An Explosion in the Hayward

Self-Combustion in a Fishy piece of Art

We are creatures. We flourish as bits of nature. However, it has been claimed that we survive our natural life to live in the spirit world, or something like it.

There is something uncanny about the lives of imagined creatures from beyond our world. It is as if an extra terrestrial is somehow supernatural.

Thus Lee Bul’s show at The Hayward Gallery disquiets the specvtator with its monsters and cyborgs. The former are familiar enough from our childhood anxieties.

Cyborgs, however, are fairly new to the scene. Million Dollar Man, we might think, is an early example. It is the thought that we are now beginning to develop parts of brains that might restore sight to thre blind; artificuial limbs and so on.

Prosthetic devices in general extend our capacities as human beings in ways that are not only remedial but are extensions of the self into the environment. The devices are not themselves creatures, but become the means by which creatures can insert themselves into mthe world.

No wonder, then, that military research is the mother of new prosthetic invention – think of heat sensitive monitors that enable soldiers to ‘see’ the enemy moving during pitch black nights in the theatre of war.

Lee Bul’s works invent and imagine part monsters, cyborgs and sentient machines. Her wonderful pieces are at once lavish, bejewelled and exotic; whilst also being creepy.

One such example is her, Majestic Splendour, 1991-2018.

Lee Bul, Majestic Splendour, mixed media, 1991 – 2018

The work is said to have reekede to high heaven, wherever that might be. Sadly, shortly after installation at The Hayward Gallery, the fish sponaneously combusted! I wonder what happens to your soul, if your remains explode.

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Edward Winters
About Edward Winters 41 Articles
Ed studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and later wrote his PhD in Philosophy at UCL. He has written extensively on the visual arts and is presently writing a book on everyday aesthetics. He taught at University of Westminster and at University of Kent and he continues to make art.

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