Lee Bul: Live Forever
Lee Bul’s futuristic installation included a trilogy of video projections alongside three soundproof karaoke booths – white pod-like capsules lined with leather and body-conforming foam – that visitors were invited to enter one at a time for a private performance. Part road trip, part space odyssey, “Lee Bul: Live Forever” blurred the lines between art and entertainment, artifice and nature, and public and private performance.
Lee Bul stated 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. Bul’s use of karaoke conveys her notion that everyone’s life has a soundtrack that evokes a mixture of memory and desire distinctly individual, while at the same time composed of elements of mass production and public consumption.
Each of the karaoke pods corresponded to a video and song list that addressed a specific theme. One pod was lined in black and explored the notion of a journey. Visitors chose from songs including “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen and "California Dreamin’ " by the Mamas and the Papas. The accompanying video depicted couples dancing in the Tonga Room of the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and explored relationships between lounge singers, tourists, and businessmen in transient hotel culture.
A second pod lined in orange was devoted to a collection of love songs such as “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, and “One” by U2. The video captured a group of Korean schoolgirls dancing and playing in nature.
Silver-blue leather lined a third pod that combined imagery and songs about urban life. The fast-moving video depicted a nighttime journey along a six-lane freeway in Seoul. Blurring headlights and neon signs speed by, accompanying songs such as “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
Lee Bul has exhibited worldwide at venues such as the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Walker Art Center, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, among others. In 1999, she represented Korea at the Venice Biennale. “Lee Bul: Live Forever” traveled to the San Francisco Art Institute; The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; The New Museum of Art, New York; Orange County Museum of Art; The Power Plant, Toronto; and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, before its final stop in Seattle. Lee Bul lives and works in Seoul.