Image: Lee Bul
Museum Exhibitions

Lee Bul Beginning

2 March—16 May 2021
Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA)

Seoul Museum of Art is pleased to announce the opening of the internationally active artist Lee Bul’s solo exhibition Lee BulBeginning from March 2 to May 16, 2021. This is an exhibition concentrating on Lee Bul’s first decade of artistic formation starting from the late 1980s, in which her "soft sculpture" and "performance documentations" were extensively produced. 

The late 1980s to the 1990s in South Korea, when Lee Bul in her 20s started her career, was a historical turning point as well as a period of clash of flourishing popular culture, the wave of globalization, anxiety about the end of the century and hope for the new one. This exhibition centers performances that resulted from contexts of the era and presents Lee Bul’s various formative works and documents less known so far, ranging from sculpture and drawings to mockups and objects that deliver the artist’s artistic thoughts and explorative processes. The exhibition revisits the artist’s starting point to create a new tension between two perspectives anchored in the past and the present. This narrative of return not only enriches the interpretation of Lee Bul’s artistic practice but also projects our current view over it so as to pose a few questions still valid to us.

Lee Bul’s formative works can be read largely through three perspectives of "the female body," "cultural and political space" and "the outside of modernity." The "body," an essential material and subject in Lee Bul’s formative practice, was such a crucial notion that it could be replaced by "woman" or "female body." Cravings, the first performance Lee Bul presented at her first solo exhibition in 1988 was about an improvised movement and sound by wearing the sculptures she made with soft fabric, fiberfill and ornamental and crafty sequins. This was the first locus of her conception of "soft sculpture" as well as the first event where she could exert her internal desire and power. For about five years since 1990, Lee Bul carried out both exhibition making and performance, participating in countless exhibitions and performance festivals. While continuing formalistic experiments with transformation of the body, Lee Bul’s artistic practice expanded and established a unique language in various performances that she explosively produced during this period. As the artist was invited to New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1997, she installed raw fish for Majestic Splendor in the exhibition space that used to be a symbol of solemn modernism, which eventually had to be taken down due to their smell. Such an incident that happened in reaction to the conventionalism of an established museum is in line with the contingency of Lee Bul’s performances.

By going through the video and photographic documentations of the performance, the exhibition comprises numbers of unknown drawings, objects and study materials related. 

The exhibition’s focuses are not limited to her individual life and history but are results of rich and lively imagination and expression of the time. Therefore, this exhibition organises and studies such historical works and documents in chronological order and aims to provide more information about times and places that the works navigated and proposes possible interpretations that have been absent. The context of societies and cultures in which we’ve been dwelling are continuously changing, creating new rules and situations in line with global capitalism, modernity and technological development. Various landscapes presented and documented by the exhibited works won’t only stay in the past but will grant us with a delightful occasion of reflecting our own time. The contemporary sense that was reflected on the eyes and body of Lee Bul about thirty years ago explores the inside and the outside of the border still surrounding us and summons latent artistic inspirations and the subjective consciousness of being, demanding for a new world of meanings. Alongside the exhibition, an artist’s monograph surveying the early works of Lee Bul will be published in April 2021.

퍼포먼스 사진, 1989, 사진: 마사토 나카무라. 작가 제공 Performance photography, 1989. Photo: Masato Nakamura. Courtesy of the Artist

퍼포먼스 사진, 1989, 사진: 마사토 나카무라. 작가 제공
Performance photography, 1989. Photo: Masato Nakamura. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1990. 퍼포먼스, 공간 소극장, 서울. 사진: 박혜경. 작가 제공 Artoilet Ⅱ, 1990.Performance, Space Theater, Seoul. Photo: Park Hey-kyong. Courtesy...

<아토일렛 Ⅱ>, 1990. 퍼포먼스, 공간 소극장, 서울. 사진: 박혜경. 작가 제공

Artoilet Ⅱ, 1990.Performance, Space Theater, Seoul. Photo: Park Hey-kyong. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1990. 퍼포먼스, 공간 소극장, 서울. 사진: 박혜경. 작가 제공 Artoilet Ⅱ, 1990.Performance, Space Theater, Seoul. Photo: Park Hey-kyong. Courtesy...

<아토일렛 Ⅱ>, 1990. 퍼포먼스, 공간 소극장, 서울. 사진: 박혜경. 작가 제공
Artoilet Ⅱ, 1990.Performance, Space Theater, Seoul. Photo: Park Hey-kyong. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1996, 비닐 위에 사진 인화, 공기 펌프, 《Join Me!》, 스파이럴/와코루 아트센터, 도쿄, 일본. 사진: 다카코 카이즈카, 사진 제공: 스파이럴/와코루...

, 1996, 비닐 위에 사진 인화, 공기 펌프, 《Join Me!》, 스파이럴/와코루 아트센터, 도쿄, 일본. 사진: 다카코 카이즈카,
사진 제공: 스파이럴/와코루 아트센터, 도쿄, 일본. 작가 제공
I Need You (Monument), 1996, Performance, Join Me!, Spiral/Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Takako Kaizuka. Photo courtesy: Spiral/Wacoal Art Center, Tokyo, Japan. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1991, 래미네이트 사진 위에 젤리, 감자가루, 과자, 식용 색소, 플라스틱 접시, 술, 물비누통, 가변크기, 《설거지》, 소나무갤러리, 서울. 사진: 김형태....

<껍질을 벗겨라, 썅!>, 1991, 래미네이트 사진 위에 젤리, 감자가루, 과자, 식용 색소, 플라스틱 접시, 술, 물비누통, 가변크기, 《설거지》, 소나무갤러리, 서울. 사진: 김형태. 작가 제공
Fingers There! Peel That Shit Off!, 1991. Jello on laminated photo, potato flour, snacks, food coloring, plastic plates, liquor, dispensers, dimensions variable. Dish Washing, Sonamu Gallery, Seoul. Photo: Kim Hyong-tae. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1990, 12일간의 퍼포먼스, 《제2회 일·한 행위예술제》, 김포공항, 한국; 나리타공항, 메이지 신궁, 하라주쿠, 오테마치역, 코간 절, 아사쿠사, 시부야, 도쿄대학교, 도키와자...

<수난유감–내가 이 세상에 소풍 나온 강아지 새끼인 줄 아느냐?>, 1990, 12일간의 퍼포먼스, 《제2회 일·한 행위예술제》, 김포공항, 한국; 나리타공항, 메이지 신궁, 하라주쿠, 오테마치역, 코간 절, 아사쿠사, 시부야, 도쿄대학교, 도키와자 극장, 도쿄, 일본. 작가 제공

 Sorry for suffering–You think I'm a puppy on a picnic?, 1990, Performance, 12 days, The 2nd Japan and Korea Performance Festival, Gimpo Airport, Korea; Narita Airport, Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Otemachi Station, Koganji Temple, Asakusa, Shibuya, University of Tokyo and Tokiwaza Theater, Tokyo, Japan. Courtesy of the Artist

(부분), 1991/1997, 생선, 시퀸, 과망간산칼륨, 폴리에스테르백, 《프로젝트 57: 이불/치에 마쓰이》, 뉴욕 현대미술관, 미국. 사진: 로버트 푸글리시. 작가 제공 Majestic Splendor...

<장엄한 광채> (부분), 1991/1997, 생선, 시퀸, 과망간산칼륨, 폴리에스테르백, 《프로젝트 57: 이불/치에 마쓰이》, 뉴욕 현대미술관, 미국. 사진: 로버트 푸글리시. 작가 제공
Majestic Splendor (detail), 1991/1997. Fish, sequins, potassium permanganate, mylar bags. Projects 57: Bul Lee/Chie Matsui, Museum of Modern Art, New York, United States. Photo: Robert Puglisi. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1990, 12일간의 퍼포먼스, 《제2회 일·한 행위예술제》, 김포공항, 한국; 나리타공항, 메이지 신궁, 하라주쿠, 오테마치역, 코간 절, 아사쿠사, 시부야, 도쿄대학교, 도키와자...

<수난유감–내가 이 세상에 소풍 나온 강아지 새끼인 줄 아느냐?>, 1990, 12일간의 퍼포먼스, 《제2회 일·한 행위예술제》, 김포공항, 한국; 나리타공항, 메이지 신궁, 하라주쿠, 오테마치역, 코간 절, 아사쿠사, 시부야, 도쿄대학교, 도키와자 극장, 도쿄, 일본. 작가 제공

Sorry for suffering–You think I'm a puppy on a picnic?, 1990, Performance, 12 days, The 2nd Japan and Korea Performance Festival, Gimpo Airport, Korea; Narita Airport, Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Otemachi Station, Koganji Temple, Asakusa, Shibuya, University of Tokyo and Tokiwaza Theater, Tokyo, Japan. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1990, 공중화장실 건물에 사진 설치, 가변크기, 《한국 설치미술제》, 토탈미술관, 장흥, 경기도. 작가 제공 Artoilet, 1990. Photography installation on public...

<아토일렛>, 1990, 공중화장실 건물에 사진 설치, 가변크기, 《한국 설치미술제》, 토탈미술관, 장흥, 경기도. 작가 제공
Artoilet, 1990. Photography installation on public bathroom building,  dimensions variable. Korean Installation Art Festival, Total Museum of Contemporary Art and Sculpture Park, Jangheung, Korea. Courtesy of the Artist

, 1991/1997. 냉장 진열장, 금사, 인조모발, 생선, 시퀸, 백합. 《타자》, 제4회 리옹비엔날레, 프랑스. 사진: B. 아딜론. 작가 제공 Majestic Splendor,...

<장엄한 광채>, 1991/1997. 냉장 진열장, 금사, 인조모발, 생선, 시퀸, 백합. 《타자》, 제4회 리옹비엔날레, 프랑스. 사진: B. 아딜론. 작가 제공
Majestic Splendor, 1991/1997. Refrigerated vitrine, gold thread, synthetic hair, fish, sequins, lilies, 210 × 130 × 130 cm. L’autre, 4th Biennale de Lyon, France. Photo: B. Adilon. Courtesy of the Artist

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