MARI LEE: Daily Discovery of Present Moment

May 7, 2024 – June 21, 2024
Art Projects International

434 Greenwich St.
New York, NY

Mari Lee, Present 1, Daily Discovery of Present Moment (film still), 2020-2024, multi-channel video (color, sound), dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Art Projects International, New York.

Mari Lee, Present 1, Daily Discovery of Present Moment (film still), 2020-2024, multi-channel video (color, sound), dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Art Projects International, New York.

Art Projects International is pleased to present Daily Discovery of Present MomentMari Lee’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition presents selected videos from Mari’s Daily Discovery of Present Moment series as well as a large projection of selected new videos, which expand on the body of work she began during the recent pandemic.

As Erik Bakke writes in his essay for the exhibition brochure Mari’s videos “might be 11, 19, 23, or 36 seconds long. They start in the midst of an action and end in the midst of the same action, or at a slightly different phase of that action — rain, or perhaps drops wind-blown from a tree, fall onto a puddle; water flows and ebbs over sand; a sunlit toilet paper roll’s end sheet flutters; a bit of icy slush slides on a shiny hard surface. Some of the videos are less like the others: falling snow and tangles of snow covered trees are filmed from a quickly moving vehicle.

Liquid in motion and reflected light are recurrent themes. The action mostly takes place on a small, friendly scale — the changing light on a curtain or the shadow of a hand turning a pair of glasses and creating light play on a wall. Sound appears to be ambient, from the environment of the action. People’s voices and laughter can be heard in the background as the camera remains focused on the reflection of a building on the moving surface of white wine in a glass. But people are not directly filmed, and the closest the viewer gets to seeing characters is a small group of brightly colored tropical fish swimming back and forth in a contained environment–perhaps the denizens of a small aquarium tank.

Mari’s title for the series, ‘Daily Discovery of Present Moment,’ suggests a practice and an approach. The videos themselves become less filmic aesthetic representations and more records of the ‘daily discovery’ — of the artist appreciating the changes in the visual manifestation of actions of the incidentally quotidian.  The ‘present moment’ reflects a philosophical position that not only puts focus on the present but may only allow for the present. In considering A-theory of time (tensed time allowing for the past, present, and future) and B-theory of time (untensed time which is always described in the present tense), the viewer notes that Mari’s imagery more shows evolving and devolving states than cause and effect. Each video is a glimpse of an eternal present endlessly unfolding.

Movement of water and other repetitive action at first lull the viewer, but then the complexity of the action in the videos begins to announce itself. As the viewer slows pace and heightens attention to better comprehend Mari’s documentation, they might be reminded that there are 64 moments in a finger snap. There might be a realization that the vital, vibrating life force of the world seems to be roiling just under the surface of these presentations of light and sound. The viewer may further understand that the reason for not paying attention to the mundane actions of the world is not because they are boring but because they contain too much information for a person to absorb — viewing becomes overwhelming, anxiety creeps in. But maybe, then, the function of these videos is not to slow time or lead the viewer either towards or away from existential despair, but for the viewer to take these briefly documented actions proposed by Mari as short rituals that allow for communication with deeper, unseen, uncomprehended forces. Present-1 shows, only through documentation of cast shadows, a hand agitating the surface of soe water — the agitation becomes more pronounced as the video progresses. Here Mari explicates a deeper intention and reveals through allegory the rare ritual of the body reaching through the membrane of the real to negotiate with the spirits that invisibly surround us and control our world from just out of sight.”

Mari Lee (b. Seoul, Korea) grew up in South Korea, Hong Kong, and England, and currently lives and works in New York. She graduated from Ewha Womans University in Seoul and received her MA from New York University in studio art (photography). After working as a photo-assistant to photographer Mary Ellen Mark, she worked as a photojournalist in Seoul and New York.

Most recently, she has focused on creating time-based media works. Recent exhibitions include: 30 Years: Art Projects International (group exhibition), Art Projects International, New York, 2023; Unlearning, Transforming (solo exhibition), New York University Photo Hall Gallery, New York, 2019; Infinite Perspectives (3-person show), Artbit Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2017; and Unlearning (solo exhibition), Is Gallery, Seoul, Korea, 2016. Selected collections include the Francis Greenburger Collection, New York.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated brochure with an essay by Erik Bakke.