Ahree Lee

With parallel backgrounds in literature and graphic design, I make work that is a composite of visual poetry and narrative, relying on technology and visual storytelling. I use an interdisciplinary approach that both clarifies and complicates notions of identity and personal narrative.

As a child of Korean immigrants, I look to the past and across distances to investigate what constitutes individual or collective identity in an increasingly diasporic, culturally alienated world. I use algorithms, either through code or methodically applied analog processes, to transform visual imagery such as daily self-portrait photos, home movies or other image archives that I either find or create into contemporary time-based mediums including video, sound, multimedia and interactivity.

I explore the tension between fragments and the whole through these questions: How do genetic and physical components make up a person? How do past events combine to make a personal narrative? How do individuals become part of a group? The resulting videos and interactive installations harken back to the aesthetic of home movies or family slide show presentations, complicating nostalgia for the past.

Blind Spot and Zero are part of a suite of three pieces that repurpose super-8 home movies from my childhood. Blind Spot uses only footage shot from moving vehicles, mostly from family vacations from my childhood. In Zero, I edited together all the zoom shots in all my family home movies into a continuous loop that doubles in speed with each repeat. Both videos explore how camera motion implies a kind of search that mirrors the search of the home movie photographer – for a new sight, for an experience, for a moment to capture for posterity.

Bojagi (Memories to Light) and Permutation were inspired by Korean wrapping cloths, or “bojagi,” which women traditionally pieced together out of scraps of spare material, creating an heirloom full of beauty and utility from what would otherwise be waste. Bojagis also offered a rare outlet for creativity and authorship for women in Korean society who were denied access to education and led repressed, secluded lives. Often made by mothers for their daughters before getting married, bojagis served as a memento from the past that bridged the transition from childhood home to future home. In Bojagi (Memories to Light) I reimagined the bojagi as a video that uses home movies from Asian American families from the 1920s through 1980s to create a collective wrapping cloth of memories.

Also inspired by the bojagi, Permutation extends the metaphor of piecing together scraps of fabric to the interrelationships between individual and collective identity. In this generative video installation, I explore the paradox of similarity and difference. A computer algorithm dynamically remixes still portrait photos into an ever-changing, fragmentary video portrait. The algorithm takes 5-6 photos at random and simultaneously displays a vertical section of each that moves across the screen to generate an image that is constantly evolving and never the same.

The slices of individual photos that make up each composite function like the snippets of genetic code that are spliced together from two parents and generations of ancestors to create the DNA of each individual person. They can also be seen as a metaphor for the thousands of snippets of DNA that each person likely has in common with people around the world. Like the permutations of DNA that result in infinite variations in human beings, the permutations generated by the algorithm are infinite.

This theme of collecting fragments to build a larger whole runs though my most recent work, Complement, a photographic installation co-created with attendees of a public workshop in which I discussed the history and social function of bojagis in Korean culture, then asked people to bring photos of family and friends to cut and piece together into a communal photo quilt. The energy was more like a sewing circle than a gallery talk, with conversation about family, community, and culture naturally flowing among people who would never normally intersect.

My upcoming project investigates how invisible labor, specifically work that has traditionally been done by women, is essential to the life of economic systems. By reactivating the innate connections between weaving and computing and examining the interrelationships between technology, craft, and women’s labor, I intend to transform the narrative concerning women’s position within the power systems of society.

EDUCATION

2002
M.F.A., Yale University School of Art

1993
B.A., Yale University

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS, SCREENINGS, PERFORMANCES

In the Mix, Visual Arts Center, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho. 2019 (forthcoming)
Sum > Parts, Arts + Literature Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin (Solo). 2018
Optical: Life Through the Lens, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Los Angeles, California. 2018 Interplay: Craft, Art, and Design, South Bay Contemporary, Los Angeles, California (Juror: Holly Jerger, Exhibitions Curator, Craft & Folk Art Museum). 2018
Officce Hours, The Main Museum, Los Angeles, California. 2017
Hurry Up and Wait, Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Curator: Adriel Luis, Curator of Digital and Emerging Media, Smithsonian Asian Paci c American Center). 2017
Intertitle, Maiden LA, Los Angeles, California. 2017
Permutation, Gallery 825, Los Angeles, California (Solo). 2016
Festoon, Gallery 825, Los Angeles, California, (Juror: Elizabeth East, Director, LA Louver). 2016
The Foolish Game, Gallery 825, Los Angeles, California, (Juror: Kurt Mueller, Director, David Kordansky Gallery). 2016
Your Piece, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, California (Solo installation). 2015
Biometric, New Westminster New Media Gallery, New Westminster, Vancouver, Canada (Curator: Sarah Joyce, Director and Curator, New Media Gallery). 2014
Cultural Excavation, Gallery 825, Los Angeles, California (Juror: Elizabeth James, Gallery Manager, Cherry and Martin). 2014
From Here to There: Parallel Trajectories, Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts, Camden, New Jersey. 2013
Random Acts of Time, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana, California
(Curator: William Moreno, William Moreno Contemporary). 2012
I Love Your Pro le, Espacio Menosuno, Madrid, Spain (Curator: Eduardo B. Muñoz). 2010
I Love Your Pro le, La Kursala Gallery, University of Cadiz, Cadiz, Spain (Curator: Eduardo B. Muñoz). 2010
International Festival of Video Art of Casablanca, Casablanca, Morocco. 2009
FOFU phot’art, International Festival of Photography, Fucecchio, Italy (Curator: Luca Palatresi). 2009 01SJ Biennial, presented by ZERO1, San Jose, California (Curator: Steve Dietz). 2008. Catalogue. Command Z: New Work in Digital Photography, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, California
(Curators: Ted Fisher, Douglas McCulloh). 2007
International Short Film Festival Leuven, Leuven, Belgium. 2006
Watch It: When Art and TV Meet–, SAC Gallery, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York (Curator: Keith Miller). 2006
A 24 Frame Project: One Year, Sundance Channel. 2005–2008
Play, Collaboration with Adele Myers and Dancers, Merce Cunningham Studio, New York, New York. 2005
MULTI–, Arts+Literature Laboratory, New Haven, Connecticut (Curator: Jolynne Roorda). 2005
Silver Lake Film Festival, Los Angeles, California. 2004
Film Fest New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut. 2004
Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, Los Angeles, California. 2004
Configuring Identity: Fragmented Self and Other, Untitled(Space) Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut (Curator: Tony White). 2002

AWARDS, GRANTS, HONORS

Emerging Artist Grant Nominee, Rema Hort Mann Foundation. 2019
Quick Grant, Center for Cultural Innovation. 2017
Webby Awards nominee, Film/Video. 2007
Artist Fellowship Award, Film/Video, Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. 2005 Audience Award: Second Place, Short Film – Experimental, Film Fest New Haven. 2004 Jury Award: Honorable Mention, Short Film – Experimental, Film Fest New Haven. 2004 Artistic Career Development Grant, Asian American Renaissance, Jerome Foundation.1999

RESIDENCIES

Artist in Residence, Women’s Center for Creative Work (forthcoming). 2019

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

McArthur, Meher. “We Are More Similar Than We Realize: Interconnecting Identities in the Work of Ahree Lee.” KCET.org, 4 April 2017.

In Search of Great Culture. KBS documentary, 8 August 2015.
Walker Rettberg, Jill. Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Sel es, Blogs and

Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
Losh, Elizabeth “Beyond Biometrics: Feminist Media Theory Looks at Sel ecity.” www.academia.edu,

2013.

Belsky, Scott. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality. New York: Portfolio, Penguin Group, 2010.

European Photography, Number 88, Volume 31, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2010. 10×15, 2010.

Brown, Damon. “Time-Lapse Aging Videos Buzz Across the Internet.” CNN.com, 16 December 2010. Superlight, Exhibition publication on the occasion of hte 2008 01SJ Biennial: A Global Festival of Art on

the Edge and the exhibition Superlight. San Jose: ZER01, 2009.
Stross, Randall. Planet Google: One Company’s Audacious Plan to Organize Everything We Know.

New York: Free Press, 2008.
Sarno, David. “A fast-forward trip through time’s passage.” Los Angeles Times, 15 April 2007.

Schneider, Keith. “Look at Me, World! Self-Portraits Morph Into Internet Movies.” New York Times, 18 March 2007.

Kirsner, Scott. “All the World’s a Stage (That Includes the Internet).” New York Times, 15 February 2007. “The Year in Online Video.” Wired News, 26 December 2006.

Inside Edition, 20 September 2006.

Sennhauser, Peter. “Die unglaubliche Geschichte der Lee.” Tages Anzeiger (Switzerland), 4 September 2006.

The Today Show, 18 August 2006.
ABC World News Webcast, 17 August 2006. BBC News, 17 August 2006.

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

Museum of the Moving Image, Long Island City, New York
San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California
Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut