Lee Bul explores our fear of exceeding our natural boundaries Words: Susannah Thompson
ltt' Monster Show is [he first l'K solo
exhibition of the work of internationally
renowned South Korean artist. Lee Bul. Her work came to prominence in the 1990s. notably through her presence at the l999 Venice Biennale and the 2001 Istanbul Biennale. But it was an exhibition in Vienna in 200l that became the starting point for the bringing Bul‘s work to Scotland.
For the (‘(‘A. Bul will showcase her larger-than- life cyborg sculptures. The subject matter is more than timely. given the continuing media furore over GM crops. designer babies. plastic surgery and cloning. but her preoccupation is less with the future itself than with our visions and fears of what the future will bring. The futuristic looking cyborgs are designed to play on this apprehension. encapsulating our anxieties about 'messing with nature'.
‘The tension between biology and technology touches upon a range of thorny questions that have been with us since time immemorial.‘ says Bul. ‘My work is essentially an inquiry into the schizophrenia between our faith in progress and perfectibility and our secret dread of exceeding our natural boundaries.‘
Both stylistically and thematically. many of Bul‘s inﬂuences are clear. with film in particular providing an important reference point. She cites Kubrick as ‘a particular favourite' btit acknowledges that her sources of inspiration are eclectic.
'There are a myriad of elements that inform my ideas.‘ she says. ‘My sensibility — everything from cinema to the writings of Umberto Eco. Edward Said and Susan Sontag. to animation and in terms of art
32 THE LIST 7—1.1 Aug 2003
‘I’ve pushed the logic of the masculine fantasy of the cyborg to its darkest extremes’
\t. . x . Cyborgs in Production, 1998 historical affinities. Bosch. Breughel and the surrealists.’
The fact that Bul's cyborgs are exclusively female adds a further layer to a reading of her work. They are ultra-stylised. pneumatic female bodies. yet they are anonymous and faceless. Set against existing imagery of the female cyborg in film. animation and literature. They encourage a consideration of the ways in which technology and ‘visions of the future' employ and propagate stereotypes regarding male and female sexuality. and how and why these notions are constructed.
‘The feminine forms of the cyborgs are a symptom of the ways in which the seduction and threat of bewildering technological advances have been sublimated into more controllable. more recognisable manifestations.’ she says. “Think of the female robot in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. one of the earliest examples of the modern cyborg: it's a masculine fantasy and projection which attempts to negotiate. however uneasily. the fear of the all- consuming mother and the will to discipline and harness this force.’
She continues: ‘An evolution of this idea is prevalent also in Japanese anime and manga. from which most of our current morphologies of the cyborg are derived. What I’ve done is essentially push the logic of the masculine fantasy of the cyborg to its darkest extremes. to the point of convulsion. a shattering that ironically gives rise to proliferating. extravagant. auto-productive forms.‘
Like all the best sci-fi. the Monster Show is a cautionary tale. entwined with timeless ethical concerns. so if you're looking for a popcorn sci-fr vision of sexy. ass-kickin' broads. go and see Tomb Raider - the .Monslt'r Show is a whole lot darker.
Lee Bul - The Monster Show opens at the CCA, Glasgow, Sat 9 Aug-Sun 28 Sep.
Lee Bul: The Monster Show Largtn than lite Cyborg sculptures by Korean artist l ee Bul ill her first Scottish solo show Inspired by tilm, Japanese comic and anirriation. the Cyborg figures question the ideas Ill‘.’0l\.’0(l in the creation of stereotypes, .‘ee l)l(3\.lt)‘.'-’. (KIA, Glasgow; Sat 9 Aug—Sun 28 Set).
Robert Stewart: Design 1946-95 A contemporacy ot LtiCienne Day. this long overdue exhibition highlights the work of Robert Stewart. the influential (lesIgner and former head of textiles at Glasgow School of Art. featuring his desrgns for textiles. ceramic murals. tapestries and paintings. Glasgow School of Art. until Sat l Nov.
Primitive Streak High fashion meets hard science in this collection of garments created by Helen Storey in collaboration Wllll her sister Kate. depicting the ten key embryonic stages in the first 1000 hours following fertilization. The Arches. Glasgow, until Sun 24 Aug.
Dalziel + Sculllon - Aura A Artist duo Matthew DaIZiel and Lowse SCuIlion continue their exploration of the natural eniiironment and man's relationship to it in a series of photographic prints. Street Level. Glasgow. until Sat 23 Aug.
Thomas Demand Last Chance to catch Thomas Demands must-see solo show. Nothing is dune what it seems as Demand makes precise reconstructions of scenes frOm life and the mass media and then photographs them. Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee. until Sun 70 Aug.
Whlstler 2003 The Hunterian Gallery celebrates the life and work of the enigmatic. American- born artist. James McNeil Whistler, featuring the display of his most famous painting. Arrangement in Grey and Black No l. on loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris. Hunterian Art Gallery. Glasgow, until Sat 4 Oct.