Artist’s ‘public-friendly’ installations invite viewer’s contact

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Artist’s ‘public-friendly’ installations invite viewer’s contact

Contemporary art evokes a vast range of images for different people. Some call it abstract and coincidental, others call it innovative or progressive. Whatever your opinion, one thing is certain about three contemporary art installations by Lee Ung-bai at Ssamziegil, central Seoul: you can do as you wish with them, without the usual “no touching” sign intimidating you. Visitors are invited to touch, pound or color the “Public-Friendly Sculpture” series, or even hang from them like a monkey if you prefer.
Mr. Lee’s theme for this series is “communication and contact.” This might seem to have been dealt with repeatedly in contemporary art, but the artist had his own, personal reasons for starting the series. “I was brought up by parents who were separated from their families after the [Korean War]. It was difficult for me, as a little child back then, to understand the depth of their sadness at not being able to return to their homeland,” stated the artist in the “artist’s notes” for this exhibition.
The subject matter has a strong link to the selection of the material ― pipe. The artist feels that “pipes in themselves connote the concept of communication and contact” as they allow water, air and gas to run through them while controlling the direction in which these elements flow, as well as the content. Mr. Lee collected pipes in different shapes and connected those that have the same size openings to make his installations. By connecting different-sized pieces to create his own shape, the artist creates a structure that can stand as an individual unit but, at the same time, be part of a whole.
By displaying the installations in the courtyard of Ssamziegil (a complex of galleries and shops in Insa-dong) for anybody to touch, the artist displays his own interpretation of contemporary art, in which he hopes “contact” will lead to “communication.”

by Cho Jae-eun

“Public-Friendly Sculpture” is at Ssamziegil, Insa-dong, through June 12. Admission is free. (An event for only grade school children runs every Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) The nearest subway stop is Anguk station, line No. 3, exit 6. For more information, call (02) 736-0088 or visit www.ssamzie
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