Time according to Lee Wan at the 57th Venice Biennale
The South Korean Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale is centered around the following question: how do individual stories relate to national histories?
Proper Time, a work by Lee Wan (b. 1979, Seoul), one of the two artists chosen to represent his country in the Giardini, is one of the possible answers. Entering the room we are welcomed by 668 clocks hanged on the walls and inscribed with the names, birth dates, nationalities and occupations of individuals the artist interviewed around the world. Each clock moves at a different rate that is determined by the amount of time the individual in question must work in order to afford a meal.
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Each clock is unique, alone in this ticking multitude, exactly as the individuals whose economic circumstances are engraved and shown for everyone to see, calculated by a mathematical formula specifically concocted by the artist; and yet all assembled in a single room, filled up to its capacity.
Proper Time delivers Lee Wan’s answer, who, through the documentary approach at the basis of his artistic research – as we can see it imbuing his other works presented in the pavilion – and in a subtle and abstract way, is showing us how even if every one of us is irreplaceable and different, in the end we are all part of a bigger whole, a history of individuals ruled by those global power structures at the basis of today’s working and economic inequalities.