The Seventh Sense
2,500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Tao said that "communication is making a connection to oblivion." Oblivion is to emptying oneself and being in other's shoes. When I'm empty, It is possible that the object encountered can come and walk into me. Making connection is to be open to and to understand others. In the process of communication, influenced by the Tao's theory, I feel the flow of time. Time, which resides in, is constantly changing and proving its very existence, by itself. Time is very important in photography.
In my works, sight of cognitive structure is reversed. Generally we can see close objects clearer than distant objects. But in my work's distant objects are well-seen rather than close objects. It is not how human's vision works. When the authority of sight is changed, It can be said that the vision is objectified. Therefore, very interesting phenomenon arises. Between the verge of reality and fantasy, my work shows that as if there are two different time spaces in the one. That is why it can show many traces of flown-time, which contains many signs and expressions, real memories and intentions of things have not happened.
My works contain thick presence, signs, and many latent cases, that have not occurred yet and mixtures of surface effects. They are what it means to express time in a personal manner.
I have been taking photos of people and surroundings in cities of the world for the last two years. Tokyo, Beijing, Paris, Oslo, New York, Sydney and Katmandu. This collection is of reflection and insights on the relationships between the cities, society, environment, you and me. It expresses how I meet and communicate with the rest of the world.
The relationships and communications between people as well as its surroundings have always been one of my great interests. With this body of work, I wanted to share my very personal reflections on relationships and communications.
Photos are often taken emphasizing on certain objects or themes of importance. In these photographs both the photographer and the object reside in the same absolute space of a snap. Articulation of mutual relationships between their faint yet powerful bonding and never-ending communications are something to look for. This is a self portrait without self, a storybook without words and a list of endless questions with no definite answers.
SAMSARA (The Cycles of Life)
Curator, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
When I saw Kyunghee Lee’s work for the first time, I wondered what the floating impression the work created was all about. The images are the fixed ones for sure, but the angles are not. It is probably because she uses a lot of soft focus techniques and reflections rather intuitively than intentionally when taking photographs. In each photograph, images are created in a multilayered manner. So it is hard to grasp what is in the photograph at first glance. Each photograph is a finished work, but it is as if we were looking through the viewfinder before adjusting the focus, as if the next scene were to come up.
The theme of Lee’s work this time is the cities in seven different countries she visited. Taking photographs of those cities took her three years, yet her work doesn’t give us a clear idea of its time frame. It may seem the work took much longer time. But it may also seem as if all the photographs were taken at the same time. Lee herself told me she wanted to incorporate a sense of time into her work this time.
If we hear of the sense that time goes back and forth, we may think of “time travel” in science-fiction novels and movies. But this time, when I saw her work, it is not “time travel” but “the cycles of life” that came to my mind. The Sea of Fertility, by Yukio Mishima, a leading novelist of modern Japanese literature, is his last full-length novel that pursues the theme of the cycles of life. Shigekuni Honda is a character who acts as the storyteller in this novel. In Lee’s work I detect something comparable to this character’s viewpoints as if her subjects were captured from Honda’s angle. Honda encountered reincarnations of his close friend, Kiyoaki Matsugae, four times in his life. It seems that he always looked around to seek something beyond.
The term “samsara,” or the cycles of life, is common in the countries where people are familiar with Asian Buddhist or Hindu traditions, but in the other countries, it might be difficult to understand the notion of “reincarnation.” However, everyone must have a memory of wondering what their prior state of being might be, at one time or another. Lee’s work not only shows the subjects depicted in the photograph. It also adumbrates a notion of time and space which are at the back of the images. To imagine such time and space is a sweet experience. Sweet as it is, it also makes us feel a little fear that we might overlook something important.