The mellifluous voice flooding through the as yet sparsely visited galleries adds to the sense of peace engendered by a show where little, quietly beautiful things happen around you. At a neighboring table, The Mending Project (2009/2020) is peacefully underway: Visitors bring items of clothing in need of repair. Either the artist or two “mending hosts” darn the garments. These are then neatly piled on a table, and linked by threads to spools attached to the wall like brightly colored pins on a map.
Lee, who grew up in Taiwan and now splits his time between New York and Paris, is strongly influenced by Confucianism—the Li of the exhibition title is a Confucian concept of ritual and harmony. Many of his works contain a narrative, and the stories of how they came about are part of the work.
He was once, for instance, travelling on a sleeper train to Prague and shared a compartment with a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp on his way to receive compensation. This memorable journey was the inspiration for The Sleeping Project (2000/2020), a room in the museum furnished with two beds. Before the pandemic, the plan was for the bedroom to be shared overnight by a visitor to the exhibition (chosen by a lottery) and the artist or a member of the Gropius Bau staff. Lee wanted to explore whether a shared night in a museum could lead to increased emotional intimacy with a stranger.