Lee Bul, Utopia Saved

Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–16. 
Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film,
polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable

Installation view of the 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016. 
Photo: Algirdas Bakas

Saint PetersburgArt & Culture

Lee Bul, Utopia Saved

Korean artist Lee Bul takes her visionary ideals to the country that has inspired them, Utopia Saved opening 16 November in St. Petersburg...

As we teeter precariously on the edge of dissolving democracy, as Silicon Valley’s technocratic ambitions tear through late stage capitalism and a virus that the west are incapable of successfully handling continues to cause an upheaval to society few of us have witnessed before, there has never been a better time for utopia.

Lee Bul, Utopia Saved at The Manege, Central Exhibition Hall, St. Petersburg

Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–16.
 Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable. 
Photo: Myung Yi Shik. Courtesy: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Whether we can beam ourselves to Mars or rip it all up and start afresh our relationship with Mother Earth remains to be seen, but humankind has looked to the sort of utopian ideals we crave in the past; particularly after times of great turbulence. After the Bolsheviks came to power in the October Revolution of 1917, many Russian creatives sought to give their newfound freedom an expressive aesthetic; symbols of hope and optimism for the future. Inspired by Constructivism and Russian avant-garde art and architecture, Lee Bul is the artist our chaotic world needs.

The daughter of political dissidents, Bul herself has been active in fighting against the system since she emerged on the art scene in the late 1980s; the Korean provocateur regularly challenging notions of patriarchal authority, gender oppression, genetic engineering, beauty ideals and the shifting makeup of the modern mind. The artist has dumped dead fish in a gallery, hung amputee cyborgs from the rafters and performed as otherworldly mutants. Her latest work, however, is grand and architectural, and preoccupied by the sort of utopian modernism that dominated the Russian landscape from the 1920s until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In November, Bul will take this post-2005 work to the birthplace of many of the concepts from which she has derived inspiration; Utopia Saved set to open amid uncertain times at The Manege, St. Petersburg, 16 November.

Focussing on Bul’s environmental installations, architectural sculptures, and drawings produced since 2005, the exhibition will include works from the Russian avant garde artists who have inspired her recent practice. With drawings, maquettes and large scale installations, Utopia Saved is a sort of spiritual homecoming, and represents the first ever major solo exhibition of her work to take place in Russia.

Magical and inspirational, Bul’s work offers a fanciful insight into utopian visions and a fight against the systems which are straggling society. Powerful and aspirational, Utopia Saved will run 16 November—31 January, 2021, at The Manege Central Exhibition Hall, St. Petersburg, Russia.

@manegespb
@gwangjubiennale

Untitled (Buried memory tableau), 2008

Untitled (Buried memory tableau), 2008. 
Wood, acrylic mirror, polyurethane, glass beads and acrylic paint, 119.4 x 115.6 x 111.8 cm 

Photo: Jeon Byung-cheol. Collection of the artist.

Study for Civitas Solis IV (Object #18), 2016

Study for Civitas Solis IV (Object #18), 2016. 
Cast stainless-steel, 21.2 x 17.5 x 11.5 cm. Edition of 3 + 1 AP. 
Photo: Jeon Byung-cheol.
Collection of the artist.

Via Negativa II (detail), 2014

Via Negativa II (detail), 2014. 
Polycarbonate sheet, aluminum frame,
acrylic and polycarbonate mirrors, steel, stainless-steel, mirror, two-way mirror, LED lighting,
silkscreen ink, approximately 275 x 500 x 700 cm. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein.
Courtesy: Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong and Seoul

Partial view of Civitas Solis II, 2014

Partial view of Civitas Solis II, 2014. 
Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights, electrical wiring, dimensions variable. View of the exhibition, “Lee Bul: Crashing,” Hayward Gallery, London, 2018 
© Lee Bul. Photo: Linda Nylind. Courtesy: Hayward Gallery, London

Civitas Solis II (detail), 2014

Civitas Solis II (detail), 2014. Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights, electrical wiring, 330 x 3325 x 1850 cm as installed. Commissioned by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Sponsored by Hyundai Motor Company. View of the exhibition, “MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2014: Lee Bul,” National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, 2014–15. 
© Lee Bul. Photo: Jeon Byung-cheol. Courtesy: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–16

Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–16. 
Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film,
polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable

Installation view of the 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016. 
Photo: Algirdas Bakas

Untitled #26, 2009

Untitled #26, 2009. Acrylic paint, India ink and pigmented ink on canvas, 27.5 x 22 cm (31 x 25.5 cm including frame).
Collection of the artist

Untitled paper #4, 2009

Untitled paper #4, 2009.
Acrylic paint, India ink and pigmented ink on paper, 80 x 60 cm. Private collection, Paris. Courtesy: Studio Lee Bul and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris and Salzburg

Partial view of Civitas Solis II, 2014

Partial view of Civitas Solis II, 2014. 
Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights,
electrical wiring, dimensions variable . View of the exhibition, “Cosmological Arrows – Journeys Through
Inner and Outer Space,” Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, 2019.
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Béranger. Courtesy: Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm

Maquette for Mon grand récit, 2005

Maquette for Mon grand récit, 2005. 
Plaster, steel mesh, wood, silicone, paint, crystal and synthetic beads, aluminum rods, stainless steel wire, foamex 61 x 114 x 62 cm (62.8 x 121.8 x 102.8 cm including wooden base panel). 
Private collection, Seoul. 
© Remi Villaggi. Photo courtesy: MUDAM Luxembourg

Civitas Solis II, 2014. View of the exhibition, MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2014: Lee Bul, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Civitas Solis II, 2014. View of the exhibition, “MMCA Hyundai Motor Series 2014: Lee Bul,” National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, 2014-15. Polycarbonate sheet, acrylic mirror, LED lights, electrical wiring, 330 x 3325 x 1850 cm as installed. Commissioned by National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. Sponsored by Hyundai Motor Company. © Lee Bul. Photo: Jeon Byung-cheol. Courtesy: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

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