A Karaoke Booth, A Mirror Maze And An Infinite Tunnel All Feature In This Exhibition
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If a floating zeppelin or selfies within an endless row of lights start appearing in your Instagram feed soon, this exhibition by Lee Bul at Hayward Gallery is to blame. She has created an interactive and photogenic exhibition that conveys a deeper message about greeting the future with a wary optimism.
On walking in, we're greeted by a giant mass of tentacles. We approach it warily because if this was a horror film, it would definitely try to eat us. Part casts of robot bodies hang from the ceiling, and interlocking sections of a shiny metallic floor twinkle with rhythmic flashing light bulbs. It's a quirky futuristic introduction to Bul's works that have playful elements but also a darkness that reflects her life.
The tentacles tackle the idea of body image, presenting us with something malformed and also vulnerable, as it lacks a protective outer layer. The 'half robots' could be construed as self-portraits given they are half formed, which is how Bul believes a patriarchal society viewed her growing up. What passes for beautiful is tackled and subverted with rotting fish and a torso sliced in half, both bejewelled — it's as if to say you can decorate it all you want, but it's all superficial and anyone can see that.
Bul likes to introduce architectural elements in many of her works, with winding roads emerging from rock faces and a rather sinister black pool of liquid inside a rectangle of mountains. It references the birth of Korea, but also the use of water torture to suppress free thought — just as we thought it couldn't get any darker.
Upstairs, the science fiction-inspired works continue with the floors covered in reflective material and a massive zeppelin floating in the gallery. It's a futuristic-looking vessel, but we all know of its history due to the famous Hindenburg disaster. It hovers here bound closely by four walls.
The darkness lifts a little in the highly reflective maze. It's disorienting at first but leads us into a centre where the infinity mirrors allow us to stare into a never-ending distance. Seeing yourself stretching away into infinity can be either Zen or alarming, depending on your state of mind as you enter.
The best way to end the show is on a literal high note — climb into a futuristic pod and sing your heart out to some karaoke classics. Visitors are sealed inside and watch videos as they choose their favourite tune to sing along to. Whether it be California Dreamin' or Don't Stop Believing, they are all songs focused on hope for the future — just be warned that the pod isn't soundproof so other visitors may hear your best Born to Run.
Lee Bul is an artist who has flown under the radar a little, but she's that rare artist who can mix nuanced ideas with visually stunning works, and we're hoping this show gives her the recognition she deserves.
Lee Bul is on at Hayward Gallery 31 May to 19 August 2018. Tickets are £14.50.
Last Updated 31 May 2018