Yeongbin Lee (1985, Korea) is studying Fine Arts at the Muthesius Kunsthochschule Kiel, Germany. She has a BA in Sculpture from Seoul National University, Korea.
Lee attended the first and second Topographies of the Obsolete workshop.
At Stoke on Trent life disappeared from one day to the next. After the shutdown of the factory everything was left abandoned. Now time stands still. Every new day is like the day after the closing, only covered with more dust. A ghostly porter still turns his rounds, protecting the terrain from vandalism. Only time, the greatest of all vandals, is an opponent far too powerful. Slowly, inexorably, grass is growing. It has been long ago that pigeons moved into the factory and revitalized it in an utterly new way. And where pigeons live, artists are not far away. Artists occupy ruins and fill gaps in the urban space. One only needs to be inattentive for a moment and an artist is sitting on ones balcony, realizing a work in public space.
Nothing from the outside is brought to Stoke on Trent. There are only the artist and the place. Yeongbin Lee makes the place her medium. Her relationship to the place is like the painters relationship to his brushes and his canvas. Like those, the place outlines her scope of action.
First Yeongbin Lee cleans up. Cleaning up turns the clock back to zero, only the empty space remains. Nevertheless the traces of objects and the living beings are inerasable; they leave permanent impressions on the space. Anyone who wants can read the tracks and so learn about the history of the space. For others, the empty space provides the opportunity for a fresh start.
In one of the other rooms she creates an alternative reality. One among hundreds of abandoned rooms, that appears as if there is still work going on - a faked office after closing time, that enables speculation on alternatives to Stoke on Trent fate. However, the factories objects remain in their own time, what has happened to them stays visible in signs of use and age. Thus, the past penetrates the alternate present and reveals its falsehood.
Not only is the place transformed by the artists, in reverse it also transforms them. Yeongbin Lee becomes an entrepreneur and re-establishes the factory with a new product range, carried out almost entirely by pigeons. The pigeons are an untapped resource, says the businesswoman, unaware of their role as factory workers, they do the job without claiming any reward for themselves. This way she is able to carry out current business strategies, just like major corporations do, to the extent, that the search for the cheapest labour can be done without any ethical concerns. Many british companies have relocated their entire production to low-wage countries, just retaining the brands name and nationality. On the one hand Neoliberalism has resulted in deserted factories like Stoke on Trent, on the other hand inhumane production conditions in the low-wage countries. This work is an attempt to bring the obsolete factory back to life, using only minimal resources. It's an invitation to think about alternative utilisations of abandoned places and things. Repurposing has to be the new paradigm of a present in which the past washes tons of discarded and abandoned stuff ashore.
The works Yeongbin Lee has realized in Stoke on Trent are joined by an understanding of art that goes beyond the mere present perception of the work. Even time itself is conceived as a space of artistic action. Her latest work is dedicated to the future, scattering flower seeds on the factory premises throughout a window, she will not be able to see the results of her own work. Only the imagination of how future visitors will discover the flowers is left to the artist, control of what is going to happen is given to the hands of nature. The flowers do not originally grow on the factory ground, they will add new colours and form a botanical painting.
The boundaries between art and non-art, between fantasy and reality, between actions and omissions, remain blurred, the work only emerges in its difference to the space. They intend to clean the space from its defeat and reveal its potentials. Should you find Yeongbin Lee on your balcony one day, do not scare her away, your balcony could turn out to be a place of unimagined possibilities.
The works try to grasp the essence of the factory space, by asking "what can I do with the factory, without alienating it?"
"Spode(past, present and future)" is an umbrella project for the works "Clean Up", "Office", "New Fabric Project" and "Maybe we can see that".