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Lee Mingwei and His Relations: The Art of Participation

Lee Mingwei and His Relations: The Art of Participation

Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki

Sat 5 Nov 2016 — Sun 19 Mar 2017

Lee’s projects involve varying degrees of participation from gallery visitors that occur before, during and after the exhibition. Alongside existing projects such as The Letter Writing ProjectThe Sleeping Project and Sonic Blossom, are thematically related works that provide artistic and cultural context to the artist’s practice. These feature art by Hakuin, John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Yves Klein and Lee Ufan alongside William Blake, Colin McCahon and Dane Mitchell. These pieces act as intimate reference points to the ideologies and sensibilities that inform the artist’s mode of working.

This will be the first time the artist’s work has been experienced in Auckland and is the largest retrospective of Lee Mingwei’s practice presented in the Southern Hemisphere. The exhibition was organised by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, curated by Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator at Mori Art Museum, in collaboration with Rhana Devenport, Director at Auckland Art Gallery.

  The Mending Project.

The Chartwell Trust is the supporter of Lee Mingwei's project: Sonic Blossom. He says: "It came into existence while I was caring for my mother as she recuperated from surgery recently. We found great comfort in listening to Franz Schubert’s Lieder. These songs came as an unexpected gift to us, one that soothed us both and clearly helped with her healing. At another level, seeing my own mother weak and ill made her (and my) mortality suddenly very real; aging, disease and death were no longer abstractions to me, but immediate and present. One day she – and I – will be gone. Like Schubert’s Lieder, our own lives are brief, but all the more beautiful because of this.


Sonic Blossom, Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki, photo courtesy Tim Melville.

In this project created for the inaugural exhibition of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea, I wanted to use these songs as a transformative gift to the visitors who encounter these moving Lieder. Each singer has to learn one of the five chosen Lieder. During dedicated hours, the singer meanders in the gallery, finding a visitor that s/he thinks might enjoy receiving this sonic gift by approaching them with the question: ‘May I give you a gift of song?’ This is when the song is sung. This happens sporadically in time – the folding and unfolding of a ‘Sonic Blossom’." – Lee Mingwei


‘Du bist die Ruh’ (You are Peace, the Mild Peace)

’An den Mond’ (To the Moon)

‘Frühlingsglaube’ (Spring Faith)

‘Nacht und Träume’ (Night and Dreams)

‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’ (In the Middle of the Shimmer of the Reflecting Waves)


Sonic Blossom times

The project will take place each week on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 12–4 pm.



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