By Erin Campbell
Walking into the Lee Kit exhibit at the Western Front was much like walking into the home of any down and out person. The wood floor echoed tensely under my shoes and the fan at the far end of the room hummed a drone. Those were the only sounds I could hear. Muted light filtered through the window and lit the walls. The large room was close to empty and only a few pieces of furniture broke up the relentless monotony of the white walls and wood floors. It was a space void of emotion; there was nothing beautiful, nothing I could attach any sentiment. A small pamphlet proclaimed the title of the work: Henry (Have you ever been this low?).
Photo by Erin Campbell
Henry is a pseudo-fictional character based on an infamous Hong Kong politician. In response to the question posed by the title of the work, Lee Kit has created a home for his fictional politician in order to illustrate the way guilt and shame can work to eliminate all else from your life. The lack of decorations and personal touches give the apartment a cold, distant feeling void of human emotion, yet the sparse furniture and wall hangings leave the room with a sense of normality.
Lee’s work often revolves around notions of the everyday. His hand-painted cloths are used throughout the installation as window coverings and an old dish rag. The brochure accompanying the exhibit explains that the use of these cloth paintings brings a sense of normality to the room. The installation slowly reveals the idea that it is possible to live in an in-between-space where you are shamed to the point of pseudo-existence and yet continue to survive. Henry embodies this state of alienation—someone whose lifestyle and crimes have cost him nearly everything.
I believe Henry also represents a host of city-dwellers who are reflections of everyday people living within a major metropolis. Lee’s early life in Hong Kong predisposed him to reject what he saw as the stereotypical city life. In Henry (Have you ever been this low?) Lee presents his attitude towards life in Hong Kong: a life he views as dull, mundane and geared towards practicality. These themes of distance and alienation can be seen throughout his previous artworks and transfer well to most city environments. And, when shown in the context of this city, Lee’s installation offers an unsettling narrative of life in Vancouver.
Henry (Have You Ever Been This Low?) by artist Lee Kit can be seen at the Western Front until January 14, 2012. http://front.bc.ca/exhibitions/events/3424
For more information about artist Lee Kit go to http://www.lee-kit.net/