Multi-disciplinary artist, designer from South Korea: Idee Lee
文 Text｜謝蕎安 Joanne Hsieh
圖 Image Courtesy｜李佳燕 Idee Lee
譯 Translated by Joanne Hsieh
Korean artist Idee Lee creates a world of her own with photography, embroidery, painting, costumes,short and theater sets. Her work challenges the extreme gender inequality in South Korea that is deeply rooted in Confucianism, in a poetic and romantic and traditionally “feminine” style.
「雖然我很愛我們傳統文化之美，事實上我無法理解這個文化。我對孔子思想感到厭惡。我在 2017 年被診斷出心臟病，當時我以為自己活不長了，所以我開始誠實的面自己對於這個國家和文化的真正感想。」這段難熬的期間她靠著創作紓解自己的壓力。「創作拯救了我的靈魂，我也開始努力學英文。這是我做過最好的決定。如果你覺得自己被困住了，你可以創造屬於自己的 reality。」
Can you tell us about where you’re from and what it’s like?
I’m from South Korea and I've spent my whole life here. It may look like a seemingly glamorous place to live in to foreigners, but in fact a very stressful and depressing place with very high suicide rate. I don’t fully understand this culture even though I love the beauty of the oriental tradition. Sick of Confucianism. Tried everything to fool myself ; making beautiful traditional clothes and forcing myself to be socially active. I had to face my true feelings and thoughts toward my own country when I was diagnosed with heart disease in 2017 (I was born as a healthy).
Luckily it’s getting better. Making art saves my soul. I had to study English and that was the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life! If you are in the wrong place, you can create your own reality.
What are some of your favorite things to do there and your favorite places?
Idee：「我喜歡去看安國站（首爾）附近的傳統民房。這附近非常安靜祥和。我也很喜歡 Hyundai Card Design Library ，裡面充滿寶藏。但大多時候我最喜歡漫步在我自己創造的世界裡。」
I love visiting the traditional houses near Anguk station in Seoul. The place is so quiet, peaceful and beautiful. I also really enjoy Hyundai Card Design Library, which is full of treasures. But most of the time I love creating things and wandering in my imaginary world.
李佳燕工作室的各個小角落和收藏，充滿夢幻情懷。Idee Lee's studio and collections of objects and decorations.
I love to express my imaginary dreamland through diverse methods ; photography, craft, design, painting and etc. They are colorful - mostly pastel colors and very dreamy.
What’s your favorite way of working and why?
When I draw I love mixing oil pastel, gouache and colored pencil. Also I do embroidery on my painting and do college on printed photographs. All my works are very colorful, mainly pastel colors.
I love the image of mermaids (not The original Little Mermaid by Andersen, It is too sad, ) because they look human at the top. I can relate their emotions. But they live in the ocean. They provide me escapism.
What inspire you? Do you keep a journal or sketchbook?
All these great works made by great artists, directors, singer-songwriters and etc. They are so cool I feel goose bumps. I want to make something good and new someday. I always keep my journals and sketchbooks. It's hard to write them quite often but they are the essence of every single process, which are very important. I love to collect pretty notebooks. It is very satisfying to simply Look at them.
Can you tell us a bit about your educational background and art related experiences?
This is quite sad but let me tell you the truth. Koreans grow up without proper free time. It is inhuman. High school dismisses at 10pm and you have to go to school even on vacations(9am-12pm). I only had a few hours of free time a month as a teenager. I drew and read in my bedroom feeling tremendously guilty about not studying. I wanted to do so many things but didn’t have a chance. Luckily now I’m doing them. The majority of teenagers experience depression but no one can talk about mental health openly.
「在韓國，想唸美術學校你得先去一個美術訓練營，畫得太慢就會被棍子打。幸運的是我從沒被打過。每一個學生畫的圖都長得一模一樣。這是他們受教育的方式。甚至在美術設計學院也沒有對 “創意” 的尊重。當我們遇到學長姊的時候他們逼我們跪下，而這只是被霸凌的開端。他們靠著霸凌學弟妹來出怨氣、解除自己的焦慮。」
To go to an art college in Korea you have to go to this art institute where they beat you with a stick when you aren't drawing fast enough. Fortunately I was never beaten. Every single drawing of students‘ look identical. That’s how they are taught. There was no respect for creativity even in Art&Design college. When we met our seniors for the first time they forced us to kneel down on the floor, it was only the beginning of bullying. These people kill their stress and insecurity by bullying the newcomers.
At least I had free time after school and on the weekends. I was grateful about that. I tried to use my time wisely trying as much experiments as I could.
Who do you look up to?
Idee：「我最近很迷 David Sylvian， 多麼有創意、安靜又有靈氣的一個人。我最先是喜歡他的外表。我看了一個介紹七零年代時尚的紀錄片，David Sylvian的照片出現了幾秒鐘，我完全無法移開視線。這讓我想要為未來的男友挑選衣服和上彩妝（笑）。我也崇拜個人風格強烈的女性名人像是 Lady Gaga 或 Dita Von Teese。我的偶像還有 Christine McConnell，她的創意源源不絕，我非常喜歡她所創作的世界。」
My current obsession is David Sylvian, such a creative, quiet, shy and spiritual person. I first got into him because of his looks (laughs). I was watching a documentary on 70s fashion and one of his photo appeared for a few seconds. Couldn’t take my eyes off. I want to dress and do makeup on my future boyfriend (laughs). I also admire strong creative female icons such as Lady Gaga and Dita Von Teese. My role model is Christine McConnell. Her creativity never stops. I love the fact that she created her own world.
What are some of your hobbies other than art and design?
I love to sing with acoustic piano and guitar instrumental. It is so relaxing and entertaining. My microphone’s got a nice echo effect which is very satisfying.
How would you describe your style? Idee：「我的風格是夢幻粉彩古著。我也喜歡買二手衣來做環保。我並不害羞，但是我知道自己不喜歡大型社交場合。我總是覺得格格不入，我比較喜歡和三五好友在一起。我也喜歡獨處，我有很多事情可以忙，我也喜歡空蕩的地方，我會用想像力把空蕩的街填滿。」
I’d call my fashion style dreamy pastel vintage. I like buying vintage clothes for the sake of environment too. I am never shy but I learned I’m not a person who enjoys social gatherings. I always feel awkward, I prefer being with a few close friends. And I love being alone. I have so many things to do and never get bored. Also I love empty places and empty streets. I always fill these places with my imaginations.
At least the society is starting to discuss feminism and women's rights, but still you get attacked sometimes simply being vocal about it. It will be way better maybe after a hundred years.
Have you encountered any obstacles as a female artist in South Korea? Idee：「Google 說南韓在世界 150 個國家的性別平等排名是第 116 名。 這是很悲哀的。女人只是被觀賞的，交通工具上到處都是整形廣告。我只能盡力忽略現實，發展我的創造力。專注於精神世界還蠻有幫助的。至少現在社會開始討論女權，雖然你會受到抨擊。或許一百年後這個狀況會改善很多吧，那時候我已不在了。」
Google says the gender equality ranking of South Korea is 116th(it changes slightly every year) among about 150 random countries, which is a great shame. Women are only to be seen, plastic surgery ads all over the public transport. What I can do is ignoring the reality as much as I can and expanding my creativity. Focusing on spiritual world helps a lot. At least the society is starting to discuss feminism and women's rights, but still you get attacked sometimes simply being vocal about it. It will be way better maybe after a hundred years. By the time I’d be gone.
「我總是在 ”為什麼我不是更有特權” 或是 ”繼續創作就對了" 之間搖擺。我沒辦法改變現況，我只能努力壯大自己。當你努力不懈做一件事你就擁有力量。」
I always go back and forth this ‘Why am I not privileged’ and ‘Let’s just make art…’ scale. Sadly I can’t change the whole system. One and only way is to become a big person by myself. You hold the power when you keep doing the things you love.
What do you wish to achieve in 2020?
And making photographs, short films with my friend and sister, plus many solo projects including paintings. Also I want to meet my soul-mate man haha.
ps. I was once very hopeful and positive, I am sorry I have to share a lot of negative feelings here. But not everyone is at their best place. If you are having a hard time never let the situation drag you down. Do the things you love. Make time for it even if it’s only for a while. You are the only one who can save yourself.