LAST HOUSE. Carl Lee, 2010 (16:30 loop, 3-channel projection, stereo audio, dimensions variable)

CARL LEE / Myoptic

JUNE 6 - JULY 13, 2019


For our inaugural launch, Undercurrent is proud to present Carl Lee’s solo exhibition, Myoptic. A seminal exhibition for a group of artists branching out from Sla307 Art Space in Chelsea, whose mission was to promote Lithuanian art and diaspora through a cultural exchange, Myoptic marks the move to a new home and our neighborhood debut in DUMBO. This is Carl Lee’s first solo show in New York City and will be on view from June 6 - July 13, 2019. On display are several media installations that act as containers for memory, time, and community.  

Myoptic’s largest installation is Last House, a three-channel video installation, with footage centered around the demolition of a single-family home in Buffalo, NY. Beginning with the portrait of a home, Lee obfuscates the house’s identity by distilling it to a silhouette. The iconic outline provides space for us to fill with our own memories and historically references silhouette portraiture predating the advent of photography. The background fades from black to moving imagery around the structure of the home, forcing us to consider absence and presence within the changing landscape. Lee weaves us from exterior imagery to interior clips of domestic life, where morning light casts endless chiaroscuro shadows abstracting the familiar space while drawing attention to fragments. Paralleling our experiences with memory, these parts of a whole are amplified with the poetic dubbing of a slow demolition, foreshadowing the home’s eventual physical demise. We are powerless as we view footage of the demolition, relating to our own mortality and the inevitability of decay. Last House is a real-time vanitas installation where time slips by, surrendering our memory and sense of home to change. Lee appropriately implies that with every end is a rebirth, of which he leaves to our imagination. 

Excerpted from Last House, a 3-screen video installation

Another work embracing the house as a vessel is Telescope House 2, an interactive media sculpture constructed out of wood, glass, camera, three monitors, and three media players. Contrary to Last House’s immersive experience, Telescope House 2 is viewed through an individual lens, aptly for the integration of home video footage and an intimate subject, his family. While sharing memories of his daughter’s heartbeat in utero, Lee harmonizes appropriations of Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion and Bird in Flight, the first moving images ever created. There is a trifecta of sensory stimulation - image, sound, and touch all mingling, amplifying our experience while tapping into our own memories. The repetition of a heartbeat, the matryoshka-like homes nesting within one another, and the reproduction of a new generation echo the cycle of life. 

Demonstration video of Telescope House, a multi-screen video construction shown here installed as part of Carl's Myoptic show at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY

Lee’s Home Movies installation includes a monitor, speakers, media player, wood, binoculars, tripod, 6:10 looping video, color and sound. The footage toggles between family-life and family-vacations; seasonal homes, shipping containers, and cruise liners all connect through their impermanence. The distance we view the video paired with the ambient sound installed above us, compounds experience, reminding us that we are viewers, onlookers, gazers at the other, lost in the translation of “home.”

Image courtesy of Hallwalls : Home Movies  installation, Carl's  Myoptic  show at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY.

Image courtesy of Hallwalls: Home Movies installation, Carl's Myoptic show at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY.

Working with materials that commonly isolate people, Lee connects us to one another through magnifying change. John Massier, the Visual Arts Curator of Hallwalls, states it best,“…the images throughout Carl Lee's exhibition Myoptic are ultimately part of a single long epic poem about life and time. The life of time and the time of one's life.” Serving as incubators for our memories, Lee’s work unifies time’s elusiveness and the mundane, weaving eons into a nutshell, and facilitating an interconnectedness in a time when it is most needed. 

Daina Mattis