Random Access Memory
Chapter 2. 'Heir'

Exhibition introduction
Lee Wan’s solo exhibition, Random Access Memory Chapter 2. ‘Heir’, which is being unveiled for the first time in five years since his homecoming exhibition after the Venice Biennale, continues to explore the artist’s signature themes of ‘system’ and ‘individual’ and poses questions about ‘force majeure’ while exploring the intersection of ‘technology’ and ‘humanity’. Unlike his previous works which provided a macroscopic perspective of the massive inner workings of globalization through the lens of ‘products’, this exhibition focuses on the current situation where information transmission technology is reshaping people’s consciousness and lives. Through the exhibition, which encompasses the earliest human information transmission technology of paper and ink to the latest generative artificial intelligence, Lee aims to contemplate and discuss the changes technology can bring to human life.

Upon entering the R5 building, a love-themed opera unfolds on a massive screen approximately 30 meters high. In collaboration with 7keys, an art team of experts across various fields who have shared inspiration with Lee Wan over a long period of time, One Week encapsulates the love story between artificial intelligence and humans in the form of an opera. What makes One Week intriguing is that except the character portraits, all images, sounds, animation, and content this work exhibits were created by an AI program. Despite this, it tells a story about the most fundamental and universal human love, and it is considered as an ‘opera’, a term that once signified all creative activities. The title ‘One Week’ appears in the dialogue where the main character, artificial intelligence, expresses disillusionment towards humans. However, this story, at its core, is about love, with the AI defining love as forgiveness. This opera raises several questions: Who created this opera? Does the definition of love, generated by AI based on data accumulated by humans, apply to us? Is artificial intelligence
a superior version of us? Can humans endure ‘One Week’?

In Floating Things, Lee Wan presents another world of gravity, where objects seem to levitate aimlessly as if in a state of weightlessness. This installation portrays a sense of chaos, as if the meticulously maintained order of the existing system has suddenly vanished due to crises such as frighteningly rapid technological advancements that surpass human imagination, environmental destruction, war, and polarization. However, behind this floating chaos, there exists a faint, yet another system. This work encourages viewers to ponder intriguing questions: Who are those hidden entities lurking in the darkness? Where are these floating objects heading to?
Upon entering the R2 building, visitors encounter stacks of ancient books piled on old bookshelves. Contrasting with the infinitesimal light of LEDs that form images on thin, sleek screens - the modern paradigm of information transmission - the information of centuries past was communicated using ink on paper, both physically substantial and heavy. In Water·Fire·Wind·Heir, Lee Wan collaborates with artisans skilled in the creation of hanji(Korean traditional paper), meok(Korean traditional ink) and bows - tools that represent the genesis of information transmission. By juxtaposing the beginning and zenith of ‘information transmission technology’, the exhibition prompts a series of thoughtful inquiries. Lee Wan personally crafts the hanji, meok and bows, capturing the process in a documentary-style format. Although this echoes the Lee’s previous work series, Made In, a notable shift in thematic focus can be gleaned from the title ‘Water·Fire·Wind·Heir’.

This work bears similarities to Lee Wan’s previous series, Made In, which focused on the division of labor within the vast flow of globalization and capitalism, operating like a factory, and the impact of ‘force majeure’ on people’s lives and their choices. However, in Water·Fire·Wind·Heir, the focus shifts towards more primitive and fundamental concepts such as ‘water’, ‘fire’, and ‘wind’, rather than countries or regions. Lee Wan delves into the roots of these elements, highlighting the belief that natural and cosmic laws underpin all human-made civilizations, including the systems, hierarchies, and orders humans create, along with the imbalances engendered by these hierarchies. In bringing the most fundamental technologies supporting humanism into the exhibition space, Lee Wan ultimately designates the title as ‘Heir’.

The title ‘Heir’ signifies a person who has inherited both technology and spirituality. This could refer to a craftsman who has preserved a skill passed down for thousands of years, or it could refer to the artist himself, who has acquired the skill of crafting hanji, meok and bows. However, regardless of who inherits it, both the past that has been inherited and the future to be inherited belong to everyone. Therefore, this distinct narrative becomes a universal story that everyone should question themselve about, particularly in an era where AI is driving revolutionary changes in the new human civilization.