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Memory: a landscape of moments, each a smoldering ember.

Thame 25 : Memory


Lee Bae’s UNION examines the natural order of life cycles that further draws on the concept of phenomenology. Through the idea that consciousness can exist beyond the human body, permeating an object’s direct experience, UNION ties in the relationship between all things—whether living or not, artificial, or conceptual. In the context of memory, the exhibition can be seen as an attempt to preserve and record instances of this material existence.



Installation view, Lee Bae: UNION, 2021, PHI Foundation. Lee Bae, Untitled series, 2019; Issu du feu series, 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin Gallery © PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.


Throughout the installation, Lee Bae addresses his own reality in relation to the material realm, as well as traces of existence in the natural world. In recalling both the physical imprints and mental impressions left by a given act, circumstance, or experience, UNION can be seen as the imaginative landscape of memories. With his Issu du feu series (2018), human-sized trunks are placed sporadically throughout the show, immersing visitors into a unique environment. As the objects were constructed under particular conditions, from being carefully selected and placed in a custom kiln for a controlled burn, Lee Bae accelerates the life of trees in order to repeat, reproduce, and expose their cycles. It simulates the collective phenomena of a given place, and addresses what could be left behind in the material world when a life is no longer present to display its narrative.

Installation view, Lee Bae: UNION, 2021, PHI Foundation. Lee Bae, Brushstroke series, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin Gallery © PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.


The urge to withstand the natural progression of time is as apparent within his Brushstroke series (2020). As Lee Bae uses controlled and repetitive movements to activate the muscle memory necessary in making his marks, the works serve as a documentation of a specific lived experience. It is one that the artist can recreate at any given moment, and comes from an understanding of how his body reacts to external forces. It addresses the transformative power of a motion in intentionally triggering a sensory experience. The entirety of UNION relies on the heavy loom of time over life, focusing on endurance as playing a key role in the stages of being and becoming. The show becomes more than situating art under the artist's intent, or as objects that intrude our spaces and alter our experiences and instead, we become the intruders to the space Lee Bae’s work momentarily inhabits.


As a traveling exhibition, both the show and the objects it consists of, relies on the act of being displaced. They are dependent on a recognizable absence. Much like a memory, they are further bound by material and sensorial traces, as opposed to the chronological experience of time. The aesthetic simplicity of Lee Bae’s UNION presents no sense of a temporal bearing, allowing visitors to move freely throughout the exhibition—wandering forwards, backwards, or staying still. The objects animate the spatiotemporal location, allowing them to develop their own narrative, separate from the artist and the visitors. UNION waits for us to be pulled into its lingering presence, just as a memory waits to be rediscovered.


Installation view, Lee Bae: UNION, 2021, PHI Foundation. Lee Bae, Brushstroke series, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin Gallery © PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, photo: Richard-Max Tremblay.

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An article written by Vania Djelani, in collaboration with PHI.


Vania Djelani completed her BFA in Art History & Studio Arts at Concordia University. As an artist and writer, she is interested in the way materiality can be manipulated to construct a sense of identity—in exploring subjects like race, class and gender. Further informed by studies around material culture, she examines how objects can play a central role in understanding culture and social relations.


For more information:

➔ Check out the PHI webpage which encompasses PHI Center, PHI Foundation, Studio PHI, and Antenna PHI.

➔ Learn more about the exhibition UNION, by Lee Bae.


This article was born out of a collaboration between the Antenne PHI blog and Musée en quarantaine. It is in May PHI is calling for writers to write about the exhibition Lee Bae: UNION at the PHI Foundation.


TO PARTICIPATE IN QUARANTINED MUSEUM


You have until noon, Wednesday, June 30, to send us your artistic creations inspired by the theme of the month. The exhibition will be online Thursday, July 8, 2021.


Click here to learn how to participate.


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