Lee Bul’s Suspended Sculptures Are like a Science Fiction Fantasy

by CaroPosted on

In most science fiction stories, the future world is designed to be a hardy and geometric place, able to withstand nuclear disaster and protect its inhabitants, who are probably less concerned about the beauty of their surroundings. South Korean artist Lee Bul’s haunting suspended sculptures seem to defy this design sensibility by interpreting future worlds in a beautiful way. In the 1990s, she earned international recognition for her hanging “cyborgs”, some inexplicably without heads or limbs, like Manga-inspired Greek goddesses of antiquity. In those works, she expressed her interest in Western and Asian societies’ fixation with beauty and cosmetic surgery in particular. Over time, her sculptures became more bio-mechanical but also organic, translating the human form into bizarre arrangements of machine parts and tentacle-looking branches. Her more recent work uses elements of science fiction to explore relationships between the future and the past. Her series of chandelier-like floating castles in the air are opulent assemblages of materials like crystal and glass, where she reflects upon utopian architecture of the early 20th century, as well as totalitarianism that reflect her experience of living in military-controlled Korea. Some describe it as if being thrust into a frozen scene, but underneath their beauty, it becomes apparent that these fantastical places are no more welcoming than their space-age counterparts. Lee Bul is currently exhibiting at the Vancouver Art Gallery through January 10th, 2016.

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