Lee Bul is one of the Korean contemporary art scene’s major figures, known since the 1980s for her radical and committed work on the body and provocative performances with extravagant costumes she designs. In 2007, she presented a solo exhibition at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain. The work she conceived for that exhibition was as a reflection on the transparence of the building of the Fondation Cartier. Her research work on architecture in this context took on a particular scale, resonating with the building and Korean history. Her work, Heaven and Earth, touches on the paradoxes of history. “The title is taken from the name of the lake in the middle of Baekdusan, which is kind of a holy mountain in Korean national myths. It’s located in what is today North Korea, so for generations of postwar Koreans in the South, it exists only in their imagination. For them, it is a kind of ideal image, almost an abstraction. In this work, the seedy-looking, oversized bathtub, filled with dark ink and ringed by snowy mountain ridges, functions as a visual synecdoche, evoking an entire period, ideals and ideological battles, and the use of torture to suppress free thought.”


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