Maelee Lee: Genesis

Verse 27: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them

by Dr. Thalia Vrachopoulos

Maelee Lee, Genesis, 2016, variable installation, multi channel video 2min. each
Maelee Lee, Genesis, 2016, variable installation, multi channel video 2min. each

Several years ago, for her new series of works, the artist Melee Lee began examining the issue of existence; being, becoming, having become – the world’s, other people’s, her own. This research led her to look at human development in general and more specifically into its issues. Consequently, this series of works involve history, humanity, while looking at diverse ethnic groups as well as the never-ending cycle of existence – life and death, as well as the establishment and demolition of nations.   

The Biblical Genesis symbolizes a space and methodology that records and archives the trajectories of human history. Genesis can also be interpreted as being an apparatus through which we can preserve and convey evolutionary human existence as well as, collective memory. It contains all of the historical incidents – the birth and death of civilizations, human evolution, wars, the establishment of empires, massacres, migrations and the ever-changing cycle of power throughout human civilization from its inception until now. Lee interprets these tremendous issues through scientific and philosophical lenses while expressing them by means of the Genesis series – a metaphor for an archival instrument. Lee repeatedly inscribes canvases in 24 Karat gold text having taken words from Genesis in the Christian bible as translated into English, Latin, and Hebrew, as well as, using religious texts from a variety of non-Christian sources. 

Maelee Lee, genesis, 2016, ariable installation
Maelee Lee, Genesis, 2016, variable installation

The frieze-like placement of the installation results in a type of circumambulation related to the Buddhist ritual of circling around the Pagoda – called ‘tap-dol-i’ in Korean. The meaning of ambulating around the perimeter to view something, depends on the reading of two different groups – the first is ‘wishing’ process to those living and the second is as ‘consoling of spirits’ to the dead. Through experiencing this series, the audience collaborates in the performance of ‘tap-dol-i’ within the exhibition site.   

Maelee Lee, Genesis detail (A 4520230), 2016
Maelee Lee, Genesis detail (A 4520230), 2016

There is a hypothesis that humanity appeared on earth approximately 200,000 years ago and it reached its current status through constant evolution as recorded in Genesis. This then begs several questions “what form will future societies take?” “Will our current civilization exist eternally?” “How will human beings evolve in the future?” “How will we think about these kinds of issues and lead our lives in the days to come?” Lee explores these queries while attempting to find answers through and from religious, anthropological, sociological and literary perspectives. In this search, Lee has symbolized scripture through inscribing Genesis and the Diamond Sutra among other sources. 

She has inscribed in gold passages from Genesis, from the Old Testament of the Christian bible, and the Diamond Sutra of Buddhist scripture in four different languages (Latin, English, Hebrew and Korean) on sheets of canvas. Sounds from poetry readings – poems from a large number of nations – are emitted from speakers. By incorporating sound, painting, sculpture, time art, and architecture in her work, Lee creates a multi-disciplinary, multi-ethnic, immersive work that is inclusive in its subject and powerful in its message.

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