One of the foremost contemporary artists in Korea today, Lee Bul creates works that reflect her philosophical exploration of the 20th century cultural history. Exploring issues ranging from societal gender roles and the perceived failure of idealism to the relationship between humans and technology, she produces genre-crossing works rooted in critical theory, art history and themes from science fiction. In this presentation, Bul’s suspended sculptures are inspired by the futuristic spirit of prominent German architect Bruno Taut, who designed the Glass Pavilion, a prismatic glass dome structure, for the Cologne Werkbund Exhibition in 1914. The sculptures presented in the exhibition After Bruno Taut (Beware the Sweetness of Things), (2006-2007) and State of Reflection (2016) construct a dreamlike scene resembling a frozen landscape of floating mountains with winding roadways across a land studded with stalactite-like shapes. This miniature world, which seems both ancient and futuristic, constructed and biomorphic, expresses what Lee describes as ‘the vision of a society exemplified by its architecture through transparency, lightness, and organic shapes’.
These sculptures are inspired by Taut’s utopian visions of an ‘Alpine Architecture’, devised just before the end of the First World War and the collapse of the German empire. In an attempt to divert mankind’s energy away from war and conflict, Taut proposed the construction of dazzling cities in the Alps, made entirely of crystal and glass. Both delicate and ominous, the sculptures pay homage to Taut’s vision, while being highly experiential. Through their ethereal structure and reflective surfaces, the sculptures overwhelm the viewer and provoke a sense of wonder. This fragmentation created on the surface of the sculpture is true of Bul’s concept of self, as the artist states: ‘We can only gather knowledge of ourselves by reflection, so we cannot see ourselves directly’.