Claire Sunho Lee (b. 1993, Korea) is a visual artist currently based in London and Seoul. She received her B.F.A degree in Photography and Imaging at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University in 2017 and her MA degree in Photography at the Royal College of Art in 2021. She has received awards such as a shortlist from Lumen Prize (Photomonitor Student Award) and Director’s Fellowship from International Center of Photography.
Claire Sunho Lee
My practice engages with seeing various meanings within one “reality” by questioning acceptable norms. I examine how different perceptions can bring about cognitive dissonance in human experiences.
We only know what we know, or think we know. Thus, it is difficult to define something in one way or another. I experiment with this idea through the concept of “control and surrender” in everyday life settings and suggest new perspectives to look at the familiar.
How do we assess the reality before us when it is beyond our comprehension?
Throughout childhood, into adulthood, I have been reminded of somewhat random imagery in my head, of the memories I have never had. The scenes are vague but deeply embedded causing me to live in the in-betweenness of these dream-like realities. Over time, uncertainty has escalated, becoming progressively overwhelming. I always questioned what is beyond what seems to be. One random day, my cousin accidentally told me I had probably had leukaemia when I was little.
While my memories are of certain places, objects, shapes and/or colours directing toward what the cousin said, the more I have tried to actively remember these moments, the more and less vivid they simultaneously have become.
This confusion led me to look for a stable outside source to rely on, in order to process these experiences, because nothing from the inside appeared stable. My artistic interest since has developed to take advantage of fixed rules of mechanics—one particular way of consistent manoeuvre— to unravel an emotional and/or personal human experience.
In this project, I explore the fragility, instability, and fluidity of memories. On one hand, I have photographs that represent the faded memories. I juxtapose them with a transcribing AI, which starts with an initial text of medical facts about leukaemia and is tweaked so it reads the text out loud, picks up its own sound and surrounding sound, transcribes them into text, read this text out loud, and repeat. Over the course of time, the text is altered and distorted, which is similar to how much my memories have been edited as shown in the photographs. According to scientists, when one remembers something, they are remembering the last time they remembered of an event, not the actual event. Both the photographs and the transcribing AI indicate that memories change not only because of their innate characteristics of not being fixed but also because of one’s surrounding factors.
The work investigates the dynamics between control and surrender. The tension between the two increases as the interactions among the elements of the work are recognised by the viewers— the tidiness in the photograph with the wet towels with dripping water that goes everywhere with the enclosed area on the floor made with gaffer tape. The floor and the wall are also unexpectedly introduced to the play as they are deteriorated by the water over the course of the installation. The coexistence of the elements forms a sense of game for each of them negate one another's respective premise. The piece becomes less orderly and predictable in time, gradually leading to a bigger disorder and confusion.