This shiny & giant metal Zeppelin invades museums

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, installation view of Crashing” at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018, photo Linda Nylind
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view of Crashing at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018
Photo: Linda Nylind/southbankcentre.co.uk

Intro

Lee Bul’s installation that saw the transformation of the Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery took place in 2018 between May and August. Occupying the entire art space, this exhibition was the artist’s first ever solo show in London. In it, more than 118 other pieces created from the late 1980s to now were also showcased. However, it is the Zeppelin piece that had audiences completely enamored and fascinated during the show.

Why did Lee create the Zeppelin?

From the late 1980s to now, this pioneering Korean artist has been instrumental in generating a wide array of artworks, which draw on a mix of references. The Zeppelin, in particular, was designed to transport visitors in attendance to another place and time with the hope of exploring the aspirations of a contemporary society and the resulting failures within it.

Historical reference

Lee’s work Willing To Be Vulnerable (2015-16) was represented by a massive foil Hindenburg Zeppelin. With this piece, the artist continued her investigation of utopian ideas and their effect on history and society. If you can recall your history, the Zeppelin was an airship that was pioneered and named after the then German Count known as Ferdinand von Zeppelin1. At the start of the 20th century, these futuristic airships represented modernity and progress but their popularity came to an end after a Zeppelin carrying 96 passengers went up in flames2 while attempting to land. As such, Lee created the piece to draw attention to the different ways that technology can harm people even when the same technology is developed with the best of intentions.

Working with the space

As she did with the other 117 pieces, Lee took advantage of the distinctive design of the gallery and used it as a collaborator rather than just using it as a mere backdrop. The 17-meter-long Zeppelin structure was docked inside the upper galleries of the Haywards and was installed to hover above the gallery’s reflective floors.

Lee Bul’s work & inspiration

Lee has been created thought-provoking artwork since the 1980s. Her work often revisits past experiences in her own life and in history with the hopes of imagining what the future would look like had the events not occurred. Born in South Korea during president Park Chung-hee’s3 dictatorship, Lee saw the rapid modernization that occurred in Korea during the 1960s and 1970s. Often times, the projects that were undertaken during this period were often left half-finished and the individuals working on them often suffered as a result. As a consequence, her artwork is often strongly related to her upbringing and her childhood, which explains why her work is also so strongly linked to the modern.

Photo: ‘Willing To Be Vulnerable’ at Art Basel Hong Kong, 2019

Installation view of Lee Bul, Willing To Be Vulnerable - Metalized Balloon, 2019, at Art Basel Hong Kong, 2019
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view, Art Basel Hong Kong, 2019
Photo: Public Delivery/publicdelivery.org

Photos: “Crashing” exhibition at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, installation view of Crashing” at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018, photo Xinhua:Ray Tang
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view of Crashing at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018
Photo: Ray Tang/xinhuanet.com

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, installation view of Crashing” at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view of Crashing at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018
Photo: Southbank Centre/southbankcentre.co.uk

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, installation view of Crashing” at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018, photo Maxie Fischer
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view of Crashing at Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London, 2018
Photo: Maxie Fischer/berlinerfestspiele.de

Photo: “Crash” exhibition the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 2018
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view of Crash at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 2018
Photo: Mathias Völzke/berlinerfestspiele.de

Photos: The Zeppelin at the Biennale of Sydney

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia, photo Ben Symons:Biennale of Sydney)
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view on Cockatoo Island at 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016
Photo: Ben Symons/biennaleofsydney.art

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view on Cockatoo Island at 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016
Photo: Algirdas Bakas/e-flux.com

Lee Bul - Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia, photo Algirdas Bakas
Lee Bul – Willing To Be Vulnerable, 2015–2016, Heavy-duty fabric, metalized film, transparent film, polyurethane ink, fog machine, LED lighting, electronic wiring, dimensions variable, installation view on Cockatoo Island at 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016
Photo: Algirdas Bakas/berlinerfestspiele.de

All images by Studio Lee Bul/leebul.com unless otherwise noted.

Videos

Willing To Be Vulnerable at the 20th Biennale of Sydney, 2016

2min 54sec

Interview with Lee Bul

4min 41sec

Related works

Related readings

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_von_Zeppelin
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindenburg_disaster
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Park_Chung-hee
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