Lee Mingwei
Born in 1964 in Taipei (Taiwan).
Lives in New York and Berkeley (USA).
100 Days With Lily, 1995
Five silver dye bleach prints, 166 х 115 each
Collection of Rudy Tseng
"100 Days with Lily" was created at a time when I was grieving the death of my maternal grandmother. I chose to live with it 24/7 for the following 100 days, as a form of ritual grieving for her. From the day I planted the lily bulb, through its germination, sprouting, blossoming, fading and death, I experienced at close hand a full cycle of its life and, by extension, my grandmother's and my own. I randomly chose a moment in each day to document what I was doing with the lily present. In the final presentation, text was overlaid onto five of the photographs to create images showing both various stages of lily's life and my activities at various moments:
  • day 1, 10:23, planting lily;
  • day 2, 06:34, sleeping with lily;
  • day 3, 12:05, eating with lily;
  • day 4, 09:14, walking with lily;
  • day 5, 07:12, meditating with lily.
Lily died on day 79, at which point I postponed the exhumation and carried the now dormant lily bulb in my hands for the remaining 21 days as I ate, walked, slept, gardened, bicycled, shopped, cooked, read, and contemplated, until I had lived with the lily for the full 100 days." Lee Mingwei As many other works by Lee Mingwei, "100 Days With Lily" is built on a paradox. On the one hand, it is a work that is meant to become a part of art life. On the other hand, the most important part of it is the life experience of the artist, the 100 days he lived through and that he defines as a mourning ritual. However, the difference between art and ritual is not that great. They both originate from myth: rituals adopt the mythical sacrosanctity, art takes the game element. One can use the definition of the great myth researcher and anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss "a ritual organises time, turning an event into a structure, but a game turns a structure into an event". In other words a ritual, especially the mourning ritual, stops the tides of time and brings the past and its inhabitants into the present, while art puts on a show and tells us stories, exposing its involvement in the event-driven unfolding of time, essentially its involvement in history. The pain of loss and the need to return a loved one is what forced the artist to go through a ritual created by himself, thus synchronizing time. However, to keep this experience he needed to describe it, telling a story, positioning time and events diachronically once again. Still, Mingwei shares this contradiction with all civilization. To some extent each human culture combines these two beginnings: to avoid losing their identity they keep the past in the present, but driven by the will to observe they live life as an event. This is the configuration of love and society.
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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