Many of Mire Lee’s sculptures, comprising silicone and other synthetic materials, evoke a mix of the primordial and the postindustrial. “Carriers,” her suite of works recently on view at Tina Kim Gallery, consists of knotted polyvinyl chloride hoses hanging from the ceiling, attached to circulatory pumps. Encrusted with moist-looking silicone sludge, the beige hoses gurgle as they secrete a viscous liquid that drips down into a metal grate, echoing with sounds reminiscent of pooling rainwater before being sucked back into the hoses. Like Sisyphus, the work performs an unending cyclical task that doesn’t change the state of the material. Though highly mechanized, it gathers up substance only to expend it again, its abjection and grotesqueness paralleled by what Lee calls the work’s melancholic “stupidity.”
A reference point for Lee’s recent works has been the concept of vorarephilia, the sexual fantasy of swallowing or being swallowed by another person or creature, in a total merging of self and other. And in some ways, walking into the enclosed installation space to look at the five dangling masses of tubes is like being inside another’s body—or, more specifically, a womb: the digestive sculptures resemble viscera, and the ducts, marked by reddish streaks, suggest veins or umbilical cords.
In this sense, the work literalizes Mona Hatoum’s 1994 video installation Corps étranger, which displays unsettling endoscopic footage of her inner organs. But unlike Hatoum’s innards, which remain trapped in the projection, Lee’s mechanomorphic sculptures have a seething spatialized presence, and at times literally spill out of their containers: the gelatinous discharge sometimes spurts through openings in the hoses. Lee’s piece exudes both intimacy and alienation, its inviting vulnerability and multisensory allure countered by its closed loop of input and output.