Everydayness Animated


By Tanya Silverman

Palgongsan Series playing at The Lineage of Vision: Progress through Persistence. Courtesy of Kakyoung Lee and RYAN LEE, New York.

Kakyoung Lee’s moving images explore the essence of daily life’s seemingly uneventful events: crossing the street, riding a bike, and pushing a stroller.

Jamaica Station. By Kakyoung Lee. 2011. Courtesy of Kakyoung Lee and RYAN LEE, New York.

A Korean-American artist living in New York City, Lee begins such projects by filming videos of her surroundings–capturing commonplace scenes like pedestrians strolling across Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza or commuters rushing around Queens’ Jamaica Station. She then uses the footage as a base for “tracing and overlapping thousands of graphite hand drawings on the same paper” little by little to reconstruct the “layers of everydayness”.

The rigorous, repetitive tracing method is crucial in Lee’s mission to maintain an “objective” and “nonfiction” approach. Each piece takes about two and a half years to finish, and the artist compares the tedious process to everyday life: “tiring, boring, but sometimes meditating.”

Walk. By Kakyoung Lee. 2010. Courtesy of Kakyoung Lee, RYAN LEE, New York, and Mary Ryan Gallery.

The completed moving images play on concepts of time in a manner that’s similar to William Kentridge’s metamorphic animations. Figures that Lee draws appear to walk linearly, but are shadowed by a series of sketchy outlines, then possibly surrounded by other forms that transform into and out of other residual entanglements. At times, figures fade, others erase, or all morph into a collective, rhythmic blur.

Palgongsan Series is Lee’s most recent animation, one that the artist began three years ago after her grandmother passed away. Palgongsan is a mountain outside Daegu, South Korea, the artist’s hometown, where her elder ritualistically trekked through the trails to pray for the family at the summit.

As an installation, five projectors face a wall, playing a busy autumn scene of various hikers ascending the trails of Palgongsan to pray for their families. Apposite to Lee’s style, the residual, metamorphic pattern is seen on the figures’ climb, as they repeat the motions of the continuous ritual.

Lee created a slightly more fictional animation by using a very everyday item as her medium.

“I was curious how the leftover coffee in my studio could make interesting trace and [how] the color gets darker as time passes,” the artist recalls. “I drew a tiny figure walking repetitively and slowly in a circle with coffee on my studio wall.”

The 360-degree result of the experimental pacing tract, Coffee Circle, resembles a ticking clock.

Whether we consider time as cyclical or linear, ephemeral or eternal, Lee’s layered moving images symbolize the myriad of its complexities.

Kakyoung Lee’s ‘Palgongsan Series’ will be on display at NYC’s Korean Cultural Service until Dec 17 as part of the exhibit, ‘Lineage of Vision: Progress through Persistence‘.