Home, Hammocks and Hazards
Walking into Yavuz Fine Art to see Michael Lee’s solo exhibition, I am first confronted by a Tracey Emin-ish neon sign in turquoise on the wall in front of me. The cursive text says “machine for
living/dying in” with the word “living” crossed out and replaced by “dying”. On my far left is another piece of work in the room. It is a video installation, in a tombstone-like black structure, which flashes names and details of individuals in English and Chinese, explaining the circumstances in which they were found – having died or disappeared alone. The title of the work is aptly Going Solo. After such a sobering welcome I am a little apprehensive about walking into the next room which has a heavy industrial PVC curtain hanging at the door. As I walk through l hope that there will be some more work to see and so the black hammock, a black wooden shelving system, a glass case and some framed work on the wall at the far end of the room make me slightly uneasy.
Perhaps, that is what the artist wants the viewer to feel- uneasiness and a sense of something waiting to happen or lurking behind the scenes. What seem like innocuous household objects – the hammock and shelves - take on a sinister feeling and on turning around I notice that the curtain and wall that I walked through is painted in diagonal black and yellow stripes that scream hazard in capital letters. Indeed the three dimensional collages across the room are all titled Hazard No 1 through to No 7 and each one is a depiction of a home opening up the assumption of a home as a safe place.
The title of the exhibition and the turquoise neon text are inspired by the contradictory notions of home of two architects. Le Corbusier who is well known for his contribution to urban planning and design during the early 20th century stated that ‘the house is a machine for living in’. Douglas Darden on the other hand, stated that “a house is for dying”. Lee combines these two statements to portray the home as both a place for comfort and discomfort. An ambiguous phrase that is non- judgemental and open to interpretation by the audience or receiver. Lee says that he wants his work to be a trigger for reflection and self critique and recognises that it can often be misinterpreted and misused but he hopes that such slippages can be transformative.
So what are the hammock and the wooden IKEA shelving system doing in his exhibition? Both reference a topic that Lee has tackled before in his works…public housing. The hammock references the 2009 incident where a hammock strung between the two columns in the void deck of a HDB block was reported as “outrageous” on STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print or STOMP is a citizen-journalism website with user-generated material) and the shelves reference HDB public housing which continues to be a hot topic of debate in Singapore.
Living Dying In runs till 21 September 2014 at the Yavuz Fine Art, 51 Waterloo Street, #03-01, Singapore 187969. Hours are 11am - 7pm (Tue - Sat), 1pm - 5pm (Sun), Mon & public holidays by appointment only.
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