By Robin Beckham
Lee Kit has an attachment to things. Not particular objects that can be picked up, washed, sullied, felt, or lost, but rather the categories of existence that provide for these possibilities. His work is related to their objecthood, and often takes the form of an impersonal romance that initiates and shapes relationships between these errant things.
In this exhibition, Someone Singing and Calling Your Name, Lee transforms the two rooms of the gallery space into a certain take on a karaoke lounge intended to evoke a typical experience of social anxiety. The installation in the first room, Sing any one of them, or all of them, functions as a temple to the conceptual impasse of experience-as-object. A worn sofa sits in front of a cubic stack of old television sets, each one playing a short video of some thing or another: a cup of coffee, a tin of Nivea cream, a tube of Vaseline. Lyrics are added in the manner of karaoke videos and distinct from the looping videos, an audio track of droning guitar noise played by the artist falls in and out of sync with these rhythms. The objects themselves are encased in transparent boxes set along the floor. Fragments, installed in the second room, does not seem substantially different. A karaoke system links another worn couch to a series of videos projected on the wall. The videos almost attempt to mimic the anonymous music videos substituted for the costly official versions in karaoke clubs, but fail to do so in one way or another. Drawings of recognisable brand trademarks in coloured pencil on cardboard sheets hang on the cardboard walls.
The exhibition in general seems to function as a hypothetical machine for the transformation of phenomena into objects. Take, for example, the sheets of cardboard hung as paintings on the walls of the same material. Proceeding from the work Natural Mineral Water (2009), in which the artist uses coloured pencil to sketch the name of a generic bottled water brand on a flattened cardboard box before pouring said water over the text, these new pieces translate branded imagery into unpretentious drawings. There is a flattening at work here: a logo is metonymically substituted for its brand, construed as an extensive system of value reproduction, while this logo undergoes a secondary transformation by which its role as signifier is lost. It becomes, quite simply, a drawing--its childish innocence demonstrates this play of signification, while its crude hanging marks it as "decorative art," a fair substitution for the fruit bowl still life and landscape waterfall that might hang in such a position at a different karaoke lounge. The process of transition is cyclical: from object to product to brand to logo to image and back to object.
Best known for his work with painted cloth, Lee’s latest body of work feels like a departure for many observers. In the karaoke lounge of Someone Singing and Calling Your Name, the cardboard walls have replaced painted cloth as both boundary and receptacle for the activities of this body—like cloth, these walls record every touch, every trace of the event. Ultimately, the event is subsumed into the object itself, and, if experience can serve as any guide, these walls will continue to speak long after the bodies have come to rest.