French philosopher Jacques Lacan once posited the idea that a paramount phase in human development involves the constant confrontation between the self and one’s own reflection. Known simply as the mirror stage, the symbolic experience finds its rooted in the creation of the self and in the formation of the ego; in the mirror, we are at once divided into self-conscious creatures, autonomous beings, and passive observers.
It is in this dialectic that Lee Bul finds the inspiration behind her newest exhibition, Via Negativa II. For nearly three decades, the Yongju, South Korea-born contemporary artist has dazzled the world with her singularly technical, mechanistic sculptures—uncannily textured combinations of materials that reveal an inner world every bit as nuanced as the world in which her works debut. Since 1999, when Bul represented South Korea in the Venice Biennale, she’s been a market-driving force in the elevation of Asian contemporary art to critical acclaim.
For Via Negativa II, Bul crafted an elaborate, immersive amalgamation of mirrors and metals at Lehmann Maupin which forces the viewer into direct conflict with her or his own perspectives, and echoes both the promises and fallibilities of technology. Perfect and imperfect, at once whole and fragmented, Bul hijacks the zeitgeist to create a sculptural commentary on technologies that are at once as objective as they are subjectively experienced.
We created a documentary about Via Negativa II at the the crest of its exhibition, viewable above.
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