The abject—in particular the intersection of body horror and sexuality—is integral to Seoul-and-Amsterdam-based artist Mire Lee's exploration of the 21st-century human condition. Challenging aesthetic conventions with her use of heavy-duty materials such as chains, motors, and pumps that cause her forms to writhe and discharge ftuids, Lee presents the grotesque as part machine, part animal, and part human.
Since her first solo exhibition in Korea in 2014, Lee has gained increasing international effor for her transgressive, carnally violent scultupes. In the Arsenale at the 59th Venice Biennale (4/23-11/27), Lee presented Endless Houses: Holes and Drips (2022), an installation resembling a drying rack for entrails that consists of tubes hanging on a metal scaffold and leaking ruddy, iron-pigmented glaze. Her solo exhibition "Look, I'm a fountain of filth, raving mad with love" (5/21-9/4), at the Museum für Moderne Kunst's Zollamt space in Frankfurt, featured walls of scribbled writing, half-built rebar structures and concrete mixers in a dystopian scene. "As We Lay Dying" (7/9-10/16), Lee's solo exhibiton at Kunstmuseum Deen Haag, in the Netherlands, explored the process of death and decay with bone-like clay sculptures placed above a metal grate, underneath which pooled viscous, unfired clay resembling liquefying flesh. The exhibition "Carriers" (9/5-10/22) at Tina Kim Gallery in New York centered around the theme of vorarephilia, a fetish that involves the sexual desire to consume or be consumed by another person or creature, which she evoked in her dropping tangles of tubes, concrete casts, and hanging net sculptures.
Along with being featured at Venice, Lee was commissioned to create new works at several mega-exhibitions. In Korea, Lee participated in the 11th Busan Biennale (9/3-11/6) with her site-specific installation Landscape with Many Holes: Skins of Yeongdo Sea (2022) in an abandoned factory building. Resembling rotting flesh, as if it had been consumed by the factory, the installation was damaged by Typhoon Hinnamnor, poetically accelerating its decay. At the 58th Carnegie International (9/24-4/2/23) in Pittsburgh, Untitled (My Pittsburgh Sculpture) (2022) featured viscera-like forms entangled in turning machinery with red liquid pooling underneath. While often graphic, her works breathe new life into the exploration of bodily death.
11th Busan Biennale
We, on the Rising Wave
In "We, on the Rising Wave," the curatorial team led by Haeju Kim and composed of Christine Tohmé, Phillipe Pirotte, and philoshopher Yuk Hui, explored the history of Busan from its position as the first open port following the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876 to its modern decline as an industrial hub. Featuring 64 participants, with 18 from South Korea, the Biennale was spread across the Museum of Contemporary Art Busan, Pier 1 of Busan Port, Yeongdo Island, and the Choryang district as artists explored the city's history and ecosystems through periods of technological change and migration. Mire Lee's site-specific installation of hanging oil-stained fabric, Landscape with Many Holes: Skins of Yeongdong Sea (2022), was housed in the abandoned factory building whose roof was partially destroyed by an earlier storm—and history repreated itself when Landscape was also damaged by Typhoon Hinnamnor. Mika Rottenberg and Mahyad Tousi's film Remote (2022), conceived during the pandemic's height and focusing on ideas of gender and labor in a characteristically surreal manner, had its Asian premiere at Yeongdo Outdoor Cinema. Seeking to repair rifts through shamanic rituals, Sara Sejin Chang's video installation Four Months, Four Million Light Years (2020) explored colonialism through transnational adoptions.