Lee Wan, who has represented the Korean Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, examines the contemporary social structure with a keen perspective and reinterprets them through various visual media. By capturing the inescapable social structure that enforces de-individualized roles, Lee attempts to highlight the systemic problems following the democratization of Asia from a political as well as socio-economic perspective.
In his quintessential series Diligent Attitude Towards a Meaningless Thing, Lee employs contract workers to fill the entire canvas with a single color using a size one brush, and then the artist himself finishes the painting by brushing down the canvas in a single stroke from the brush made to fit the entire width of the canvas. The painting, ordered by the artist as an employer and a consumer, fails be meaningful to neither to the workers nor the artist, and instead merely functions as the outcome of diligent efforts to fulfill a contract. Through the series, Lee warns against the future in which individuals are caught in the chain of labor and consumption enforced by the societal structure.
Proper Time, an installation piece that was exhibited in the 57th Venice Biennale, is composed of 668 clocks, each of which runs at its own pace. Engraved on each clock are the name, birthday, nationality, and occupation of the people the artist interviewed. The pace at which the individual’s clock runs is determined by the amount of time the individual in question must work in order to afford a meal. The space filled with clocks rotating at different speeds comments on the inequity of capitalistic society that values individuals’ time from a standardized point of view.