Untitled (Cyborg knee) 2000
- Accession No.
- Date Created
- Dimensions A
14 x 14.7 x 15cm
- Media Category
Hard-paste porcelain, slip-cast, fired to 1555 degrees Celsius and with clear glaze
- Place Created
- Credit Line
Purchased 2002. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant
The Cyborg works in the Queensland Art Gallery Collection (Acc. nos 2002.009-11) consist of four objects made of porcelain: a knee, a single hand lying down with a lid and a pair of hands that stands by the wrists. These porcelain limbs shine a lustrous white, their dysfunctional fingers and joints reminiscent of a robot's stereotypical body parts. The edges of these sculptures are jagged in shape yet smooth in texture while their forms appear as strange, striking fragments of a humanoid creature. The recurring relationship between beauty and violence is a deliberate attempt by Lee to examine the horror of human error in the aestheticisation of the machine.
These porcelain sculptures critique what Lee considers a growing dominance of the machine in contemporary culture. Layered in this critique is Lee's struggle against the Confucian socialism of a male-dominated contemporary Korean society. Lee uses these cyborg fragments as proclamations of the female, while considering the relationship between the cyborg/machine body and the human one. These often contradictory and unresolved tensions within the broader gender politics of the body - as feminised, as mechanised, as broken - are transferred to these sculptures. These works represent dissected, fragmented, detached and broken limbs. It is through this disengagement from the body that Lee attempts to transcend notions of flesh and decay to incorporate a desire for immortality, symbolised by the cyborg sculptures. Her choice of white porcelain is a neutral colour from which she launches an investigation into classical ideals of sculpture and the traditional archetypes of heroism. The shapes in Lee's cyborgs originate from animated images, from cartoons of pop culture, science fiction and Japanese manga. Lee renovates her work by taking fragments from this subculture and sculpting them in the classical medium of porcelain.
Lee's reference to the combination of man and machine is a result of living in Korea during the boom of the microchip and the explosion of the World Wide Web in global consumer culture. These introductions may have 'progressed' the lifestyle of contemporary Korean society, but it has done little to erode the traditional attitudes towards women. For Lee, her biomorphic creations possess monstrous qualities in that they manifest the current world climate's push for teleological perfection, whilst ignoring moral and ethical principles. These body parts, Untitled (Cyborg knee), Untitled (Cyborg hand) (Acc. no. 2002.010a-b), and Untitled (Cyborg hands) (Acc. no. 2002.011a-b), are essentially segmented to illustrate a perception of the cyborg that embraces notions of heroism, monstrosity and violence as a means of alluding to contemporary obsessions of perfection in form and function.
1. Lee, Bul. 'Beauty and Trauma', in Art Journal, trans. Andrew Han, vol. 59, no. 3, Fall 2000, p.105.Porcelain is a key medium in Lee Bul’s early sculptural works, which often depict dissected, fragmented, detached and broken limbs. Through disengagement from the body, Lee attempts to transcend notions of flesh and decay to incorporate a desire for immortality symbolised by the cyborg. Working with the medium’s pure tones and lustrous appearance, the works suggest that technological progress – the machine, the microchip, the internet – has done little to erode traditional attitudes towards women in contemporary society. Contradictory and unresolved tensions within the broader gender politics of the female body as feminised, mechanised or broken, are transferred to these sculptures, which illustrate the current desire for perfection at any price.
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