Spike #79: Mire Lee

View of “Mire Lee: Black Sun,” New Museum, New York, 2023. Courtesy: New Museum. Photo: Dario Lasagni

The South Korean artist’s oozing, wheezing sculptures show the difference between flesh and machines to be uncomfortably small.

Mire Lee has known depression. She described her doldrums to BOMB like this: “Everything is meaningless, and you are the only holder of this truth.” This is one way to think about Lee’s throbbing, gristly sculptures – lumps of silicone, pools of brown glycerin cycling through tubes and electric pumps, churning and dripping abattoirs of organ-like forms. From this sense of trapped, terminal interiority, the ineffable congeals and can be extracted like a cartoonish tumor, plopped down or strung up for our glazed inspection. Oh, there it is. My feeling. My guts.

Lee (*1988) works at the edge of resolution. There is a sense of loamy meaning in her sculptures, even as they feel like satires of art’s promise to externalize angst. Their abstract but suggestive forms invite amateur psychoanalysis: What are the artist’s desires and fetishes? Can the viewer find their own? Her favorite materials include silicone (a sex toy staple) and stockings (a Freudian prop). The BDSM vibe can be comically blunt. Lee’s leaking, intestinal Carriers (2020) have the taut threat of “vore,” impossible fantasies of consuming another being or of being consumed oneself, of becoming one. Lee’s 2023 “Black Sun” exhibition at the New Museum was a formal exploration of assholes.

Walking around her glistening skins, slinking bulges, trailing tubes, and choking pipes is like watching a deer dying on the highway ...

– This text appears in full in Spike #79 – The Pessimist Issue. You can order your copy in our online shop