Lee Bul transforms London’s Hayward Gallery into a sci-fi playground

Complete with a 17-ft-long Zeppelin balloon

South Korean artist Lee Bul has transformed London’s Hayward gallery into a sci-fi wonderland, complete with a metallic blimp for her first UK solo exhibition.

Crashed brings together 118 of Bul’s works from the 1980s to present, including 16 new pieces that have never been seen before. Collectively, they blur the line between dystopian fantasy and the stark geometries of the Hayward’s boxy spaces.

Bul’s futuristic karaoke pod Live Forever III (2001) has been installed in one of the gallery’s newly restored volumes, while monster-like tentacles hang from its ceiling, appearing to break through the building’s Brutalist shell. Black shards of mirror cover the Hayward’s floors.

‘The show is designed to transport the visitors to another reality, place and time,’ says curator Stephanie Rosenthal. ‘I am particularly interested in the way Lee Bul’s work addresses both the aspirations of democracy and its potential failure and I think approaching these topics is more relevant than ever today.’

Installation view of Lee Bul Crashing at Hayward Gallery, 2018 (c) Lee Bul. Photography: Linda Nylind
Installation view of Lee Bul Crashing at Hayward Gallery, 2018 (c) Lee Bul. Photography: Linda Nylind

The multi-sensory extravaganza takes over the entire gallery – which emerged from a top-to-toe restoration by British architects Feilden Clegg Bradley in January – and also features Bul’s seminal work, Majestic Slender (1991-2018). This evocative installation comprises decaying fish, embroidered and embellished with sequins, beads and flowers, questioning the value of beauty.

But the piece-de-resistance is a 17-metre-long Zeppelin balloon which has docked inside the upper galleries, appearing to hover above reflective floor. Willing To Be Vulnerable – Metalized Balloon (2015–16) is inspired by the 1937 Hindenburg disaster – a theme Bul returns to with her freshly completed piece Scale of Tongue (2017-2018), referencing the 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster.

Installation view of Lee Bul ‘Monster Black’ (2011) and ‘Civitas Solis II’ (2014) at Hayward Gallery, 2018. (c) Lee Bul. Photography: Mark Blower

Adds Hayward Gallery director, Ralph Rugoff: ‘Lee Bul’s ongoing engagement with utopian modernism pairs perfectly with the democratic aspirations of the Hayward’s own adventurous architecture. Throughout the exhibition Lee Bul uses the distinctive design of the gallery as a collaborator rather than a backdrop.’

Lee Bul: Crashing runs until 19 August 2018.

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