When I first viewed the work, I liked it a lot. 3D animated twirling sex toys, standing straight, side by side, like some kind of cityscape with a dragon standing at the fore watching you.
It suggested masturbation on a massive scale, whole cities using dildos and butt plugs all at once, on their own or with others. Like the orgasm sequence out of Amelie.
My interest in the work plummeted during the screening of Toki Does New York to the point where I was beyond disinterested and became bothered by the work.
Hye Rim Lee discusses the issue of ‘the male gaze’ in the doco, which she is entirely preoccupied by and suggests this series of work revolved entirely around this issue. She does not make any attempt at subverting or questioning these issues of female objectivity. In fact she seems to be legitimising them. Her influences are predominantly Japanese and Korean female anime characters and pornography, using these sources to pinpoint ‘male gaze’ interests/preferences to create ‘Toki’ the bunny or the ‘playboy bunny’ image that epitomises what men are seemingly attracted to (Toki is a character I didn’t even notice in the animation when I first watched it). But she does not then question why those body parts are points of interest, or how women are reduced to those parts, she seems simply to be looking for answers for what would or could make her sexually appealing.
When asked why she is so preoccupied by her appearance she tells the doco maker that that is an obvious question. So obvious, she struggles to answer it. She talks endlessly about how hard she works on her artwork (see: her appearance) but how badly she fails at a love life (which is what seems to be the real goal). Hye Rim Lee seems simply to be looking to create a character she wants to be; a character or image which she views to be the most desirable through her extensive research into anime and pornography. Her conclusion, and thus her aims, are juvenile and simplistic – thinking only of how she can be attractive to men.
It seems Hye Rim Lee’s end goal is to become an object.
Thus the work remains interesting, but, for me, it has become concerning in its acceptance of women as objects within sexual relations.
Her work suggested empowerment. The documentary and her artist talk revoked any sense of empowerment.
The Screening and Artist talk was on 18th July.
The Fantastic World of Hye Rim Lee (works 2005-2010)