SJ Small black .jpg

Sangjun Lee

In my head, there lives an ideal version of myself.

One that is a collage of selective, impermanent memories of the past, exhibited lives of others, and literary portrayals of what I long for: fiction. 

My body of work explores the opposing pull between my actual and my desired self, and my emotional responses to unattainable self-created expectations. It serves as documentation of the state of mind that I have been in for the past two years. The temporary and subsequently permanent physical isolation during this period has served as a basis for the focus on a facet of my ideal concerning the loss and ensuing desire to construct and recreate social connections. This desire is challenged by reality and my preferred tendencies of actual self that make my versions of the perceived ideal inaccessible. 
 

The mediums and the disciplines for each of the works have been chosen to best compliment the intentions behind them. Walk with me, for instance, depicts the dynamic nature of my mental state that is portrayed most effectively by the narrative aspects of animation. One of the unifying factors of my works in diverse disciplines and mediums is the recurring visual motifs like the hands, boxes, and marbles. Their symbolism in individual artworks and the visual narratives they create between multiple works and the order in which they are curated are utilized to both further the work’s meaning and to demonstrate the changes in my attribute toward self-expectation over time. 
 

In Encore! Encore! Encore! and please leave the lights off (PLTLO), the marbles symbolize memory. In both pieces, the past memories are treated as a model for my ideals; the moments that I want to recreate or return to. Change in portrayals of the marble from Encore! Encore! Encore!, where the figure desperately tries to hold on to the glowing marbles, to PLTLO, where the marbles have stopped glowing and the giant hand sculptures reaching towards them have ceased their construction, is a reflection of how my relationship with memories and with my desire to preserve them have altered. 

The hands most often represent my internal wants to attain the aforementioned ideals. In Self Love Cornucopia, the emotional impact associated with the expectations and failure to meet them is portrayed using numerous arms grabbing and covering my face. Chaos and pressure are created by overwhelming internal pulls, and a sense of self is lost amidst attempts to change my present self. Be There and PLTLO, which are respectively one of the first and the last works curated to the viewers, are linked together by a common visual element, the giant hands. With Be There portraying a past moment that becomes the basis of the present’s ideal, the change in the depiction of hands to a man-made structure in PLTLO from the trees in Be There reflects the attempt to artificially recreate what was once a spontaneous and organic moment.

The boxes carry dual meanings based on whether they are used in association with myself or my ideals. For the former, it represents the internal walls that are used to isolate me from others. Walk with Me, in particular, explores the conflict created by the box’s contradictory nature to what is ideally desired. When in relation to the ideals, the boxes serve as vessels in which the past that I want to hold on to is stored. In The thing about solitary togetherness, the clown representing my ideal holds the box portion of the jack-in-the-box and wears a cardboard box. The ideal preserves, and at the same time is constructed by those past memories.
 

The process of developing these artworks has required many introspections and assessments of my current state. The viewers are directed leftward, with the curation order reflecting the evolution of my mindset over time. They are then led to a small, dark screening room, where brightly projected scenes of the film influence the ambiance of the viewer’s environment, before arriving at the last work, PLTLO, which reflects my most current relationship with my ideals. It is my hope that audiences can find themselves in the interpretation of my works, understand, and feel less alone in this sometimes overwhelming world.