Lee Bul’s Pessimistic Belief In Progress

Lee Bul is considered one of the foremost women artists from Asia to emerge in the international art scene in the 1990s. Her artistic practice represents humanity’s desire for a utopian existence. It’s a desire that is doomed to failure, but it is still driven by humankind’s wanton need for the realization of impossible dreams.



Exploring issues that range from gender roles in a masculine society to the failure of utopian dreams, her work presents a visual imagery that shocks, awes and makes rationality waver. Lee Bul says: ‘My work has always been a representation of a desire to transcend limitations. So the transition has been to move from the body to the broader idea of social structures.’



The transition from beauty to ugliness and life to death are central aspects of her work, while the decorative materials are, as Bul says, ‘meant to interject an element of social reality into the work. They are signifiers of the dynamics of class, consumption, and production involved in a program of national economic development predicated on cheap, manual labor, usually done by women.’



Lee Bul professes a ‘stunningly pessimistic belief in progress’-‘I hold a Borgesian view of history and civilization as patterns and repetitions. Any change we might perceive in the five minutes that we occupy, metaphorically speaking, in the aeonic expanse of history is illusory.’


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