Eo Jin Lee (b. 1999. South Korea)


Eo Jin Lee's profound exploration of shamanism, labor, and the human experience, culminates in a series of intimate and engaging artworks under the theme "A Totem for You and Us."

Through her deeply personal reflections on the memories of shamanism ingrained since childhood and the contemporary realities of labor, Lee seeks to extend healing and warmth to marginalized workers who have faced societal injustices. The exhibition features meticulously crafted ceramic totems juxtaposed with images of conveyor belts, symbolizing the contrast between artisanal craftsmanship and mass production. Lee's portrayal of contemporary workers as totems serves as a commentary on society's treatment of labor, challenging viewers to reflect on the commodification of workers and the erosion of their autonomy.


In the artworks titled "Dancing Totem” and "Pleasant Appeal" this exploration extends into digital drawings, melding the shamanic Salpuri dance with the modern worker's image. Through metaphorical representations of workers as discarded objects and the installation of rubber knots symbolizing solidarity, Lee invites audiences to contemplate the human toll of industrialization and to foster empathy and connection amidst societal complexities.

Through her thought-provoking artworks and performance projects, Lee prompts viewers to question the trajectory of society and to envision pathways toward collective healing and change.


Postscript

In the realm of art, few concepts resonate as deeply and universally as the totem. It's a word that evokes a sense of primal connection, a bridge between the tangible and the intangible, the individual and the collective. As we delve into Eo Jin Lee's artistic rendition within the artists first ever solo exhibition, represented by Project K at Art Central Hong Kong 2024, we embark on a journey through the origins, the historical significance, and the contemporary relevance of the totem.

The word "totem" itself traces its origins to the Ojibwe (Chippewa) Native American language, where it signifies a sacred emblem or symbol. However, the concept of totems extends far beyond the confines of any single culture. From the towering totem poles of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest to the ancestral spirits revered in African tribal traditions, totems have served as conduits for connection, identity, and spirituality across civilizations. In Korean culture, the notion of the totem holds profound significance. Known as "Jangseung" [ ], these traditional wooden totem poles were erected at village entrances as guardians, protectors, and markers of communal identity. They were adorned with intricate carvings representing mythical creatures, ancestors, and deities, serving as a tangible link between the earthly realm and the spiritual domain.


Eo Jin Lee's exploration of totems transcends mere replication or homage; it delves into the essence of connectivity and resonance. Drawing upon the rich tapestry of totemic symbolism, Lee infuses her work with layers of meaning, inviting viewers to contemplate their own place within the intricate web of existence. In the context of contemporary art, the concept of the totem takes on new dimensions. In an era marked by rapid globalization and digital interconnectedness, Lee's totems serve as anchors amidst the tumultuous currents of modernity. They are reminders of our shared humanity, our interconnectedness with nature, and the enduring power of collective memory.


Moreover, within the framework of modern Korean culture, Lee's totems serve as intimate and engaging reflections of a society in flux. As South Korea grapples with the tensions between tradition and modernity, between individualism and communal identity, Lee's work offers a nuanced exploration of these complex dynamics. Her totems become vessels for dialogue, bridging the gaps between past and present, self and other, the personal and the universal. Eo Jin Lee invites us to embark on a journey of introspection and exploration. Through her art, she challenges us to reconsider our relationship with the world around us, to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all things, and to embrace the power of collective memory and shared experience. In doing so, she reminds us that, in an increasingly fragmented world, it is through our connections—with each other, with nature, and with our own inner selves—that we find meaning, purpose, and ultimately, transcendence.

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