Presented during Hayward Gallery’s historic 50th anniversary year in 2018, this was the first major solo show in London for pioneering Korean artist Lee Bul (b. 1964). This exhibition explored Lee Bul’s extensive investigation into the nature of the body and its relationship to architectural space, the way it defines our experience of the world, and the ways in which it is possible to push at its limits.

Over the past 30 years Lee Bul’s career – which has spanned South Korea’s transition from military dictatorship to democracy – has focused on questions of intimacy, gender, technology, class and race through the body, whether this ‘body’ is architectural or human. Lee’s varied oeuvre explores dreams, ideals and utopias inspired by futuristic theories and science fiction, bioengineering and visionary architecture, as well as Japanese anime and manga.

Her intricate sculptural creations combine new media and innovative technologies in what she describes as a ‘dream language that mediates between the unconscious and lived experience’, while her later immersive installations have used architecture as an analogy for the human mind.

The exhibition included documentation of early performances and sculptural works from Lee Bul’s ‘Monster’, ‘Cyborg’ and ‘Anagram’ series, key utopia-inspired sculptures, recent immersive installations, drawings and paintings, as well as a series of new works and environments produced specially for the exhibition.

The exhibition was accompanied by the event Lee Bul in Conversation and Performance by Zadie Xa, co-produced by Hayward Gallery and the Korean Cultural Centre UK on 1 June 2018. Lee Bul discussed her work with Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff, which was followed by Flooded with ICE/Hell Fire Can't Scorch Me, a performance by Korean-Canadian visual artist Zadie Xa.

About Lee Bul

Born in South Korea in 1964 to leftist parents at odds with the authoritarian government then in power, Lee Bul spent much of her childhood fleeing persecution and moving between temporary homes. Often feeling like an outsider in these new environments, she found relief in drawing and in making.

In 1984, Lee Bul enrolled at Hongik University in Seoul to study sculpture, where she also developed an interest in theatre. In 1987, she graduated from art school and founded Museum, a loose collective of artists and musicians. She presented her first public performance in 1988 and continued to produce provocative performance works involving her own body for the following decade.

In 1997, Lee Bul was invited to exhibit Majestic Splendor – a work consisting of rows of sequinned, decomposing fish – at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. A year later she was selected as a finalist for the Hugo Boss Prize by the Guggenheim Museum, New York, where she presented her influential Cyborg series for the first time. In 1999, she became the first woman to represent Korea at the Venice Biennale.

Since then, Lee Bul has had major solo exhibitions at museums and galleries across the world, including the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2002), Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris (2007), Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012), MUDAM, Luxembourg (2013), the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2014) and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2014). She lives and works in Seoul, from a hilltop studio overlooking the city below.

Performance: Flooded with ICE/Hell Fire Can’t Scorch Me

Korean-Canadian visual artist Zadie Xa presented a performance exploring a dystopian feminist future through the eyes of a young protagonist.

Bringing together live storytellers, dancers and musicians, Flooded with ICE/Hell Fire Can’t Scorch Me leads the audience into a distant galaxy of shape-shifting and magic. Produced in collaboration with writer Taylor Le Melle and performers Jihye Kim, Jane Chan and Nam Yoon Kim.

Zadie Xa is a London-based artist whose work explores hybrid identities, desire and fantasy through performance, painting, video and textiles. Recent exhibitions and performances include: HOMEBOY 3030: Return the Tiger 2 the Mountain, Union Pacific, London, 2018(solo); Iridezcent Interludez for Do Disturb 2018 performance festival, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2018; Rehearsals from the Korean Avant-Garde Performance Archive, Korean Cultural Centre, London, 2017

Live performance : Zadie Xa, Flooded with ICE/Hell Fire Can’t Scorch Me, 2018
at Hayward Gallery/Southbank Centre, 2018
Ⓒ Zadie Xa. | Credit: Ana de Matos, Chameleoneye Films.