuman--a fairly dated concept for an artwork, though not for a car or a cup--to a sexualized formalism remarkable for its attention to scattered microcosmic detail. Lee's recent Ein Hungerkunstler (A Hunger Artist), 2004, is mimetic and distracting in just this detailed way: A glossy-pink mutant female figure shown from the waist down, it trails several yards of glistening crystal-and-glass-bead webbing from an orifice that approximates to its genital area. …

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