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"Lee Bul: Live Forever"
2002-05-17 until 2002-07-07
New Museum of Contemporary Art
New York, NY, USA

Lee Bul's futuristic installation involves video projection and three fully functional, soundproof karaoke booths-white, pod-like capsules lined with leather and body-conforming foam-that visitors are invited to enter one at a time for a solo performance. Part road trip, part space odyssey, Lee Bul: Live Forever blurs the lines between art and entertainment, artifice and nature, and public and private performance.

Lee explains that in these pods, where the body is surrounded by a machine-like shell, "the act of singing becomes a performance only for the self, like dancing in front of the mirror." The physical isolation of the capsule encourages each user to explore the personal fantasies and the collective memories evoked by popular music. Lee Bul first created a standing karaoke booth for her installation Gravity Greater than Velocity + Amateurs for the Korean pavilion at the 1999 Venice Biennale. The three pods included in Live Forever continue her exploration of the karaoke phenomenon and embody the distinctive and pervasive role that karaoke has assumed within contemporary Asian culture. Lee's use of karaoke conveys her notion that everyone's life has a soundtrack that evokes a mixture of memory and desire that is distinctly individual, though also composed of elements of mass production and public consumption.

Each of the three karaoke pods in the exhibition contains a video and corresponding song list that address a specific theme. The first pod, Live Forever I, is lined in funereal black leather upholstery and explores the notion of journey. Visitors can choose from 48 songs including "Always on My Mind" by the Pet Shop Boys, "And I Love Her" by the Beatles, and "Young Americans" by David Bowie. The accompanying video Live Forever depicts couples dancing in the Tonga Room of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and explores Lee's interest in the relationships between lounge singers, tourists, and businessmen in transient hotel culture.

A second karaoke pod lined in orange, Live Forever II, is devoted to a collection of love songs. Participants can choose from songs like "Every Breath You Take" by the Police, "One" by U2, and "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young. Live Forever II presents Amateurs a video that captures a group of Korean schoolgirls playfully dancing in the park. Female identity and the stereotype of the nice, innocent Asian woman are explored in Amateurs and throughout Lee's work.

Silver blue lines the third pod, Live Forever III, which combines imagery and songs about city life. Its fast moving video, Anthem, speeds down a freeway in Seoul blurring neon signs and the geometry of the urban nightscape. Accompanying songs include "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics, "Our Lip Are Sealed" by the Go-Gos, and "Dancing Queen" by ABBA.

Lee Bul is known for her sculpture, multi-media installations, and video that find their meaning in the interplay of nature, popular culture, and the materials and social conditions created by science and technology. The works in Lee Bul: Live Forever were produced by the artist in collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Art Institute.


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