This summer has not been easy for anyone due to the longest rainy season in our history, sweltering heat, and COVID-19.
After enduring the hard times with a positive mind and now entering a new fall, GoEun Museum of Photography is holding Myoung Ho Lee’s photo exhibition under the title of ［drənæna］.
Lee is a leading photographer steadily establishing a unique identity both in Korea and overseas with constant thinking and recording, as well as expansion and continuity of his photographic work.
The exhibition will consist of photography that turns the conflicting concepts and modes of ‘to reveal (to let something appear)’ and ‘to take out (to let something disappear)’ into images, and provide an opportunity for the artist and audience to look back on photography art and the essence of life through mutual communications.
Lee’s exhibition will be organized under the concepts and modes of re-presence, re-produce and between or beyond, the three categories that fall under the context of canvas-effect: camera-effect.
In GoEun Museum of Photography’s special exhibition ［drənæna］, Myoung Ho Lee will introduce especially for this exhibition new works photographed and completed in Busan.
The exhibition will also feature his representative works characterized by the diversity of expression, which is a key characteristic of contemporary photography, as well as the temporal records on the artist’s warm interest in and sincere response to objects.
We hope that you will experience the beautiful revelation of the honest records in GoEun Museum of Photography.
GoEun Museum of Photography, the first local museum dedicated to photography in Korea, is making new traces for the development of Korean photography. We deeply appreciate your continued interest in and support for the museum.
JaeGu Lee, Director
GoEun Museum of Photography
Myoung Ho Lee’s ‘Photography-Act Project’
There are numerous different definitions of art around the world. Probably one of the most frequently used book titles may be ‘What is art?’ Not only artists but also most theorists and people in general are likely to have their own definitions of art. They range from traditional definitions such as ‘Art is the imitation of nature’, to aggressive ones including ‘Art is to present shock’ and ‘Art is fraud.’ All these people may practice and enjoy art according to these definitions in their own ways. It is because, especially for an artist, the definition of art indicates his or her orientation of work and the ultimate motive for the accomplishment of artistic activities.
In the genre of photography, also, there have been a variety of definitions of photography as well. A lot of unique photographic skills have been invented based on many different definitions and interpretations, leading to the emergence of photography in a great many types and forms. This is an ongoing process that will continue in the future. It is not easy to state positively that a specific definition exists on the higher level, which can encompass numerous existing definitions and which people can agree on. Different definitions and practices coexist in parallel with one another. They just exist in disjunctive and hypothetical ways. There is just biodiversity of work, appreciation, interpretation, and review with respect for a variety of orientations and the communication value of photographic work.
Myoung Ho Lee calls his work ‘Photography-Act Project.’ He divides his special work concept ‘Photography-Act Project’ into ’Photography-Act Project,’ ‘Art-Act Project and ‘Philosophy-Act Project,’ and takes on a unique aesthetic framework in which these categories conceptually and systematically intersect with one another and circulate as the work progresses. This so-called nonlinear work concept framework can be understood as Lee’s characteristic concept framework in which different projects create new ways, cooperate with each other on the direction of work, and evolve within the overall framework of the ‘Photography-Act Project.’
Myoung Ho Lee lets the projects intersect with each other and advance them creatively with a pluralistic attitude, rather than carrying out his work in unilinear fashion by postulating the preceding project as a former aspect and the present project as a latter aspect that repeats or succeeds the preceding one. Thus, individual projects do not appear to oppose or conflict with or contradict each other. It’s just that they recognize the work concepts of one another and proceed to expand or amplify them.
The areas Myoung Ho Lee’s so-called ‘-Act Project’ takes interest in are broad, varied and flexible, including the methods of ‘re-presence’ and ‘re-produce’ as well as the ways of active ‘communication’ with viewers. His widely-known Tree series, which led him to join the ranks of the most promising artists, the Mirage series with which he created sea line on the desert horizon, and works that developed based on the projects show a newly developed intention for active encounters with the audience and a more experimental impulse for work.
Myoung Ho Lee presents either unconventional works that unravel the basic principles and physical processes related to the camera(photographic skills) consecutively or field works created based on audience participation. These attempts seem to be part of his efforts to reflect the voices of a wide variety of recipients based on photographic processes or audience reactions and experiences that he has been facing for a long time. Furthermore, they can be interpreted to signify his will to communicate more positively with the public by providing a channel for an open culture of photography where they can take part in photographic culture and activities.
Myoung Ho Lee drew a favorable response from global photographic circles when his works were published in Foam(Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam), a Dutch photography journal, in the early 2000s. In Korea, his name became broadly known through his solo exhibition held at the Gallery Factory, a special exhibition at the Donggang Photography Festival, and the Drawing Yeongwol exhibition organized by the Donggang Museum of Photography, which all took place in 2007. His debut in the art circles was quite impressive. Since then, he has continued to gain remarkable photographic achievements and outstanding reputations in both domestic and global art scenes.
As appropriate for his work orientation, Myoung Ho Lee puts more emphasis on the process than the outcome. He stresses not only the work processes in the studio or field, but also the thinking and reasoning processes maintained ceaselessly such as those regarding usual daily thoughts, viewpoints on things regarding insignificant objects in nature, and traditional cultural heritage and related values. He thinks that ‘A concept is a result of thinking about things,’ and ‘The process of reasoning through things is the ultimate meaning of my photography and work.’ Such a viewpoint on thing and thinking process are the key elements and orientations that serve as his objects of art.
This is the reason why Myoung Ho Lee considers the thinking process on the object of a tree and the act of describing it as the beginning and the ultimate goals of his work, rather than focusing on its shape or aesthetic properties. He installed a structure, on which a large canvas is fixed, behind a tree before taking his pictures, because he wanted to see it as an objective thing. His work on the desert, in which hundreds of people took part, was also intended for a presentation and identification of the mirage as an objective phenomenon. An objective thing always exists outside consciousness. To Myoung Ho Lee, things and phenomena including trees, grass, stones and mirage as they are in nature have been the main targets of thinking and research. That’s why he has borne numerous costs and burdens involved in contemplating them and calling their names.
Myoung Ho Lee introduced to the world the existence dimension of the object called tree and the natural phenomenon of the mirage through a highly original interpretation and arrangement using large canvases. He drew attention with his viewpoint and willingness to take an unconventional look at the world, things, and subjects. With his unique photographic methods and differentiated photographic processes where he adds his own interpretation and thoughts, he has established himself as an artist who practices photographic methods appropriate for his philosophy.
He continues to examine the nature of things like plants, trees, stones, fields, seas and sky and nature, and the dialectic antagonism or cause-and-effect relationship between his intellectual thinking and practice regarding them, through ‘art-act’ and ‘philosophy-act.’ He does not pay too much attention to techniques or argue whether his photographic methods are right or wrong. He just respects and follows the methods of nature and his own breath. In all artistic genres, artist’s work is different from mathematical propositions that determine and divide true and false; it is the non-mathematical impulse and outcome that gets ahead both logically and empirically. Myoung Ho Lee’s photographic work is the process of defamiliarizing the viewpoints and cognition regarding conventional photographic skills and conceptualized things as well as self-reflection.
Myoung Ho Lee’s world of photography and ‘re-presence’ gets a deeper abyss by the slow breath that thoroughly captures the trees, which grow and come closer day by day, after a long contemplation, the vagueness created by the margins and blanks created in depths and width distinguished from conventions, and differentiated viewpoints and work process. Today’s photography is troubled by excessive post-correction, computer-based photographic skills, and violent color contrast produced by highly developed cameras. Considering that he is an unprolific artist and that his work requires a long time due to its process and characteristics, Myoung Ho Lee’s photographs may seem unphotographic and unsocial. They entirely belong to the scope of projects. His strong insistence on the age-old issue of ‘re-presence’ may be evidence of this characteristic. Perhaps it indicates his interest in the outmoded ‘excluded aesthetics’. This is the sorcery in Myoung Ho Lee’s style with which to endure the age of light.
As you may all know, ‘representation’ is the word that means the way of describing an object, like re-presence, re-produce and expression. In other words, representation carries and takes out what is external, physical, optical and seen with the eyes. It offers what the artist has seen to viewers so that they can see or presume the original in a way they can empathize with. In plain words, ‘describing’ what the light reflected on a thing and then is seen by the eyes faithfully and realistically is so-called ‘representation’. Gustave Courbet’s works provide an example of this.
On the other hand, ‘nonrepresentation’ is related to ‘spirit’. rather than eyes and refers to something that has been generated from the encounter between an artist’s personal experience, understanding and emotions and an object. It stands for something different that has been created by the artist’s personal world and thoughts reflected on the object. The works of Cezanne, who is called the father of modern art, belong to this category. To sum up, representation is an objective and subjective description of an object. When the objective element is stressed, it will lead to an objective re-presence, and when the subjective part is highlighted, it will lead to an expressive re-presence. Meanwhile, nonrepresentation generates an ‘arbitrary’ outcome in which the artist’s mind and memories are reflected on a thing. In this case, it is difficult to recognize the original, as an abstract outcome is intended.
As mentioned earlier, Myoung Ho Lee started his work by focusing on the issue of re-presence and re-produce. They signify his photographic practices and photographic acts steadily being maintained until the present. It should be noted, however, that he is reflecting on conventional values and understandings through re-presence, re-produce or regeneration of the thing or object that has approached him as the other in his own photographic format, rather than trying to leave another original work in a physical or optical form. Ironically, Myoung Ho Lee’s work brings a nonrepresentational approach to the representational act of re-presence and presents a fascinating outcome accompanied by an unusual interpretation of the photographic process.
This is an ironic, deductive, and aesthetic approach and an intellectual interpretation regarding representation. Therefore, Myoung Ho Lee’s re-presence appears to belong to so-called ‘intellectualist representation’ positioned between the naturalistic attitude and hyper realistic representation, rather than representation based on the naturalistic attitude. This means that he takes the thing as his own first and then returns it to the object again, rather than expressing it physically or optically.
Myoung Ho Lee’s ‘trademark’ method of re-presence using canvas also extends to installation works that enable the experience of the structural operation principles of a camera such as bright and dark rooms as well as experimental installation works that present a mise-en-scène on the process or method of the image formation of an object. These works clearly demonstrate the artist’s thoughts on photography as well as talents for perception and imagination distinguished from conventional ways of representation. Moreover, they reveal the charm, innate potential and limitations of photographic skill or camerawork at the same time.
If painters chose canvas as a medium for carrying and realizing the object that they would like to represent, Myoung Ho Lee used the space of canvas or the structure of frame as an auxiliary tool to help emphasize and effectively convey the ‘thingness’ of the object. Sometimes he adopted canvas or frame itself as a key subject for work, as in the Mirage series through which he intended a viewpoint of latent image or the Nothing But series in which he stressed the viewpoints of afterimage and illusion.
To Myoung Ho Lee, the canvas is a tool where the object becomes materialized and structuralized not through the surface but through the flat rectangular space. However, as I just mentioned, the canvas surface or frame plays a central role in the Mirage series and the Nothing But series. His works look similar to paintings in terms of the physical and material structure, but they do not materialize the outcomes of his various acts. Rather, they serve as the surfaces where the images unrevealed on the canvas or the existence of things are projected, or a psychological arena.
His recent works involve disfiguration and escape from a camera, concrete objects or images. One of the examples is the work created at the Dadaepo Beach in Busan in 2018, where he placed an empty canvas and left it there for a prolonged period. The surface of the canvas kept getting wet and dry and got stained by various natural elements such as snow, rain, sea breeze, land breeze, salt, waves and sunbeam, and finally, natural images or latent images were formed there as if they got adhered to a sensitive film. He focuses on nature’s reeling, its re-presence through ‘being so on one’s own’, and a new concept of communication between nature and artificiality.
The three-dimensional Not Title(d) series on which he is concentrating these days give an impression of cubes or frames created with silk reeled off from cocoons. The rectangular space formed by laboriously hand-weaving between countless slots in the frame and the multi-layered surface that looks like a modified canvas recall the interventions and intersections of light that made photography possible, or the basic principle of photography. It is an audience participation work in which the process of the image being captured and formed is reviewed in an analog style, which is understood as an attempt to interpret the representation method of photography and its value.
In addition to his traditional work in which he focused on and emphasized things, now Myoung Ho Lee is also working on active and experimental re-presence, three-dimensional works and installation works. As this kind of photography-act minimizes the artist’s intervention and highlight the natural image formation process, the entire process itself is kept as an essential part of the work. Furthermore, rather than space planning centered on exhibition or works, a new space of meaning is conceived through exhibitions for the audiences and projects joined by the audiences. He intends to highlight the role of exhibition and work that constitute the space for a genuine communication between the works and audience by inducing their active participation.
Myoung Ho Lee’s ‘Photography-Act Project’ comprises an independent world where his affectionate viewpoint on things and warm interest in the world, which he has maintained since childhood, are revealed on canvas and objects. For the last 20 years or so, he has presented numerous procedures, processes and styles of their mutual relations. They were the processes of building the intellectual basis for an examination of the question of the re-presence. There have been ups and downs as he has continued to accumulate experiences and overcome problems through new experiments and research. Myoung Ho Lee calls the itinerary filled with these experiments, studies and acts the ‘Photography-Act Project’.
Natural elements including grass, trees, mirage, fields, flowers, sunbeam, wind, snow, rain, sea and people are the main motifs for the artist’s work. Let’s take a brief look at his works. They deal with questions on ‘reality’, ‘unreality’, ‘between realtiy and unreality’ or ‘beyond reality and unreality’ related to ‘re-presence’(such as Tree series), ‘re-produce’(such as Mirage series) and ‘between or beyond’(such as Nothing But series) that portrays the breaths and traces of the nature rather than the substance, Q&A with the audience, UN-TITLE or NO-TITLE which shows acts using artistic expression tools; Camera Lucida and Camera Obscura created using cubical spaces; and Not Title(d) that leads viewers to see themselves projected on the canvas woven with threads as if to make a plane by drawing countless lines, or highlights the process of flowers bloom and wither in between the threads.
They are all Myoung Ho Lee’s distinctive structure. An epistemic framework and hermeneutical elements of re-presence(re-produce) are brought in the structure to help build interdependent relations between visual language and interpretation, and the artist and objects, respectively. In this process, Myoung Ho Lee’s formative language obtains the status as artwork. To him, canvas and trees are interdependent. Representational cognition based on non-verbal languages, such as photographic language, formative language and visual language, has evolved through Myoung Ho Lee’s eyes and photography-act. Considering that it is a project carried out with a focus on the photography-act, his ‘Photography-Act Project’ seems to be a proper proposition regarding his work.
Myoung Ho Lee, who is faithful to the functions of photography-act and does not hesitate to take all the trouble, experiences the expansion and amplification of the photographic language through his ‘Photography-Act’, ‘Art-Act’, and ‘Philosophy-Act’ projects. We can say that he is the creator of a new photography-act, photographic skill or photographic language through which he proposes interpretation of the photographic meaning of re-presence and carries out the interpretation. It also means an extension of the horizon and spectrum of the meanings of photography working between the aspects of photographic skills or artistry and aspects related to photography-act. Myoung Ho Lee transports the elaborate details as well as private and secretive functions and space structure of existing photographic language to an open and dynamic structure.
They are the acts and processes of experimenting and exploring the interdependent relations and interdependent/interactive elements between elements and structure of photographic language, photographic language and physical structure, and interpretation of photography and photography-act. They are not consecutive works that progress according to a set frame but circulate based on Myoung Ho Lee’s own routine as he directs the mise-en-scène as well as move freely through the photographic sequence inductively and deductively. Through the ‘Photography-Act Project’ that comprises his entire work, Myoung Ho Lee has presented twelve series under three categories of the project. Among them, the ‘re-presence(reality)’ category, consisting of seven series, brought him to the ranks of most promising artists not only in the domestic and foreign photographic scenes but also in the global art world.
The ‘re-presence(reality)’ category started with the Tree series(2003) that made Myoung Ho Lee’s name known around the world, followed by others including the Petty Thing series(2019) on things of relatively small sizes or of low importance such as grass on a hill. As is well known, the Tree series comprises structures with canvas mounted on them behind the living natural objects of trees. The works plainly show that there is a large white surface behind the tree, a canvas cloth, and people are invited to guess or recognize its presence. Myoung Ho Lee also respects the details of the background and space-time including the shadow of the tree, wrinkles on the outer corners of the canvas, the shadow of the frame on the back, and the mood of the season, and he accepts the intervention of elements that allow viewers to weigh up the size of the work, such as people, a bridge on the Han River, electric wires and balloons.
The Tree… series, which he started to work on in 2012, is characterized by the appearance of horizontal canvases and pictures, compared to the vertical canvases and pictures in his former works. Some works show multiple trees, and some display the image of just one tree, or a tree with only one or a few branches. Notably, his Tree… #8 created in 2015 shows all the trees in the picture as images captured on separate canvases, and it has such a vivid sense of realism that you can almost hear the wind rustling through the grass, which appears to have been drawn with pencil on the panoramic scene.
The Tree...... #1(2018), showing a tree that appears as if it is seen in the bird’s eye view, and the Stone…… #6(2018) depicting a stone placed on the floor also have Myoung Ho Lee’s signature white canvas in the background. They reflect his attention to and interest in natural objects, especially trees, and the horizontal element of land and the vertical element of trees exist in harmony. The rectangular form of the canvas appears to be tautological with the scene and frame, and it gives a sense of figurative stability and balance in contrast with the tree’s organic presence.
The ‘re-presence(reality)’ category also consists of the Heritage series with which he presented cultural assets in Korea and other countries, including Namdaemun(2013), Seojangdae(2014) and the proposed work on the Arc de Triomphe(tentative) in Paris, as well as Heritage_[drənæda] #1(2020) in which he represented the ancient remains in Wanggung-ri, Iksan with the same concept and a different style.
Next came the ‘re-produce(unreality)’ category. He explored the mode of ‘re-produce’ with a focus on the Mirage series produced mainly between 2009 and 2013. The works featured hundreds of local people standing or lying down while holding a vast canvas along the smooth lines of dunes in one spot, or sometimes as many as three spots. They mostly show ultra-panoramic scenes. They are considered outstanding works that effectively combine the mystery of a fake sea with the vastness of a real desert. The project, realized with the participation of local people who traveled to desert on nine large buses, became a famous event and is still often mentioned among photographers and artists.
The Mirage #1(2009) and Mirage #2(2010) that created a sensation after being introduced in the Artist of Tomorrow exhibition at Sungkok Art Museum in 2010 are gigantic works rendered in inkjet printing, and they draw the viewers’ attention especially with the vivid texture of sand. Some other representative works in the category are the Mirage #3(2011) taken in a tundra area, the Mirage #4(2012) shot on the Silk Road, and the Mirage #5(2013) photographed in Patagonia.
The impression of the desert that appears to resemble the human body is described elaborately, evoking an odd mystery. Myoung Ho Lee emphasized re-produce as unreality and the sense of a mirage through the overall impression and scale of the desert, the delicate differences in the details of the close and distant views as well as the sense of distance. The harmony between rough particles and smooth lines effectively representing the ecology of the desert gives a vivid impression as if you are right there on the desert. They are masterpieces that transform the desert horizons into sea lines with the effect of a mirage by way of canvases.
Since then, his work has led to the ‘between or beyond(between reality and unreality or beyond reality and unreality)’ category. The Nothing But series belong to this category. The outcomes include impressive panoramic works created respecting the expressions and textures of the canvas surfaces that were obtained from nature’s spontaneous expressions and records while they were set up at various places including the Dadaepo Beach. There is an interesting work where the expression of a seagull on the corner is contrasted with the canvas. The perseverance of the canvas, which stood on the desolate and silent beach alone for hours, as well as the artist’s patience, strikes a chord in viewers’ hearts. The Nothing But_[drənæda] series, taken at the Jeongrimsa in Buyeo, is based on the same concept although in a different style.
Myoung Ho Lee put together ‘application, utilization’ category and ‘un-title, non-title’ category under the symbol of ‘&’. This category of works, which is still progressing at present, consists of ten projects that include the Not Title(d)_Jagalmadang #1 and Not Title(d)_Jagalmadang #2 presented at Jagalmadang Art Space in Daegu in 2018.
What Myoung Ho Lee submitted for the exhibition was an exceptional installation work using plants(rose vines), earth, threads and angle frames. The live rose vines within the rectangular angle frame plainly show their own growth process. Thousands of threads woven in diagonal lines and intersecting with one another result in expression and texture similar to those of sparse canvas. Viewers see the natural expression of rose vines growing steadily in the empty structure of the hexahedron where roses bloom and wither. Withered flowers stuck between entangled threads keep their places just as static images in photographs. In the work, the flowers leave the remains of their existence at the spots where they have withered as in a photograph, and the rose vines show their real-time movements along with the gaps between threads.
The Not Title(d) series belongs to the ‘un-title or no-title, none-title or non-title’ category. In the series, the Not Title(d) #1(2019) exhibited at Zaha Art Museum show the viewers, facing the rectangular frame on which countless threads are interwoven diagonally, their own shadows created by the backlight. They encounter themselves permeated, projected and reflected physically and roughly over multi-layered cotton cloth, showing the same effect as canvas or net. With the exception of his works in a new style that will be disclosed for the first time in the ［drənæda］ exhibition, this presents the most recent of his experimental attempts.
Throughout the entire process, Myoung Ho Lee has focused on the ways of re-presence. The audience, while looking at the tree, the object of his work, suddenly becomes curious about what’s behind the canvas, or what’s between the object and the canvas. The tree is not on the surface of the canvas. Rather, it has physical distance from the canvas, or there is a depth between them. Between the shadow on the canvas, the tree and the canvas, things like the airflow and the shadow of the frame supporting the canvas intervene. The tree stands out not as paint but as an object. One experiences the tree as an object and existence placed in front of the canvas, rather than a tree painted, drawn or placed on the canvas. Just as the artist says, Myoung Ho Lee tried to ‘arouse the discourse on re-presence entangled with photographing and painting’ throughout his work processes using various methods and styles.
The concept of ‘re-presence’ which Myoung Ho Lee experimented through his work using trees, etc., reflects his usual work orientation and sentiments, and his work methods and processes can be understood as artistic enunciation regarding them. Notably, his canvas is seen to overlap with the traditional Korean doors and windows covered with paper screens. It is related to our traditional sense of beauty based on which Koreans inserted flower petals or leaves between paper sheets on the windows and appreciated them for a long time, taking in the sunshine and moonlight and identifying things through them, as well as feeling the sentiments of changing seasons. If we say that the Korean traditional sense of beauty is closer to nonrepresentation than representation, Myoung Ho Lee’s sense of beauty and works can be considered nonrepresentational. Although the keyword that penetrates his works is re-presence, it is ironic because, for him, it is re-presence realized through a nonrepresentational sense of beauty.
We can recognize power and spirits that are masculine and feminine from his works using trees and mirages, respectively. Whereas the vertical axis of a tree stands at a right angle with the horizon of land, the desert follows horizontally, organically undulating and respecting the breaths of the ground. It inhales and exhales. The works are usually large in the width and show panoramic views. As if an impressionist painter has squeezed white paint out of the tube right on the desert sand, he placed a bulging figure that looks like a flying saucer on the desert in parallel to the horizon in a rather naïve way. He emphasizes that he physically intervened in nature, and that it was an artificial arrangement aimed at re-produce. It is also Myoung Ho Lee’s special way of naming and calling the names of individual trees among similar ones that are usually grouped together as trees, as well as giving energy to the unnamed land.
If the Tree series represented the exterior world, which actually exists, in the artist’s unique way, works including those in the Mirage series are based on the impression and stimulation that he received by coming face to face with the world of the desert that actually exists, which he missed for a long time. It is a nonrepresentational independent world for which he used the inspiration and insight obtained through all five senses to devise and create fantastic mirages through the matter of canvas. It is a great irony that he longs for the sea line through the desert horizon. The canvas may be an oasis, and it has a similar function with art that leads us to experience and suspect another illusion and fantasy amid the swelling waves.
The ‘re-presence(reality)’ and the ‘re-produce(unreality)’ categories originated from complex actions of the world of representation, or the external world comprising objects and places that actually exist, including trees, grass, stones and desert, the artist’s personal experience structure and memory structure. Myoung Ho Lee talks about re-presence and re-produce, reality and unreality, while in fact he is presenting us the nonrepresentational world arising from the world of our mind. He is building a distinctive world of representation by mediating between and appropriately distributing the methods of representation and nonrepresentation as in the contention between ocular lens and object lens inside the body tube of a microscope. Myoung Ho Lee is showing us an independent world that belongs to an area distinguished from illusion or spectacle.
As noted earlier, representation means an outlook on the external world. Nonrepresentation means another world where the external world faces and reverts to the mind. As most artists do, Myoung Ho Lee appropriately mixes, combines and mediates between the two. His representation, or the world of re-presence or re-produce, is the outcome of a fascinating process realized with a focus on representation with nonrepresentational sentiments suitably combined and distributed. His works reflect an attitude of trying to create unfamiliar experiences through the contention between the two concepts, with different orientations of perception and creative impulses, and to illuminate the transcendental origin of cognition of the world and objects. It is an age-old objective of art and a sound achievement motivation for an artist.
Based on strengthened achievement motivation, Myoung Ho Lee opened the secret room, which is the space of the camera body where he mediates and carries out his work. It was through the dark room and bright room exhibited in his Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida and The Between or The Beyond exhibition.
It was an exhibition with which he made an interim summary of the ‘Art-Act Project’ following the ‘Photography-Act Project’ progressing around the axes of ‘reality(re-presence)’, ‘unreality(re-produce)’, ‘between reality and unreality(between)’ and ‘beyond reality and unreality(beyond)’. It showed an amplified level of perception that started from re-presence and developed into the stereoscopic realization of work concepts. One can see the transition from representation to act and process. It can also be considered as a search for the critical point by re-approaching his ‘Photography-Act’ and basic photographic skills. As such, Myoung Ho Lee’s ‘Photography-Act’ has its own clear critical grammar and reflective vocabulary.
Installation works like the ‘Rooms’ do not reject representation but are understood to indicate Myoung Ho Lee’s expanded interest. They materialize the representation process of photography through the camera in three dimensions as if to draw a diagram. They show the basic grammar and structure of the camera and the mystery of photographic skills in the process mode. Myoung Ho Lee’s attention so as not to miss the basic principles as well as three-dimensional and installation-based interpretations, which are delivered through actions rather than words or printed outcomes, is seen to have non-expressive and antirepresentational characteristics.
The Un-Title or No-Title presented at Zaha Art Museum in 2019 led viewers to psychologically compare and experience the physical processes of painting on the canvas and photography using a camera. This kind of proposition by the artist exists as a certain intellectual accumulation and reconsiders the basic concepts, roles and definitions of art. The exhibition can be regarded as an event in which Myoung Ho Lee advances from the ‘Photography-Act Project’ to the ‘Art-Act Project and the ‘Philosophy-Act Project’ and then finally returns to the ‘Photography Act Project’.
Myoung Ho Lee embarked on the ‘Photography-Act Project’ by posing a question on the issues of re-presence, re-produce, etc. in art. He continued his work through ‘art-act’ and ‘philosophy-act’ while actively engaging in discourses on re-presence, re-produce, etc. in the field of photography and possible practices. He developed ‘camera obscura(dark room)’ and ‘camera lucida(bright room)’ into ‘black room’ and ‘white room’, and experimented with re-presence and re-produce in painting and photography by comparing ‘formed image’ and ‘latent image’ through ‘canvas’ and ‘camera’. Myoung Ho Lee’s philosophical interest in investigating the issue of representation in art was noteworthy.
As widely known, art is not science or mathematics. What is important and necessary is not the clarification of the true nature of art or a certain conclusion but the intellectual curiosity and process of making efforts for investigation. This is also the purpose of aesthetics. Myoung Ho Lee knows that what’s important is the ‘process’ of trying to find the answers to the questions of ‘What is art?’, ‘What is photography?’, and so on.
Myoung Ho Lee’s ‘Photography-Act Project’ is the philosophical question and practical introspection on these questions. It is the process of looking for the definitions and answers in his style. It is Myoung Ho Lee’s project and ultimate objective. Therefore, his work, or ‘photography-act’ is a ‘process’ that is unfinished and will continue without a break. It will repeat ‘thesis-antithesis-synthesis’ of the work, check the frameworks of self-examination and basic principles, and continue to expand. It is the reason why he never loses patience or compromises and keeps on moving ahead.
Maybe Myoung Ho Lee is stressing the mental value of photography more than its traditional functions through his ‘Photography-Act Project’. The works on the themes of ‘re-presence’, ‘re-produce’ and ‘between and beyond’ that he is steadily pursuing started with representation, but what he has finally discovered is the mental value of the objects existing in the world and that of his own. His work may be the process of trying to find, reexperience and verify this, or the ‘act of representation’ based on nonrepresentation.
His successive works and activities aimed at expanding the system of representation, including those belonging to the categories of ‘re-presence’, ‘re-produce’ and ‘between or beyond,’ examine the possibility in a paradoxical way through his recent the Nothing But series, and especially the works that recall the suprematist painting or antirepresentational system exemplified by an empty canvas standing on the mudflat. This work at Dadaepo attempted at showing the process of re-presence, through which the photography is formed, in the process mode. That is why we can see his works maintained under the motifs of re-presence and re-produce from the practical and semantic perspective based on nonrepresentation and anti-representation, rather than understanding them based on the representational interpretant.
Myoung Ho Lee’s work is the outcome of an empirical approach, rather than the result of a logical and conceptual approach to objects. He knows that if the result of a logical approach is the concept and form of an object, an empirical approach is made regarding the object itself. It is an attempt to approach empirically to an object, experiment the method of re-presence, summarize the process and the result of the experience and discover the object. When facing Myoung Ho Lee’s works, viewers need to understand their own personal experiences lying latently deep inside themselves as well as the artist’s nonrepresentational sense of beauty, nonrepresentational re-presence and representation; this is where Myoung Ho Lee’s photographs earn their symbolic and aesthetic significance.
Artists approach their objects empirically. This way, they find connections, repeat to add and subtract various connections, and reach the process of work and the outcome of works in the end. To Myoung Ho Lee, photography is no more the conventional photography but something related to it, and the process of intellectual introspection to persistently explore the changes in the relations between photography and object(subject), and photography and audience(recipient).
The ［drənæda］ exhibition is an open event where viewers can take a comprehensive look at Myoung Ho Lee’s empirical approach to and understanding of the objects and get one step closer to the world of his work centered on the process. It offers yet another fascinating opportunity for a close encounter with his thoughts and traces related to such questions as ‘‘What is the ‘Photography-Act Project’?’.
Tcheon-Nahm PARK(Curator, Critic)
ⓒMyoung Ho Lee, Nothing but #2, paper+ink, 1040 x 1040 x 1mm, 2018
ⓒMyoung Ho Lee, tree #18_1_1, paper+ink, 676 x 2976 x 1mm, 2020
ⓒMyoung Ho Lee, tree #18_1_2, paper+ink, 676 x 2976 x 1mm, 2020
Myoung Ho Lee
Department of Photography, College of Arts & Graduate School, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea
Selected Solo Exhibitions
2020 ［drənæda］, Goeun Museum of Photography, Busan, Korea
2019 UN-TITLE or NO-TITLE, Zaha Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
2018 Nothing, But, Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, Korea
2017 Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida and The Between or The Beyond, Savina Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
Tree..., Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, USA
2014 Myoung Ho Lee’s PHOTOGRAPHY-ACT PROJECT, 798 Photography Gallery, Beijing, China
2013 Camera Obscura, Camera Lucida..., Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, Korea
2012 Myoung Ho Lee, Gallery Jungmiso, Seoul, Korea
2010 PHOTOGRAPHY-ACT PROJECT, Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
2009 Tree, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, USA
Selected Group Exhibitions
2020 NON-SCULPTURE: LIGHT or FLEXIBLE, Changwon Sculpture Biennale 2020, Yongji Sculpture Park,
2020 Neo Mixed Era - Another Encounter, Geumgang Nature Art Biennale 2020, Geumgang Nature Art Center, Gongju, Korea
2020 Among The Trees, Hayward Gallery, London, UK
2020 Serendipity, Savina Museum of C ontemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
2019 Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs, Jean Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA
2019 When I encounter your green, Suwon Museum of Art, Suwon, Korea
2019 Time Reality: Disconnection, Trace, Oblivion, Coreana Museum, Seoul, Korea
2020 Neo Mixed Era - Another Encounter, Geumgang Nature Art Pre Biennale 2019, Geumgang Nature Art Center, Gongju, Korea
2019 Photo Espãna 2019, Álvaro Alcázar Gallery, Madrid, Spain
2018 Basically. Forever., Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
The Architecture of Structure, Suwon Museum of Art, Suwon, Korea
Collection Highlights, Museum of Art, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Vertical Impulse, Horizontal Impulse, Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea
2017 National Gallery of Victoria Triennial 2018, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Fotoistanbul 2017, Ortaköy, Istanbul, Turkey
Visions of Nature, Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna, Austria
META-SCAPE, Wooyang Museum of Contemporary Art, Gyeongju, Korea
2016 The Secret Garden, Seoul Museum, Seoul, Korea
As the Moon Waxes and Wanes: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea 30 Years 1986-2016, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Gwacheon, Korea
Nirvana, Vystavka Dostizheniy Narodnogo Khozyaystva, Moscow, Russia
Public to Private: Photography in Korean Art Since 1989, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Seoul, Korea
Being in Nature, Museum SAN, Wonju, Korea
View of Photography, Dubai Photo 2016, Dubai Design District, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
2015 See - Sea & Seed, Sea Art Festival 2015, Dadaepo Beach, Busan, Korea
Real in Irreal, Wooyang Museum of Contemporary Art, Gyeongju, Korea
INFINITY: ∞ 2015, Space K, Gwacheon, Korea
Beyond the Closed Space, Taehwa River Eco Art Festival 2015, Taehwa River Park, Ulsan, Korea
The Treachery of Images, Gallery of Classic Photography, Moscow, Russia
No Boundaries, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival 2015, Brookfield Place, Toronto, Canada
2014 Different Dimension, International Festival of Contemporary Photography 2014, Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Novosibirsk, Russia
50 years of Korean Contemporary Art in Overseas Biennales, Busan Biennale 2014, Busan Cultural Center, Busan, Korea
Photographic Narrative, Daegu Photo Biennale 2014, Daegu Arts Center, Daegu, Korea
Horizontally Growing Trees, Geumgang Nature Art Biennale 2014, Geumgang Nature Art Center, Gongju, Korea
Horizons, Festival de la Luz 2014, Centro Cultural Recoleta, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Reflected - Works from the FOAM Collection, Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
2013 Manifestation, LIG Art Space, Seoul, Korea
Constructed Visions: New Media from Korea, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, USA
Who is Alice?, Venice Biennale 2013, Lightbox, Venice, Italy
B.reath., Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
2012 Distanced, International Photography Festival 2012, Jaffa Port, Tel Aviv, Israel
A Change of Décor, The Festival Images 2012, Vevey, Switzerland
Jin(to Advance). Tong (to Communicate). - Contemporary Korean Art Since the 1990‘s, Gwangju Museum of Art, Gwangju, Korea
Images of Silence, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Gwacheon, Korea
2011 Asian Fictions, Centro Cultural Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru, Lima, Peru
The Detour of the ReaI, Seoul Photo Festival 2011, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Dual Images, Pohang Museum of Steel Art, Pohang, Korea
Rest., Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan, Korea
In Focus: The Tree, Getty Center, Los Angeles, USA
MoA Invites 2011, Museum of Art, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
2010 Fragmented Paysage, Daegu Arts Center, Daegu, Korea
Photo Project - From Seoul, New York and Munich, Kyungpook National University Art Museum, Daegu, Korea
On the Cutting Edge - Aspects of Korean Contemporary Photography, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan
A Second Nature, Transphotographiques, Palais Rameau, Lille, France
Drawing the World, Incheon Art Platform, Incheon, Korea
Invitation to a Strange House, Nam-Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
2009 Intersections, Photo Phnom Penh 2009, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Da Vinci‘s Dream: Art & Techne, Jeju Museum of Art, Jeju, Korea
Landscape, Fototriennale.dk 2009, Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, Denmark
CITY_NET ASIA 2009, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
The Magic of Photography, The Museum of Photography, Seoul, Seoul, Korea
The Tree, James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai, China
2008 Photo on Photograph, Kumho Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Young Portfolio Acquisitions 2007, Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Hokuto, Japan
2007 Light of Academy, CAFA Art Museum, Beijing, China
2007 Drawing Yeongwol, Dong Gang Photo Festival 2007, Dong Gang Museum of Photography, Yeongwol, Korea
Selected Residencies and Projects
2020 Champagne Project, Champagne Drappier, Urville, France
2020 Tree: Music Video, Lyn Jae Lee, Seoul, Korea
2019 Scape with History: 50 Years of National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea, National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea, Daejeon, Korea
2018 How to be a Camera, Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, Seoul, Korea
Awakening the Senses: The-K Campaign, The Korean Teachers’ Credit Union, Seoul, Korea
Wine Project, Château Laroque, Saint-Émilion, France
Player Project, Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee, Pyeongchang, Korea
2016 Seoul Art Station 2016, Seoul City Hall, Seoul, Korea
Model for Galaxy S7, Samsung Electronics, Seoul, Korea
2015 Growing Sculpture: Tree_Songdo Project, Incheon Free Economic Zone, Incheon, Korea
2014 Heritage_Seojangdae Project, AICA, Suwon, Korea
2013 Heritage_Sungnyemun Project, Cultural Heritage Administration, Seoul, Korea
Nomadic: Baikal Residency, Arts Council Korea, Seoul, Korea
sTREEt Campaign, Gangnam-gu Office, Seoul, Korea
2009 National Art Studio, Korea: Chandong Residency, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
2018 Appointed as Honorary Ambassador for National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea, Korea
Appointed as Honorary Ambassador for Saint-Émilion, France
2017 Appointed as Honorary Ambassador for Leica, Korea, Korea
2011-18 Served as Professor at Department of Photography & Video, College of Creativity Convergence, Kyungil University, Korea
Banco Espirito Santo, Lisbon, Portugal
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, France
Compagnie Bancaire Helvétique, Geneva, Swiss
Daegu Art Museum, Daegu, Korea
Deutsche Bank, Hong Kong, China
Equinor, Oslo, Norway
Fondation d′entreprise Hermès, Paris, France
Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan, Korea
Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts, Hokuto, Japan
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Salta, Argentina
Museum of Art, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, Gwacheon, Korea
Savina Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea
Sungkok Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
Suwon Museum of Art, Suwon, Korea
The Jean Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA
The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia
The Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark
Wooyang Museum of Contemporary Art, Gyeongju, Korea
Zaha Art Museum, Seoul, Korea